BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

On August 24th the BBC News website published a relatively short report titled “US to cut $200m aid to Gaza and West Bank” on its Middle East page.

Readers were told that:

“US President Donald Trump has ordered more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid which was to be allocated to Gaza and the West Bank be redirected elsewhere.

A State Department official said the decision was made after a review “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests”. […]

…the US official said the decision took into account “the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation”.”

Referring to another story from January of this year, the article also reminded readers that:

“It [the US] has already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians.”

As readers may recall, that story received very generous BBC coverage at the time.

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The background to the latest announcement from the US State Department was presented as follows:

“Relations between the Palestinians and the US have been difficult since Mr Trump took power.

They hit a low point after the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. As a result, the Palestinians said the US was unable to continue its mediation role in the peace process and suspended contact.”

The BBC’s report does not tell readers that in January a review of US aid was ordered in light of Palestinian reactions to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“US President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to review aid to the Palestinians and to the international bodies that sustain them, weighing a significant cut if Palestinian leadership refuses to enter serious peace talks with Israel, a senior administration official said on Thursday.”

The BBC article goes on:

“The US administration, meanwhile, suspended aid to the Palestinians pending a review in the light of the Taylor Force Act back in June.

The act aimed to force the Palestinian Authority to cease paying stipends to families of individuals convicted of terrorism against Israel.”

The BBC News website did not report on the Taylor Force Act when it was passed in March (rather than June) and so readers would be unlikely to be aware of the fact that it relates exclusively to funding that comes from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) which just one of three categories of US aid to Palestinians. Last month visitors to the BBC News website found the first reference to that legislation and were told that:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

However, BBC audiences have not seen any meaningful coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to stop paying salaries to terrorists even in light of that policy’s negative effect on its finances and aid donations to Palestinians.

Significantly, visitors to the BBC News website also did not see any reporting on the transfer of an estimated $42 million of US aid to the Palestinian Authority when it emerged at the beginning of this month.

“The Trump administration recently released millions of dollars of frozen aid money to the Palestinian Authority, but only for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, The Times of Israel learned on Thursday.

While Washington says it will continue to review its assistance to the Palestinians, it chose to allocate specific funds for the current fiscal year to specific PA programs that ostensibly serve American interests, including terrorist prevention measures in the territories, an official said. […]

“This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions,” the official added. “This decision does not in any way prejudge the outcome of our review of other funding streams and programs. It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing.””

While readers of this BBC report are told that the US is now redirecting “more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid” that had previously been allocated for use by the end of September and that the US “already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians”, they were not provided with the broader context available on a US State Department interactive webpage: the fact that in 2018 the US has donated well over $92 million to projects in PA and Hamas controlled areas.

 

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BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

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

“In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

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

Readers may recall that in March of this year the BBC refrained from reporting on the ‘Taylor Force Act’ passed by the US Congress and also ignored the passing of the first reading of a bill relating to the same issue in the Israeli Knesset. On July 2nd that bill became law.

“The Knesset voted into law on Monday a bill to slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

The bipartisan law passed by 87 to 15. […]

The bill says that welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives, as well as the families of slain attackers, must be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body. The money withheld in this way would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of terror attacks.”

Around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $350 million. Nevertheless, the BBC has serially avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic in May 2017, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

On the afternoon of July 3rd the BBC News website finally got round to mentioning the Israeli legislation that has been making its way through the Knesset for months – as well as the previously ignored US legislation – in a report titled “Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts“.

In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

The 14 paragraph report includes four paragraphs on the practicalities of the new Israeli law. Two paragraphs are devoted to reactions from Israeli politicians while Palestinian officials’ reactions are given five paragraphs of coverage.

However, a press release concerning “Reallocation of aid to the Palestinian Authority” that was put out by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on July 2nd apparently did not reach the BBC’s correspondent in Sydney. 

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“Australia has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday that funding to a World Bank trust fund was cut after she wrote to the Palestinian Authority in late May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not being misspent.

 In a statement, Bishop expressed concern that providing further aid would allow the PA to use the funds for activities that “Australia would never support.””

So while on the positive side BBC News website visitors at long last got to see a mention of American and Israeli legislation related to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists, an Australian announcement related to the same topic was ignored.

Related Articles:

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Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

Related Articles:

BBC News reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A new backgrounder on a topic disregarded by the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards