The BBC, Coronavirus and population density

On March 31st an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Coronavirus: A ticking time-bomb for the Middle East” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The article is made up of comment on a number of locations in the region, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority administered territories and the Gaza Strip. [all emphasis added]

Israel:

“The virus has already arrived in the region. Israel – a country with a sophisticated Western-style health system and a significant capacity to mobilise resources – is already beginning to struggle with the potential consequences of the pandemic.

It is facing the self-same problems as experienced in Western Europe and the United States.”

Marcus did not provide any information to illustrate or substantiate his claim that Israel “is already beginning to struggle”.

“However, the Middle East has some specific problems that may exacerbate the crisis. Ways of life governed by religion, for example, play a significant part in the lives of many countries’ citizens.

Such communities may often be insular and slow to change their practices.

It is perhaps no accident that in Israel, its ultra-Orthodox Haredi community has been slow to adopt the recommended social distancing measures and has suffered disproportionately from the virus.”

While rates of infection have indeed been higher than average in some ultra-Orthodox communities, Marcus’ attribution of that solely to “ways of life governed by religion” ignores additional relevant factors such as poverty, population density and the difficulties of effective isolation for members of large families.

Interestingly, the BBC has repeatedly cited those three factors in its many reports on Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and later on in his article Marcus himself referred to that territory’s population density.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, population density in the Gaza Strip was 5,453 persons/km2 in mid 2019. The population density in Bnei Brak – one of the locations in Israel most seriously affected by Covid 19 – was 26,368 persons/km2 at the end of 2017 but apparently Marcus did not consider it necessary to inform readers of that fact. 

Towards the end of the article readers were told that:

“Even in democratic Israel, the pandemic has sparked a constitutional crisis with political repercussions. The need to tackle the coronavirus looks like forcing opposition leader Benny Gantz into a national unity government under Benjamin Netanyahu (something he said he would never do and a move which has split his new party asunder).

And the closure of the courts has delayed the corruption trial of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who looks like soldiering on in office.”

Israel of course has no written constitution and so the claim of a “constitutional crisis” is debatable. The political deadlock in Israel which has not been resolved by three general elections has been ongoing for a year and was not “sparked” by the pandemic.

As we have previously had cause to note, the courts in Israel have not been closed. Activity has been reduced in line with Ministry of Health instructions and the Judiciary’s website states:

The courts and employment tribunals will function under emergency measures whereby only urgent hearings will be held.”

PA controlled territories and Gaza Strip:

Marcus gave a politicised portrayal of the Gaza Strip – from which Israel disengaged in 2005 – and the areas which have been under Palestinian Authority control for two and a half decades as “Israeli-occupied”, despite going on to later contradict himself by describing the PA as a governing body and Hamas as “rulers”.

“Even in places where there is the absence of full-scale war, there are some alarming potential coronavirus crisis-points. The Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a case in point.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs in about 40% of the West Bank, is struggling with limited means to curtail the initial outbreak, with fears that close economic ties – workers travelling between Israel and the West Bank – have potentially been one vector for the spread of the virus.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the Palestinian Authority’s continued prioritisation of the payment of salaries for terrorists is one of the factors contributing to its “limited means”.

Marcus went on to give a qualified explanation of the reason for the counter-terrorism measures adopted by Israel and Egypt while whitewashing that terrorism by use of the euphemism “militants”. He failed to clarify that the Gaza Strip was transferred to Palestinian control almost 15 years ago and in theory – though not in practice since the violent Hamas coup in 2007 – is run by the Palestinian Authority.

“But the densely populated Gaza Strip presents an altogether more worrying case. The population there is isolated; the Palestinians are under effective blockade from both Israel and Egypt, who say it is a necessary security measure against militants.

There has been a long-running debate between Israel and the international community as to its abiding responsibilities for the territory. Israel’s troops have left and it insists that it is no longer responsible for events there, which is now the job of the Hamas rulers.

But if the pandemic sweeps through Gaza this may become a very difficult case to argue given the grip that Israel still retains from outside.

No wonder there have been calls from Palestinian experts and humanitarian agencies for the so-called Israeli “blockade” to be lifted, and for Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Israelis to make common cause to fight the pandemic.”

