How Hamas put a tax on building materials the BBC told audiences don’t exist

As readers no doubt recall, on November 28th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ were told by BBC Arabic correspondent Shahdi Alkashif that Israel is not allowing building materials into the Gaza Strip for the repair of houses damaged during the summer conflict.

As was noted here at the time, that claim is untrue. Even Arabic language media (which one presumes Alkashif reads) reported that 600 tons of cement has entered the Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom crossing on December 2nd  and Gaza-based journalist Hazem Balousha snapped a photograph apparently showing some of the building materials BBC audiences were told does not exist.

Twitter Balousha

However, there’s a lot more to the story too, as told here by blogger Elder of Ziyon.

Back in October the BBC devoted quite a lot of coverage to the Cairo donors conference and the topic of the touted UN monitored  “temporary mechanism” intended to prevent building supplies being used for the purposes of terror. Perhaps it is time to send a BBC reporter to find out just how well that temporary mechanism is working – if it can find one who recognises a bag of cement when he sees it.

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BBC continues to promote the notion of a ‘siege’ on Gaza in report on flooding

As regular readers know, whilst the BBC has still not comprehensively and accurately informed its audiences what happened during the battles in the Gaza Strip neighbourhood of Shuja’iya in July of this year or why the fighting there was so intense, it has – on the other hand – devoted much airtime and column space to context-free depictions of the destruction of buildings in that district. November 28th saw the continuation of that practice in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza floods: UN declares state of emergency“.Flooding Gaza written

That report was presented on the Middle East page together with links to four additional items of recommended reading which included Yolande Knell’s problematic feature on Shuja’iya from September 15th and her August 19th report “Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict“.

In this article, readers were informed that:

“In the Shejaiya neighbourhood, where air strikes during the recent conflict damaged many of the buildings, residents already face a cold winter without electricity or water.”

An illustrative photograph was captioned:

“Shejaiya’s infrastructure remains extremely damaged since the summer conflict”.

No mention was made of the very relevant fact that Shuja’iya was the location of considerable Hamas infrastructure, including the entrances to numerous cross-border attack tunnels, weapons stores and missile launching sites. 

Also evident in this report is the BBC’s continuing practice of quoting old UN statements on the subject of civilian/combatant casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip which were already problematic at the time they were published and have been shown to be even more so in the light of subsequent research – completely ignored by the BBC – which indicates that the ratio between civilians and combatants is similar.Flooding Gaza on HP

“The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.”

The flooding in the Gaza strip was also the topic of an item in the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Outside Source’ on November 28th (available here for a limited period of time from 27:15). Presenter Chloe Tilley spoke with BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza City who, after describing the situation, told listeners:

“But this bad weather made the situation more worse here in Gaza Strip that is still under siege. And there is no enter now Israeli permits to allow to the building material to go to Gaza to rebuild the homes that destroyed it.”

As has been pointed out here before, the definition of the term ‘siege’ does not accurately describe the restrictions on the import of dual-use goods with the potential for use in terrorist activities which is applied to the Gaza Strip by Israel and yet, as we see, that Hamas-favoured terminology is still being used by the BBC.Flooding Gaza OS

And what of Alkashif’s claim that Israel is not allowing building materials for reconstruction into the Gaza Strip? Let’s take a look at just a few of the recent reports from COGAT.

On November 23rd 2014, 311 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 94 of which carried 3,760 tons of construction materials.

On November 20th 2014, 403 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 93 of which carried 3,720 tons of construction materials.

On November 18th 2014, 340 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 101 of which carried 4,002 tons of construction materials.

On November 17th 2014, 274 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 99 of which carried 3,960 tons of construction materials.  

Clearly Alkashif’s presentation of that topic is inaccurate and misleading. Later on he also told BBC World Service listeners that:

“Gaza needs everything: Gaza without electricity, Gaza without clean water…”

Whilst the situation in the Gaza Strip may be far from ideal, it is certainly not accurate to say – as Alkashif does – that there is no electricity or clean water there at all.

“The electricity supply to the Gaza Strip remains at approximately 75% of the norm, 125 MW from Israel and 32 MW from Egypt.Over 80% of the damage to the electricity grid in the Gaza Strip has been repaired.”