Marcus made no effort to analyse the political motivations behind those “calls” (which, revealingly, do not appear to extend to Egypt) or to examine their validity in light of the fact that there is no restriction on the entry of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. Neither did he bother to address the obviously relevant issue of what would happen were the blockade lifted, given that Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip clearly have no intention of renouncing the terrorism which caused its implementation and indeed continue to issue threats.

“The head of Hamas in Gaza warned Israel if more ventilators for coronavirus patients were not brought into the Palestinian enclave then his terror group will “take them by force.”

“If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis,” said Yahya Sinwar, according to Hebrew media reports.”

Marcus went on to describe well-reported (though not by the BBC) actions which have been publicly praised by the UN as “behind the scenes”.

“It would be nice to think that rivalries could be set aside for the time being during this period of global crisis. Behind the scenes Israel has been transferring some equipment to the Palestinians in the West Bank, and training courses have been running for medical personnel.”

As we see, while the BBC has repeatedly promoted the topic of population density in the Gaza Strip in its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic, curiously that factor was completely ignored in Jonathan Marcus’ portrayal of outbreaks of Covid 19 in Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

More Corona-hooked Gaza Strip messaging on BBC WS radio

BBC News Channel grossly misleads on Israeli courts

Density is not destiny: Economist tweet misinforms on Gaza COVID-19 woes  (UK Media Watch)

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

Our monthly summaries of BBC News website coverage of Israel and the Palestinians show that throughout 2019 audiences saw eight and a half times more coverage of internal Israeli affairs than they did of internal Palestinian affairs. Four of the year’s twelve months (May, October, November and December) saw no reporting on Palestinian affairs whatsoever.

Throughout the year the BBC produced four reports concerning internal Palestinian politics. Audiences learned of the new Palestinian Authority prime minister three months after he had taken office and were not informed of the resignation of the previous government.

Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided (5/1/19) discussed here

Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing (7/1/19) discussed here

Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises (6/6/19) discussed here

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19)

The economic crises in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip were the topic of just two reports throughout the year:

US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Yolande Knell (1/2/19) discussed here

Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule Yolande Knell (18/3/19) discussed here

BBC coverage of social affairs within Palestinian society during 2019 included two reports about sex education (one of which was removed without explanation) published in July:

Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex – removed (9/7/19) discussed here

Talking about sex no longer so taboo in the Arab world Shereen El Feki (17/7/19)

The same month BBC audiences saw a report about a singer which did not provide any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule. 

Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines Newsbeat (14/7/19) discussed here

In September the BBC News website published two reports about the murder of a Palestinian woman.

Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’ (12/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching Tom Bateman (16/9/19) discussed here

Issues the BBC chose to ignore in 2019 included the arrests of Palestinians by the PA in connection to property sales, protests against social security reforms, legal cases concerning the torture of Palestinian citizens, Palestinian Authority harassment of LGBTQ activists and hate speech in school text books.

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports concerning internal Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component. That editorial policy continued throughout 2019.

 

 

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

The December 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included yet another example (from 13:00 here) of the BBC’s politicisation of Christmas.

Presenter Alex Ritson introduced the report by Barbara Plett Usher.  

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

Ritson: “Bethlehem – regarded as the birthplace of Jesus – typically sees a tourism boom at Christmas and this year looks like it could be one of the busiest in recent memory. But as a Palestinian town in the West Bank, Bethlehem is also feeling the economic effects of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Barbara Plett Usher reports from the holy city.”

Bethlehem of course came under complete Palestinian Authority control exactly twenty-four years before this item was aired, in December 1995. Listeners heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism which made security measures necessary but the BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence.

Plett Usher: “There’s an enormous Christmas tree in Manger Square, sparkling with many, many, many lights and the place is packed with people coming for the opening of the Christmas fair. Lots of kind of anticipation, excitement, Christmas cheer. This is really when Bethlehem comes into its own. This is really Bethlehem’s time of the year. There’s plenty of good cheer. Tourism is a bright spot despite dark times for the Palestinian economy.”

Plett Usher avoided informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes are largely self-inflicted and that they are the result of its insistence on paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

Plett Usher: “Across the square in the Church of St Catharine’s [sic] a procession of priests in a cloud of incense is descending to the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born. This happens every day but this Christmas is special because they have a piece of the manger – a gift from the Vatican. It’s a tiny splinter but a big boost for Bethlehem’s Christians, decimated by waves of emigration.”

Plett Usher made no effort to enhance her audience’s understanding of the context to those “waves of emigration”.

Obviously unable to distinguish between concrete and cement, Plett Usher went on to promote the false notion of Bethlehem being ‘squeezed’ by security measures for which she once again failed to provide any context.

Plett Usher: “Tourists vastly outnumber the Palestinian Christians. They roll into the little town of Bethlehem past what Israel calls its security barrier – the towering cement wall, as residents call it – as part of a system of controls that’s squeezing Bethlehem into an ever-shrinking space. That doesn’t stop the tide of visitors but many know more about the past than the present.”

Listeners then heard Plett Usher badgering a tourist in order to promote her own political activism while advancing the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then that so it’s about the future as well.”

photo credit: Adam Levick

Refraining from informing listeners that it is located on land purchased by Jews before 1948, Plett Usher then visited a ‘conflict tourism industry’ site in the Deheishe refugee camp. Listeners were of course not informed why ‘refugee camps’ still exist in an area under Palestinian control for nearly a quarter of a century.  

Plett Usher: “Not everyone can avoid the politics or wants to. So this is Deheishe refugee camp. Ahmed has come to take me to his Airbnb. Ahmed Fararja is renting a room near Bethlehem to a young Slovenian student, Clara Suroneg [phonetic]. She’s the latest adventure tourist to respond to his advertisement offering an alternative kind of holiday.”

Clara: “The refugee camp is actually like a…they’re all connected between each other, you know, all the people know each other and in the end of the day you see that you really think in the same ways but you come from two different places in the world.”

Plett Usher: “It’s that connection to the world that Ahmed is looking for.”

Ahmed: “You know the people here are not…most of them are not allowed to go outside and especially to the outside world and they see the outside world in your eyes.”

No effort was made to counter that propaganda by informing listeners that thousands of Palestinians “go outside” every day. Plett Usher closed her report with another politicised portrayal of Bethlehem’s economy.

Plett Usher: “There’s a children’s choir now in Manger Square. Business is really booming here this year. But you never know; next year could be a bust. When you can’t control your own space, things are very fragile. The one constant is faith. The faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen.”

Once again we see the BBC indulging its own political activism by exploiting Christmas to produce blatantly partial reporting which hinders audience understanding of the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

BBC Radio 4 religious show airs anodyne report on Palestinian Christians

 

BBC News ignores Dutch aid cut to Palestinian Authority

Over the past couple of years BBC audiences have seen numerous articles relating to the subject of cuts in direct and indirect financial assistance to Palestinians by the US administration, with some of those stories being connected to the issue of Palestinian Authority payment of salaries to terrorists.

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

BBC News inverts cause and effect in US aid story headline

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

On November 20th another government announced that it was cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority because of its policy of paying terrorists and their families.

“The Dutch government has cut funding for the Palestinian Authority over its salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli jails.

The aid ministry announced the move Wednesday during annual budget talks. […]

The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees.

The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.””

PMW notes that:

“…the Dutch government has raised the subject of the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy over 20 times with PA officials but they have refused to budge and declined to abandon their terror reward policy.” 

Dutch government aid to the PA had already been cut last year by 7%.

To date BBC audiences will find no coverage of that Dutch government decision on the BBC News website’s ‘Netherlands’ page or ‘Middle East’ page.

BBC News silent on PA climb down over tax revenues

In late February of this year the Palestinian Authority announced that it would refuse to accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel due to deduction of the amount paid to terrorists and their families.

BBC audiences heard nothing about that financial own goal (or the subsequent salary cuts endured by PA employees) until June, when they were informed that the PA “could be bankrupt by July or August”. The BBC’s explanation of that claim included the topic of tax revenue transfers from Israel:

“The financial crisis was exacerbated this February by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax and tariff revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Israel announced it would freeze the transfer of about $139m (£109m) – an amount it said was equal to that paid by the PA in 2018 to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks.