“Water access remains constrained, following extensive damage to infrastructure and the electricity shortage. Over 80% of the damage to water infrastructure in Gaza has been repaired.”

Obviously Shahdi Alkashif’s reporting is neither accurate nor impartial and the BBC World Service needs to urgently correct the inaccurate impressions given to its listeners. 

 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part five

In the first four installments of this post (see ‘related articles’ below) we documented BBC News website coverage of the first forty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part five relates to the final ten days of the conflict and the day after the ceasefire agreement was reached: August 17th to August 27th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

August 17th:Chart Aug 17

Written:

Gaza conflict: Peace talks resume in Cairo  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?  Kevin Connolly (discussed here)

August 18th:

Written:Chart Aug 18

Arrests at protests against Israeli mixed wedding

Gaza conflict: Peace talks continue as deadline looms

Filmed:

Interfaith wedding: ‘It’s time the Muslims leave Israel’

August 19th:

Written:Chart Aug 19

Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict  Yolande Knell 

Filmed:

Strikes hit Gaza after rockets fired  Yolande Knell in Gaza & Kevin Connolly in Israel

Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired  Kevin Connolly

Israel-Gaza crisis: Palestinians downbeat on Cairo talks   Azzam al Ahmed

Israel: Ceasefire in Gaza ‘a two-way street’  Mark Regev

Bristol doctor Rachael Craven treats wounded in Gaza  Gaza

August 20th:Chart Aug 20

Written:

Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’ (discussed here)  

Filmed:

Daniel Barenboim: ‘No one winning Middle East conflict’

Gaza conflict: Operation ‘not finished’ – Benjamin Netanyahu

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’  Yolande Knell in Gaza

August 21st:Chart Aug 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Hamas: Palestinians ‘will continue to resist’  Ihab Al-Ghussin

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza: Thousands rally for Hamas leaders’ funerals  Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza

August 22nd:Chart Aug 22

Written:

Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed   (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israeli boy’s death ‘will intensify ops’  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Suspected informants killed in Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Israeli child ‘killed by rocket fired from Gaza’  Mark Lobel in Israel (discussed here)

August 23rd:Chart Aug 23

Written:

Gaza conflict: Mahmoud Abbas urges fresh talks in Egypt  (discussed here)

Holocaust families criticise Israel over Gaza  later amended and date changed (discussed here)

Filmed:

Israel continues air strikes on Gaza targets  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

August 24th:Chart Aug 24

Written:

Gaza conflict: Erez crossing ‘attacked’ amid Israel raids  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza residences targeted in Israel air strikes  Alpa Patel  (discussed here)

Apartment block destroyed after Israeli air strike   Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

August 25th:Chart Aug 25

Written:

Gaza: Eight die in Israeli strikes as ‘new truce floated’

August 26th:

Features:

Gaza-Israel conflict: Is the fighting over?

Filmed:Chart Aug 26

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Abbas declares acceptance of truce

Ceasefire ‘good for Gaza, good for Israel’ – Mark Regev

August 27th:Chart Aug 27

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce (discussed here)

Gaza ceasefire: Thousands return home as calm returns

Gaza conflict: Israeli PM Netanyahu says war was ‘victory’ (discussed here)

Features:

Indecisive end to Gaza conflict  Kevin Connolly

Filmed:

Gaza ceasefire: ‘It feels like normal life’  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Steinitz: Israel paid heavy price over Gaza  Yuval Steinitz

Military reoccupation of Gaza ‘was seriously considered’  Yuval Steinitz

Gaza-Israel ceasefire: Scepticism on Jerusalem streets

As was also the case in the previous ten days of the conflict, the period between August 17th and August 27th showed a drop in the amount of content produced by the BBC in comparison with its coverage of the first thirty days of hostilities after the number of journalists working in the Gaza Strip was reduced and media attentions shifted somewhat to the ISIS-related events in Iraq and Syria.

However, BBC audiences still saw over four times as much filmed content depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip as they did concerning the situation in Israel.

Graph Aug 17 to 27

BBC promotion of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions remained a prominent theme in the final days of coverage. The theme of Gaza’s damaged infrastructure – also a popular topic in the weeks since the conflict’s end – also continued to be promoted.

The BBC continued to misrepresent the terrorists’ breaches of truce agreements and bizarrely and misleadingly portrayed the ceasefire negotiations held in Cairo as “peace talks”. Missile fire into Israel was again severely under-reported. 

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 27

In the period between July 8th and August 27th, four hundred and sixteen separate items of content (not including the exceptions noted above) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page; an average of over eight items a day. The predominant type of report presented was written news reports – 121 in total. Over a quarter of the content made available to visitors to the BBC News website came in the form of filmed reports depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip (also shown on BBC television news programmes). Throughout the entire 51 days of coverage, BBC audiences saw nearly three times more filmed reports from the Gaza Strip than they did comparative filmed reports from Israel.

Another interesting aspect of BBC coverage is to be found in the wording of the headlines used to present reports. The most frequently appearing wording for headlines included the categorization of their topic as the “Gaza conflict” (85 reports) with that term being employed from day one of the hostilities. The categorization “Gaza crisis” first appeared on the conflict’s fourth day and was to be found in 38 headlines. Day two of the conflict saw the appearance of the term “Middle East crisis” and that description was used in the titles to twenty reports. Headlines reflecting the fact that the conflict was also taking place in Israel – using the terms “Israel-Gaza conflict”, “Israel-Gaza crisis” or “Gaza –Israel” – appeared in only 22 reports in total.

Thus, as we see, both in the signposting to audiences by means of headline composition and in the proportion of filmed reports from the Gaza Strip compared to those depicting the situation in Israel, the BBC’s presentation of the conflict was heavily tipped towards focus on its effects upon the civilian population of the in the Gaza Strip, indicating that the corporation’s claims of “equal coverage” and “fair balance”of the two sides of the conflict do not stand up to scrutiny.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part four

BBC WS ‘Newshour’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

‘From Our Own Correspondent’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

 

 

Keeping the (context free) Gaza fires burning on BBC World Service radio

The October 24th and 25th editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ (which describes itself as providing “a fresh look at the stories of the week with journalists from our 27 language sections”) ran under the heading “After the Ceasefire: the Cost of Reporting Gaza”. The item referred to in that title can be heard from around 1:02 here and its synopsis reads as follows:5th Floor prog

“For years he has been BBC Arabic’s man in Gaza, reporting and living through conflict and peace time. We last spoke to Shahdi Alkashif during the recent offensive, when rockets and mortars were raining down between Gaza and parts of Israel. More than 2,000 people died during that particular conflict. Shahdi told us that he had spent 27 nights sleeping on the floor of the BBC office, battling with a lack of electricity and food and water, and trying to make sure that his family were safe. The ceasefire has now been in place for two months and Shahdi talks about how his family and others in Gaza are living today and some of the difficulties of living in and reporting conflict.”

Where exactly is the mysterious place “between Gaza and parts of Israel” in which “rockets and mortars were raining down” is unclear, but presenter David Amanor uses the same peculiar phrase in his introduction.

DA: “Shahdi is BBC Arabic’s reporter in Gaza. He was there during the recent conflict when mortars and rockets were raining down between Gaza and Israel. He tells me about the impact on his own family. You might find some of his descriptions later on disturbing.”

Shahdi Alkashif: “In 2012 in the second war, Aya my daughter she asked me to promise her that this war will be the last war. And I did that actually. I did not expect that after two wars that there’s another war will happen. But I think that’s happen again in this war. She said you promise me that this will be the last war. And I…I did not, you know, I did not know what I should say. I mean you know that this is not easy. But at least we deal with it. I mean sometimes she need me to promise her that nothing will happen to her and I have to promise…”

DA: “You have to as a father…”

SA: “As a father. But you and me know this is difficult. And I moved my family three times from the area in the west of Gaza to the area in the south and to the north because all the areas was under bombing.”

DA: “You mean during this recent…during the recent conflict?”

SA: “Yes, yes.”

DA: “You moved three times?”

SA: “I moved from my house – a lot of tank shells fall around my house and I take them to my father house and the building beside him is bombed also so I take them after that to my brother house. So you’re moving your family all the time.”