Israeli officials say the payments incentivise terrorism. But the PA insists they are welfare payments for relatives of prisoners and “martyrs”.

The PA responded to the freeze by refusing to accept any further Israeli revenue transfers, which account for about half its budget.”

The Bahrain economic workshop in late June prompted some superficial reporting on the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis, with BBC journalists failing to question Palestinian officials on the relevant issue of payments to terrorists.

Over seven months on since its initial refusal to accept tax revenues, the Palestinian Authority has now changed its stance.

“The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues collected by Israel, after months of declining them in protest over Jerusalem withholding money over payments to terrorists, Palestinian officials said Friday.

The transfers amount to some 600 million Israeli shekels (about $170 million) a month and are a key source of financing for the PA.

The PA had refused to accept the funds because Israel was withholding an amount equal to what the Palestinians pay to terrorists and their families, but the cash-strapped PA appears to be retreating in the face of an economic crisis. […]

Two Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media, said Israel will continue to withhold 42 million shekels ($12 million) a month, the amount it says goes to the Martyrs’ Fund.

In a speech before the UN General Assembly last month, Abbas vowed to continue the payments to the terrorists and their families.”

BBC audiences have to date seen no coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s climb down on this issue.

Related Articles:

BBC News again ignores Palestinian Authority’s financial own goal

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC

BBC News finally gets round to mentioning new PA prime minister

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

BBC reporting on PA salaries for terrorists shown to be outdated

 

A BBC R4 ‘Today’ Israeli election interview takes an interesting turn

The September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included six different items (three in news bulletins) relating to the previous day’s election in Israel. In the last of those items (from 2:35:17 here) presenter Mishal Husain spoke with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen before going on (from 2:37:59) to interview Likud MK Sharren Haskel. However things took an interesting turn when the Israeli member of parliament raised the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.

In one of her later questions (from 2:40:36), Husain made the false claim that the Israeli prime minister said he “wanted to annex the West Bank”. Netanyahu actually spoke about applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Rift Valley and Israeli communities rather than to the entire area previously illegally occupied by Jordan.

Husain: “Now over the course of this election campaign Mr Netanyahu said that he wanted to annex the West Bank. Would that prevent an alliance – a coalition government – with Blue & White?”

Haskel: “I don’t think that’s what’s going to prevent it because even Blue & White have spoken about the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea, which was the declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is a consensus among most Israeli[s] about these area[s] because it is a very important security and defence strip for the State of Israel and it is also a very historical area that goes back thousands of years…”

Husain [interrupts]: “And occupied territory under international law.”

Unsurprisingly, Husain did not bother to clarify which country’s sovereign territory she thinks that area was before it was ‘occupied’.

Haskel: “Ahm look, it’s a disputed territory and obviously we disagree on some of this area but we can agree definitely that the Palestinian leadership has been the refusal [refused] negotiation, has been the refusal [refused] to create stability and peace in the area. Instead of investing most of their funds into education, into infrastructure, into the people where there’s about 50% almost of unemployment, they’re pocketing the money, they are investing it in terrorists who are sitting in prison. It means that they give salaries to people who are [have] actually murdered innocent civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “They’re not…they’re not on the programme right now to answer those accusations.”

Haskel: “No I know. Well you know it’s all fact. It’s all been written before.”

Husain [talking over her interviewee]: “Sharren Haskel. Sharren Haskel of the Likud party – thank you.”

Husain’s abrupt termination of that interview on the grounds that no representative of the Palestinian Authority was there to “answer those accusations” is of course particularly noteworthy given that just three months ago she was perfectly happy to remain silent while the PLO’s Saeb Erekat used the ‘Today’ programme platform to voice a series of bizarre and baseless accusations concerning Israeli ‘apartheid’ with no Israeli representative given the right of reply.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Maurice Hirsch examines “The UK-PA partnership to reward terrorists”.

“Despite having positive knowledge that the PA used a considerable amount of its financial resources to implement its terrorism-rewarding policy, the DFID, via the World Bank, provided the PA, over a seven-year period, with over £430 million to be used as the PA saw fit. While DFID has adamantly claimed no UK funds were used to fund “pay for slay”, it did so relying on narrow audit reports that cannot and do not support its assertion.

Created in 2008, the World Bank’s Palestinian Recovery and Development Program – Multi-Donor Trust Fund (PRDP-MDTF) pooled the funds of multiple donor countries, including the UK, and provided steady and reliable quarterly cash flow to the PA. As the PRDP-MDTF clearly states, the donor funds were provided to the PA “untied and unearmarked.””

For more information on that topic see this post from UKLFI.

2) At the JCPA Nadav Shragai explains “The Unique Status of the Jerusalem Suburb
of Wadi Hummus
” – information which was lacking in BBC reporting on that story last month.

“In the area of Sur Baher, the state planned to locate the security fence on the route of the jurisdictional boundary. But vigorous lobbying activity, including an appeal to the Supreme Court by residents who opposed detaching Wadi Hummus from Sur Baher, brought about a change in the decision. The result was that Wadi Hummus was included within the route of the fence even though it is not part of Jerusalem.

Some of the Wadi Hummus residents are originally from Sur Baher and hold Israeli residency cards. Others are from the West Bank and are not Israeli residents. The result is a legal and bureaucratic imbroglio in which Wadi Hummus, a tract of only a few hundred dunams, is surrounded by the Israeli fence, is not an official part of Jerusalem, and includes areas of three kinds: A, B, and C. In Area A, security and civilian control belong to the Palestinian Authority; in Area B, security control belongs to Israel and civilian control to the Palestinian Authority; in Area C, official security and civilian control belong to Israel.”

3) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz takes a look at “The Long History of Politically Motivated Travel Bans”.

“American law […] goes on at length regarding the various categories of people who may be barred from entering the United States, including those with communicable diseases, those convicted of certain crimes, and—drumroll, please—anyone who “seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in… any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means.”

Israel has similar laws. Its argument that avid supporters of a movement, BDS, whose overtly stated goal is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state represent a threat to the country may not be politically savvy, but nor is it unprecedented or indefensible.”

4) As the BBC continues to promote the notion that the Palestinian Authority aspires to a two-state solution to the conflict, at the Washington Institute David Pollock analyses a recent Palestinian public opinion poll.  

“…when asked about ending the conflict with Israel permanently, only a minority would approve a two-state solution: 30 percent of West Bankers, and 42 percent of Gazans. Instead, the narrow majority in both territories–56 percent in the West Bank, and 54 percent in Gaza, say “the conflict should not end, and resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated.” This marks a hardening of West Bank views compared to previous polls. And under half of the Palestinian public say “we should recognize that we will never defeat Israel, and that fighting just makes things worse”: 40 percent of West Bankers, and 49 percent of Gazans.”

 

 

BBC reporting on PA salaries for terrorists shown to be outdated

Over the past couple of weeks BBC audiences have seen repeated, but largely monochrome, explanations of why the Palestinian economy is in the state it is on a variety of platforms. For example:

“…the most important reasons for the feeble Palestinian economy are tied to the 52-year-old Israeli occupation.”

“…in order to have a successful economy any country is going to need control over its own territory, the ability to trade and to export, the ability to develop a vibrant labour market, the ability to create a supportive investment infrastructure and the Palestinians have none of these economic freedoms.” BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 26/6/19

“Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

“But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns…” BBC WS radio, ‘Newshour’, 25/6/19 and 26/6/19 and also BBC Radio 4

“Instead of promising aid or outside investment, she says, a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection.

For her firm, these can mean costly delays in imports of hops, malt and yeast as well as in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.

“There needs to be international pressure on the Israelis to loosen up because Palestinians are very smart people, they’re very determined and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed,” she says.” BBC News website, 25/6/19

“If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy.” BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, 24/6/19

“…the economy of the Palestinian Authority is on its knees, clearly informed by the occupation…” BBC WS radio, ‘Newshour’, 20/6/19 

“The Israelis are withholding my funds, my revenues and the Americans are cutting all my aid and now they have these tears on [for] me?” BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 20/6/19

Only one of those many reports relating to the Bahrain economic workshop dealt with the relevant issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and the economic results of that policy. In that report – versions of which were aired on BBC domestic radio and on BBC World Service radio – Yolande Knell spoke of:

“…a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”

She went on:

“But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants…”

A new report by Palestinian Media Watch reveals that “prisoner wages” have in fact “been touched” – they rose by 11.8% in the first five months of 2019.