DA: “What kind of effect has that – you know – those bombings, the mortars and the terror of it? Has it had an impact on people you know? Your family, of course, your daughter and…”

SA: “I mean Aya my daughter she’s…she’s sleeping under the stairs. The war is finished and she’s still sleeping under the stairs because she thought that this is the safer place in the world. I’m just talking about Aya but the others also they, you know, they feel that all of Gaza is not safe. I mean it’s not easy to ask them to go out to play now because they are all the time, you know, looking to the sky…”5th Floor tweet

DA: “Mmm…”

SA: “….which is not normal, I mean.”

DA: “And they know – I mean – there’s…there’s a mind on some of those instances like the children who were playing on the beach for example.”

SA: “And nobody can forget this, I mean…”

DA: “Right…”

SA: “The people still talking about the kids who’s killed near the beach.”

DA: “Was that one of the – coming back to you as a reporter, as a journalist – was that one of the most poignant, most significant moments in your reportage? The kids on the beach – or were there others?”

SA: “The kids on the beach and when the first time I…I entered to the El Shuja’iya neighbourhood in east of Gaza. It’s….the Israeli army bombed this area for more than three weeks and we get a chance to visit the area for just a couple of hours through the ceasefire and when I reach to the El Shuja’iya neighbourhood I discovered that I did not recognize it. It’s completely different. Dozens of houses is destroyed and when I go to the area inside – it’s called Amalsour [phonetic] – inside the Shuja’iya, I discovered that there is a lot of bodies that not, you know, evacuated yet and I step over the bodies of kids and I think nobody can, you know, deal with that picture. I mean, to see the bodies of kids without heads, without arms….and this is was I think the difficult moment that I saw within this war.”

DA: “These are the kind of things you have to see as a reporter…”

SA: “Yeah because you need to check the area. You need to see what exactly happened there. You hear sometimes about areas but you need to go there to see exactly and to ask what exactly happened. You are the witness because you are in that place and under this bad circumstances.”

DA: “Seeing these things; you have to witness them but what kind of witness does it…what kind of witness do you become? Do you just remain – try and remain – dispassionate? Do you become angry – an angry witness, a cold witness, a partial witness and a subjective witness? What effect does it have on you?”

SA: “Our challenge is to keep covering under our rules and I think this is why BBC – the people’s listening to the BBC – because the people trying to listen to the informations without emotions.”

The conversation between Amanor and Alkashif continues in much the same vein until the end of the item and – notably – the word Hamas still does not appear once.

Alkashif’s decidedly debatable claim that the BBC provides information “without emotions” is of course all the more jarring due to its appearance in an item which is all about manipulating the emotions of its listeners.

The entire item presents audiences with a subjective and inaccurate picture of a war waged by Israel on the civilian population of Gaza with the accent on children: Alkashif’s own children, the children on the beach, the dead children he saw in Shuja’iya. No attempt is made whatsoever to place Alkashif’s experiences in context: there are no terrorists in his war, the population of the Gaza Strip is entirely passive, Shuja’iya is just a residential neighbourhood rather than the site of Hamas assets and installations, buildings are just “bombed” for no apparent reason.

Two months after the ceasefire which brought the war to an end, it is blatantly obvious that the manipulation of public opinion by means of selective presentation of the conflict remains a priority for the BBC. 

 

BBC’s Alkashif slips gratuitous Israel mentions into Gaza Greek god story

On February 21st an article titled “The Apollo of Gaza: One fisherman’s amazing catch” by BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the Middle East page of the BBC News website as well as in its ‘Magazine’ section. An audio version of the report appeared on the BBC World Service programme ‘The Fifth Floor and is also available as a podcast for a limited period of time. 

Gaza Apollo story

In that audio version Shahdi Alkashif tells listeners:

“Gaza’s still, you know, under siege. There is no airports, there is no port, there is no any border with Gaza. The people cannot move out of Gaza.”

Not only is no context provided to listeners as to why restrictions of movement to and from a territory ruled by a terrorist group are necessary, but clearly Alkashif’s claim that “the people cannot move out of Gaza” is highly inaccurate and misleading. In the week February 9th to 15th alone, 3,550 people used the Erez terminal to enter or exit the Gaza Strip. 