“The Palestinian Authority has finally publicized its monthly financial expenditures for the first 5 months of 2019. They show that the PA has paid no less than 234,172,000 shekels (over $65 million), or, on average, 46,834,400 shekels/month in salaries to terrorist prisoners (including released prisoners) in spite of its self-imposed financial crisis.

Based on this monthly average, the PA expenditure on the “Pay-for-Slay” salaries to terrorist prisoners in 2019 should reach 562 million shekels, as compared to 502 million shekels in 2018. This amounts to 60 million shekels or a 11.8% rise in PA salaries to terrorist prisoners in 2019.”

Although BBC audiences have been told in recent weeks that the PA “is on the verge of financial collapse”, “is in a dire financial state” and “could be bankrupt by July or August” – with the blame laid firmly at the door of “Israeli restrictions” and “the occupation” – it is unlikely that they will see any reporting on this new information concerning the background to a “crisis” which PA officials bemoaned in BBC interviews, all the while knowing that their own government had elected to exacerbate the situation by allocating higher rewards to convicted terrorists.

Related Articles:

BBC News again ignores Palestinian Authority’s financial own goal

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC

BBC News finally gets round to mentioning new PA prime minister

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

 

 

 

 

Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

A week after having briefed BBC journalists and four days after his colleague participated in two sympathetic BBC radio interviews, the PA representative in London, Husam Zomlot, was given another opportunity by the BBC to promote PLO taking points ahead of the Bahrain economic workshop.

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a five and a half minute item (from 34:30 here) introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “In Bahrain tomorrow the US government’s Middle East point man Jared Kushner will begin putting into practice his long-trailed plan to bring peace. It’s taken two years to construct but already the foundations of what Mr Kushner’s father-in-law President Trump hopes will be ‘the deal of the century’ look pretty shaky. The decision to put the political questions on pause and instead concentrate on raising billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy has been dismissed by the Palestinian leadership as a bribe. That leadership won’t be in Bahrain and it refuses to engage with an American administration it no longer views as an honest broker after a series of diplomatic decisions, such as moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which have delighted the Israelis. Well this was the pre-Bahrain protest on the streets of the West Bank town of Ramallah today. [recording of shouting] ‘Trump go home’ is what they shout. Well I’ve been speaking about Jared Kushner’s plan to the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husam Zomlot.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to inform his listeners that those ‘protests’ – which in some locations included violent rioting – were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction. Listeners first discovered that Mr Zomlot does not understand the meaning of the term money-laundering

Zomlot: “A plan that does not deal with the real issues is really not a plan. Call it whitewashing, money laundering [sic], whatever you want to call it but it’s not a plan. It has nothing to do with peace. Definitely it has nothing to do with us, the Palestinians.” [laughs]

Coomarasamy: “Well the other part of it is prosperity – peace to prosperity is the slogan – and there’s a lot of money – $50 billion potentially – that the Americans would like to see distributed to the Palestinian people and to your neighbours.”

Zomlot: “This is the game of deceit. If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy. It’s condescending approach by Kushner telling us and the world that Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves. He knows what’s our interest and therefore he decides it and then he releases a plan – Kushner and his team – that does not mention the word occupation or freedom or statehood or self-determination. It seems these people all what they are thinking about is cash.”

Refraining from raising the relevant topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in creating its current economic crisis and specifically the issue of its payment of cash rewards for terrorism, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “They say that there is a second stage to this; that there will be a political part of the plan but this is…the first part is to get the cash injection you do need, after all, don’t you?”

Zomlot: “Of course cash is always needed. Of course economic support is always needed but it’s a matter of priority. Cash and economic support has been happening for over 25 years by the international community but it was for a certain purpose. It was for a certain direction which is establishing a Palestinian sovereign state. The UK has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the US, Europe and what have you and we agreed to that economic assistance. But Kushner is thinking like a real estate man, not like a statesman and he thinks that Israel takes the property and we take the cash. Now Palestine is not for sale, number one. Number two: what cash? The fifty billion is not coming to the Palestinians. Around half of it will be coming to the Palestinians over a period of ten years and half of the half of it is going to be loans that will be incurring a lot of interest. We will be heavily indebted and if you do the math then we will end up with one billion every year from the international community, which we already get – but for a programme that goes towards the two-state solution on the 1967 borders according to international resolution.”