The written version opens:

“A statue thought to be an ancient bronze of Apollo, Greek God of poetry and love, has dropped off the radar after being found in the sea off Gaza last summer and surfacing briefly on eBay. It is 2,500 years old and priceless.

Jawdat Abu Ghurab used to be a builder but in 2007 Israel restricted the delivery of building materials to the Gaza strip, so he became a fisherman like his father.” 

Uninformed readers are left with the mistaken impression that one day in 2007 Israel simply decided to restrict “the delivery of building materials to the Gaza Strip”. No mention is made by Alkashif of the all-important context of the violent coup which resulted in the Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent escalation in missile fire at Israeli civilian targets which caused the designation of the Gaza Strip as ‘hostile territory’ by the Israeli government. Neither does Alkashif bother to inform readers what kind of building materials are restricted and to which projects and under what conditions they are permitted, or why it is necessary to control the entry of dual-purpose materials into a territory ruled by an internationally designated terrorist organization which uses concrete and other building supplies to construct cross-border tunnels for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks.

Further on in the report Alkashif does state that “..the smugglers’ tunnels – dug to circumvent restrictions put in place by Israel and Egypt after the Islamist movement Hamas came to power in Gaza – have been out of action since they were closed by the Egyptian army last summer” but again insufficient background is given as to why such “restrictions” were necessary.

And what of Jawdat Abu Ghurab’s employment history? Well, that seems to be rather flexible. At the end of January an article on the exact same subject appeared in Bloomberg Business Week. In that report it is stated that he has been a fisherman since 2005.

“Ghurab, a fisherman, is 26, and has a wife and two sons. He left school at 13 and has been fishing since he was 17.”

And according to the same article, Ghurab’s CV also includes other activities:

“For a while Ghurab made money digging some of the smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border and helped shuttle contraband—from washing machines to hives of Egyptian honeybees—but that money dried up when Egypt cracked down on trafficking.”

Later on in the article Alkashif states:

“After four hours they succeeded in getting the object out of the water. It was the statue of a naked man. They loaded it on to a cart and took it to Ghurab’s house.

“My wife covered her face when she saw him lying naked in the house. She begged me to cover it,” he says, laughing.”

A Reuters report on the same story which appeared in the Guardian on February 10th states however:

” “I felt it was something gifted to me by God,” Ghrab told Reuters. “My financial situation is very difficult and I am waiting for my reward.”

His mother was less happy when she saw the naked Apollo carried into the house, demanding that his private parts be covered. “My mother said: ‘What a disaster you have brought with you’ as she looked at the huge statue,” said Ghrab.”

Unlike Alkashif’s version of the story, other reports on the same subject – including that one from the Guardian, one in the Independent and one which appeared in the Jerusalem Post – have noted that experts are sceptical as to whether the statue was actually found in the sea.

” “It’s unique, said Jean-Michel de Tarragon, an historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem. […]

“It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal,” he said, adding that the apparent pristine condition of the statue suggested it was uncovered on land and not in the sea, as claimed.

“The one of Gaza is very special and unique because for us, it has not been, at all, found in the sea… It has been found, we don’t know exactly the place, we have a guess you know, in the north of Gaza….But it has been found surely, in the sand,” he said, adding that there were no tell-tale signs of metal disfigurement or barnacles that one normally sees on items plucked from water.

De Tarragon says the claim the statue was found in the sea is probably just a convenient story told to avoid arguments over ownership, particularly if the treasure was found on someone else’s land.”

The Times of Israel quotes a Gaza-based archaeologist as saying:

“…the statue, with its green patina, was unlikely to have come from beneath the waves.

“It is 90 percent intact and was probably found on land,” he told AFP. “If it had spent time underwater, the bronze would be blackened.”

“It’s more likely that the statue was found in an ancient temple in the Gaza area. We need to search and find out,” he said.”

Whatever the truth behind the discovery of the statue and whatever the reasons behind the timing of the story’s sudden extensive promotion in the international media some six months after its initial discovery, one thing is certain: Shahdi Alkashif’s context-free introduction of Israeli ‘restrictions’ on the entry of building materials to the Gaza Strip into the story and his claim that “people cannot move out of Gaza” are both misleading and gratuitous and can only be seen as being politically motivated insertions.