Coomarasamy failed to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” and that Zomlot’s partisan interpretation of the two-state solution does not stand up to scrutiny. Neither did he bother to ask his interviewee why the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the principle of the two-state solution throughout the 25 years that they have been receiving the foreign aid Zomlot claims was for that purpose.

Coomarasamy: “Isn’t this though at the moment the only game in town? Don’t you need to be there at the table making your argument?”

Zomlot: “Even if it’s the only game in town, when you are certain that such a game is going to be leading to the opposite direction of your national camp, of your hundred years-old movement towards your rights, then you don’t dance on this tune; you don’t engage in this.”

Coomarasamy: “So what’s the alternative?”

Zomlot: “We have many alternatives and that’s why our president went to the Security Council last year in February and said here is the Palestinian peace plan. We want to see an international peace conference. He said name me one conflict that was not resolved by international mediation and international will.”

Coomarasamy: “If you feel that this current administration in Washington is one that simply does not have your interests at heart, it’s going in a completely opposite direction to Palestinian interests, what do you do? You cannot side-step it, can you? You have to engage in some way.”

Zomlot: “We met Mr Trump himself four times. We met his team, and I was included, more than 32 times. We engaged at full at the most senior level. We have been genuine, transparent, constructive, positive and hopeful. What we learned in every turn that this is a deceitful team; that they have one plan and one plan only which is the endorsement and the legitimisation of Israel’s colonial expansion and the delegitimisation of the Palestinian national project and international legitimacy. Why would they close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington at the height of our engagement? Because they don’t see the Palestinians as a people. Why would they close the consulate general – the United States of America consulate general that was established in 1844? Because they don’t see us as a nation and they want us to be only part of Israel, part of the Israeli internal discussion. So now we are only a section in the American embassy to Israel. It’s clear what’s their intention. We cannot be just engaging for the sake of engaging.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question Zomlot’s falsehood concerning “colonial expansion” and neither did he clarify that the PLO mission in Washington was closed because the Palestinian Authority instigated moves that contravene US legislation. Likewise, Zomlot’s inaccurate framing of the reasons behind the merger of the US consulate with the US embassy in Jerusalem went unchallenged by Coomarasamy.

And so, as we see, yet another Palestinian official was given unchallenging air-time on BBC radio in order to promote his talking points while yet another BBC interviewer carefully avoided any mention of relevant but inconvenient topics such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority rewards for terrorism, Palestinian rejection of previous peace proposals, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which renders Zomlot’s claims regarding a Palestinian “national camp” commitment to the two-state solution meaningless.

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

 

 

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

BBC framing of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain continued on June 20th with an item by Yolande Knell aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced (from 37:29 here) by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Next week in Bahrain the first piece of the Trump administration’s much vaunted Middle East ‘deal of the century’ is due to fall into place at a workshop on the Palestinian economy. But the Palestinian Authority, which has cut ties with the White House, is staying away despite being on the verge of financial collapse. The Israelis have been withholding tax revenues which the PA uses to pay prisoners and families of Palestinians who’ve been killed – payments which Israel regards as encouraging terrorism. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report.”

The Palestinian Authority of course does not pay any old prison inmate – only those convicted on counts of terrorism against Israelis. Neither does the PA pay every family of a Palestinian who has been killed – only those killed due to their having carried out an attack against Israelis. That information is obviously crucial if audiences are to be able to properly understand why “Israel regards” those payments as “encouraging terrorism”.

Nevertheless, when a slightly different version of Knell’s report was aired on the  BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 21st (from 18:53 here), presenter Julian Marshall employed similarly vague language.

Marshall: “Many Arab states now plan to join next week’s US sponsored workshop on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain although the Palestinian Authority, which has cut off ties with the White House, refuses to attend. Meanwhile, the PA itself is on the verge of financial collapse after Israel decided to withhold tax revenues equivalent to the sum the PA pays as salaries to Palestinian prisoners and the families of killed Palestinians. Israel says the payments encourage terrorism. The PA says they support Palestinian nationalist heroes. It now refuses to accept any of its money transfers and has had to cut the wages of tens of thousands of public workers including doctors and teachers as Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s report began with an unclear reference to the Sbarro terror attack in August 2001.

Knell: “18 years ago ambulances rushed to the bloody scene of a Hamas suicide bombing. Fifteen people were killed and 130 injured at a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. The militants who planned it were later jailed by Israel but over the years they’ve been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in Palestinian prisoner salaries.”

Knell did not mention that the planner of the attack was released from prison in 2011. Listeners then heard a man say:

“They are treated as heroes in every sense of the word.”

Knell: “Arnold Roth, who lost his 15-year-old daughter Malki in the attack, says those wages promote terrorism.”

A. Roth: “The longer you serve in this satanic Palestinian Authority payments scheme – incentive scheme – the more money you make per month. What really is galling from the perspective of people like us, who will never see our daughter again, is that there’s no sense whatever that they’ve done something wrong.”

Listeners then heard music.

Knell: “This song, written by Malki, was recorded by her friends in her memory after her death. Her parents have long called for action against those behind the bombing. Frimet Roth welcomed a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”

As we see, Knell also did not bother to adequately clarify to listeners that the financial rewards are given only to those involved in terrorism against Israelis.

F. Roth: “I think that the payments made are very crucial and they signal that there is no will for peace on the other side right now. Hopefully there will be changes.”

Knell: “But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants, including Charly Mansour, a hospital technician.”

Mansour: “It’s a problem for us because our salary’s not so high. When they cut it to half you cannot stay so long for that. And I have 3 children who have many activities to pay for and the loan to the bank, all this stuff.”

Knell: “A rally for prisoners shows how they’re held in high esteem by Palestinians. Along with those who’ve been killed by Israeli security forces, they’re considered to be heroes of the nationalist struggle. Criticism is taboo. There are over five thousand Palestinians held in Israel for security offences, some for murders, others for political activities.”

Knell did not clarify what she means by “political activities” – an omission which is particularly significant given that in the past she has portrayed Palestinian detainees as “political prisoners” to BBC audiences. Knell went on to interview the family of a convicted terrorist without providing enough details of the incident for it to be identified.

Knell: “Baby Mahmoud is named after his grandfather who’s serving a life sentence for killing an Israeli man. His father, Ali Rudaida [phonetic] tells me he was raised on his father’s prisoner wages. Over time they’ve gone up to $1,300 a month.”

Rudaida: “Actually, when we…when my father get to prison his salary was the only funds for the family that covers all our needs.”

Knell: “The family watches a video which shows Mahmoud Rudaida when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers after a shooting in the West Bank desert in 2002. It was the time of the second Palestinian uprising and his wife Basma says he was fighting for Palestinian rights.”

Voiceover: “From outside looking at us they’ll ask why did you do that? Why are you a terrorist? Why don’t they come and see the situation? We’re not allowed any freedom of movement. We’re all in a prison.”

The report ended abruptly there with Knell making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the claim that Palestinians do not have “any freedom of movement” is false and until the Palestinians launched the terror war known as the Second Intifada, there were no restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The version of the report aired on ‘Newshour’ omitted that last part and instead listeners heard Knell say:

Knell: “The issue of the Palestinian prisoners has long divided Israel and the Palestinians. At a time of deep impasse in the peace process it’s back in focus and for now, though the Palestinian Authority is in a dire financial state, there’s no end in sight to this stand-off.”

As long-time readers will be aware, it took the BBC years to even mention the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and their families and although slightly more coverage of that subject has been seen in the past year, it is still under-reported.

Now, as the corporation builds its framing ahead of the Bahrain economic conference, the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s finances is obviously relevant and – as one of the factors contributing to the financial crisis – so is the issue of the PA cash rewards to terrorists who have murdered or tried to murder Israelis. Unsurprisingly, Yolande Knell found it appropriate to portray that topic ‘impartially’.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC