BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

On May 7th 2018 the BBC News website published a report about the results of the first election held in Lebanon in nine years. The website’s readers saw no further reporting on the subsequent failure to form a government over the next nine months.

On February 1st 2019 a report titled “Lebanon forms new government after long delay” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Lebanese factions have agreed to form a new government of national unity, ending nearly nine months of wrangling.”

Readers were not given any meaningful insight into the background to that “wrangling”, which is explained by the FDD analyst Tony Badran as follows:

“Following its victory in the May 2018 parliamentary election, Hezbollah began orchestrating the formation of a new government. From the outset, the terror group laid out its non-negotiable demands and immediately received the acquiescence of Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri. Namely, Hezbollah wanted to control the lucrative Ministry of Public Health. It succeeded. The new minister, Jamil Jabak, reportedly is the former personal physician of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah.

Then Hezbollah proceeded to manage the shares of the other sects and parties. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, gained seats in the election but Hezbollah marginalized it in the government formation process. Instead of obtaining the Defense portfolio, Hezbollah made sure that ministry went to one of their allies, Elias Bou Saab.

Hezbollah similarly managed the Druze share. Hezbollah forced Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt to give up one of the three allocated seats to a figure approved by Jumblatt’s rival, Talal Arslan, an ally of both Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah also demanded that Hariri offer a share in the government to a bloc of pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad Sunnis. Not only did Hezbollah force the inclusion of an anti-Hariri Sunni minister, but it also forced its Christian ally, President Michel Aoun, and Aoun’s son-in-law and foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, to vacate a slot from their share. In so doing, Hezbollah stripped any one party, even allies, of the ability to veto government decisions independently.

Hezbollah now controls a majority coalition of all the Lebanese sects.”

The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of the new government in Lebanon is as follows: [emphasis added]

“The 30-member cabinet has four women, including the interior minister – a first for Lebanon. […]

Mr Hariri’s new government will be composed of most of the country’s rival factions, including the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah which – with its allies – made gains in parliamentary elections last May.

One of the main sticking points until now has been how Hezbollah’s Sunni allies, who oppose the prime minister, would be represented in government. They were eventually awarded one position in cabinet, while Hezbollah took two seats.

Jamil Jabak was chosen as health minister by Hezbollah, although he is not a member of it.

Other key members of the new cabinet are Ali Hassan Khalil and Gebran Bassil, who both remain as finance and foreign ministers respectively.

Four women entered the government. Among them is Rhea al-Hasan, the country’s new interior minister.”

Nowhere in this report are BBC audiences informed that Hizballah is a terror organisation which is designated in whole by the US, Canada, Israel, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council and in part by the UK, Australia and the EU.

The BBC’s tepid portrayal of Hizballah as “Iran-backed” obviously does not facilitate audience understanding of the fact that Iran funds its proxy in Lebanon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

And apparently the BBC finds nothing newsworthy about the fact that members of the new Lebanese cabinet belong to a terror organisation that has an arsenal of some 120,000 missiles, funds its terror activities through international drugs trafficking and money laundering and serially violates UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Hizballah’s lexicon and a false narrative

Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

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BBC News inverts cause and effect in US aid story headline

Readers may recall that last month we noted the absence of any BBC coverage of a story concerning the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept a category of US aid.

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American security aid dollars as of the beginning of February, in a development seen as a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security ties.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to Pompeo on December 26, 2018, telling him that the PA would reject US financial support because of a new American law known as the Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Act.

Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation — possibly in the hundreds of millions — if the Ramallah-based body accepts even one penny of American aid.

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” Hamdallah wrote in the letter, adding that the PA would reconsider its decision if ATCA were changed in a way that would protect it from lawsuits in American courts.”

On February 1st the BBC News website got round to reporting that story in an article by Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell which was presented to audiences with a headline that clearly leads readers to believe that the initiative to stop the aid came from the US administration: “US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza”.

The first five paragraphs of Knell’s report gave readers no indication whatsoever of the fact that the US aid was stopped because the Palestinian Authority told the US Secretary of State that it refused to accept the funds.

“The US has confirmed it stopped all aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in a step linked to new anti-terrorism legislation.

More than $60m (£46m) in annual funds for the Palestinian security services has now ended, and – while Israel has backed some previous cuts in US aid for Palestinians – officials have expressed concern about this move.

It is thought that co-operation with Israeli forces, which helps keep relative calm in the West Bank, could be affected.

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Donald Trump last year, has just come into force.

This allows Americans to sue those receiving foreign aid from their country in US courts over alleged complicity in “acts of war”.”

Only in paragraphs six and seven were readers informed that:

“At a news conference on Thursday, senior official Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority (PA) had sent a letter to the US state department asking them to end funding because of a fear of lawsuits.

“We do not want to receive any money if it will cause us to appear before the courts,” he said.”

Knell went on to tell readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

With BBC audiences serially denied any meaningful reporting on the subject of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and with serious coverage of the issue of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families very few and far between, readers are of course unlikely to be able to judge for themselves whether or not that PA denial holds water.

Related Articles:

The story about US aid to Palestinians that the BBC chose not to report

Hizballah leader dispels BBC WS presenter’s ‘wondering’

When we reviewed the BBC’s coverage of Operation Northern Shield earlier this month we noted that on December 4th 2018 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Razia Iqbal suggest that Israel’s presentation of the purpose of multiple tunnels quarried through solid limestone under an international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction might be made up.

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Ms Iqbal was no doubt interested to learn from Hizballah’s leader, during a long interview he gave to the al Mayadeen network last week, that she can stop ‘wondering’ about the purpose of those tunnels.

As outlets including the Times of Israel reported:

“He confirmed Israeli leaders’ accusations that “Part of our plan for the next war is to enter the Galilee, a part of our plan we are capable of, God willing. The important thing is that we have this capability and we have had it for years.””

BBC audiences have to date heard nothing about Nasrallah’s acknowledgement of the existence and purpose of the cross-border tunnels or the UN Middle East envoy’s recent statement at the UN Security Council concerning the failure to grant UNIFIL access to those tunnels on the Lebanese side.

Hence BBC World Service radio audiences around the globe remain under the misleading impression of this story created by a former arts correspondent with no significant experience in Middle East affairs who apparently thinks she knows better than the Israeli intelligence services.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

BBC News website still not sure who dug Lebanon border tunnels

More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

h/t DG

In recent weeks BBC audiences – and in particular listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – have heard repeated misrepresentation of the chronic problems with utilities and services facing the population of the Gaza Strip.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

BBC audiences have repeatedly been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis have been downplayed or airbrushed from the story. The latest chapter in that serial misrepresentation came on January 25th when listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an item introduced by presenter Nick Robinson at 47:13 minutes into the broadcast.

Robinson: “If you work on this programme you often hear the complaint that we and the news are so dominated by Brexit and Trump that the news agenda from abroad gets crowded out. […] Here’s our world affairs editor then, John Simpson, with an alternative news bulletin.”

That “alternative news bulletin” was also promoted separately as a podcast in which at 1:46 listeners heard the following: [emphasis added]

Simpson: “A brand new Israeli politician, Benny Gantz – a former military chief of staff who’s emerging as a major threat to the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has produced a number of campaign videos praising Israel’s war against Palestinian militants. One shows aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins, saying that six thousand targets were destroyed. Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age, says the commentary approvingly.”

Simpson refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. The video that Simpson describes as showing “aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins” does not in fact show “Gaza” as a whole but one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.  

Simpson continued:

Simpson: “That may be right in one particular aspect. An investigative report just out says that after more that 25,000 people in Gaza were injured by Israeli forces last year, doctors have been battling a superbug epidemic in Gaza which is disturbingly resistant to antibiotics.”

The ‘investigative report’ to which John Simpson refers was published on December 31st and – while devoid of any empirical evidence – its portrayal of the background to the state of the healthcare system presents an inaccurate picture.

“Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been crippled by years of blockade and antibiotics are in short supply. Even though doctors know the protocols to prevent the rise of drug resistant bacteria, they do not have supplies to follow them.” [emphasis added]

As our colleagues at UK Media Watch pointed out when that report first appeared in the Guardian:

“The rest of the 1000 plus word piece follows this pattern of suggesting that Israel is largely to blame for the shortage of vital medicines in Gaza, a shortage that is putting the lives of countless Palestinians at risk. 

But, this is a lie. The import of antibiotics, and almost all other important medicines, are not in any way impacted by Israel’s blockade. As a CAMERA prompted correction at the NY Times noted, “the import of medicine” to Gaza “is not restricted” by Israel.

It’s actually the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – and not Israel – that’s responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza. But, the PA, as part of the sanctions they imposed on Hamas in 2017 related to their ongoing political dispute, often fails to send such vital drugs to Gaza. The PA-imposed sanctions also includes a major reduction in Gaza’s overall healthcare budget, and a frequent refusal to issue permits to Gaza patients to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.

As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported earlier in the year, “the escalation in internal Palestinian divisions in March 2017 led to a decline in deliveries from the West Bank and the gradual rise in the percentage of essential medicines at zero stock”. Even the pro-Palestinian NGO Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) blamed the PA for the shortage of medicine and medical supplies.

In fact, even before Fatah’s sanctions against Hamas, the Islamist group was complaining that Ramallah was sending only a small fraction of the medicine to Gaza it was required to send under existing agreements.”

Following his context-free caricature of ‘militaristic’ Israel and his airbrushing of the fact that the vast majority of those “injured by Israeli forces” were engaged in violent rioting at the time, Simpson tried to create linkage between an alleged epidemic of resistant bacteria and Israeli actions and in order to do so, completely erased the Palestinian Authority and Hamas from his framing.

Apparently Radio 4’s “alternative news bulletin” means an alternative to factual, accurate and impartial reporting.  

 

 

 

The story about US aid to Palestinians that the BBC chose not to report

One of the stories the BBC chose to cover widely last year was that of cuts in direct and indirect financial assistance to Palestinians by the US administration.

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

However BBC audiences have to date not seen any reporting on a recent story that also concerns US aid.

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American security aid dollars as of the beginning of February, in a development seen as a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security ties.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to Pompeo on December 26, 2018, telling him that the PA would reject US financial support because of a new American law known as the Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Act.

Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation — possibly in the hundreds of millions — if the Ramallah-based body accepts even one penny of American aid.

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” Hamdallah wrote in the letter, adding that the PA would reconsider its decision if ATCA were changed in a way that would protect it from lawsuits in American courts. […]

In the past year, the Trump administration has sent $61 million to the PA in security aid, a State Department official said in an email.”

As can be seen in an interestingly worded Tweet, the BBC’s US State Department correspondent has been aware of that story for several days.

Nevertheless, BBC audiences will find no mention of the PA’s refusal to accept US aid on either the United States or Palestinian Territories pages of the BBC News website.

A year ago, in January 2018, BBC World Service radio audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.

Apparently the BBC does not see the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept millions of dollars of US assistance unless an American law is changed in a similar light.

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first part of Mishal Husain’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme interview (from 2:09:59 here) with the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, on January 18th focused on the topic of medical services in the Gaza Strip. Husain then changed the topic to the subject of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting which she had previously euphemistically described as “protests”.

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

Husain: “Why do you use live ammunition against people who are inside the Gaza side of the boundary fence with Israel?”

Regev: “If people are storming the fence, trying to break through to our side of the border – as the leader of Hamas said, their goal is to tear down the fence, enter Israel and kill our people – then we will stop them. People are launching Molotov cocktails and people are shooting. If people are launching incendiary devices to burn our fields, burn our…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Yes but you’re saying quite a few different things ‘cos storming the fence…OK…let me just give you an example of someone who presumably was considered to be storming the fence. There are pictures of a 14 year-old called Othman Helles who, with a group of other boys – and it’s very clear that they’re a very young age, this was last summer – they go up to the fence. He puts his hand on the top of the fence and immediately there’s a bullet that hits him in the chest and he dies on the spot. Now it is apparent to anyone looking at those pictures – as it would have been to the Israeli soldier who fired that shot – that these were children. Why were they shot?”

Regev: “I think if you are trying to break down the fence, if you’re trying to – as Hamas itself declared – tear through the fence, go to those Israeli communities…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You put your hand on the top of a fence, you’re a child and you’re shot dead by an Israeli soldier.”

As Mishal Husain should be aware, her portrayal of that story does not align with the account of the same incident given by her colleague Tom Bateman to Radio 4 listeners in August 2018.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry [i.e. Hamas – Ed.].”

Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners that when Othman Helles tried to climb the border fence, Hamas had been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those killed under the age of 18 were operatives of terror factions and others linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Regev: “First of all you’re talking about a combat situation where hundreds if not thousands of people brought in by Hamas, paid for by Hamas, are storming the border fence, trying to break it down. Countless incidents where they actually had broken through the fence with their wire cutters…”

BBC Radio 4’s self-appointed military expert interjected:

Husain [interrupts]: “Have you ever thought of arresting people?”

Regev: “We do arrest people when we can. We do arrest people when we can but I think if you look at the film from those violent riots at the border, it’s clearly orchestrated by Hamas, it’s clearly violent in intent. The goal – as articulated by Hamas itself – is to break in and kill our people.”

Husain: “But there are people being…there are people being shot dead far inside the fence. I mean I’ve been to the fence and I’ve seen…”

Regev: “So have I.”

Husain: “…there are women – you’ve been to one side. I’ve been to the other side where people are gathering. But there are women there. There are children there. There are people there who are just seeing what they’re doing and there are people far inside the fence who are sometimes hit by live ammunition but also by tear gas canisters. There was a 13 year-old who died from being hit on the head with a tear gas can.”

Regev: “Mishal, I’d like to ask you the following question: everyone who listens to this programme, everyone who knows anything knows that that is a war zone. So why are you busing women and children into a combat zone? And I’d ask one further question…”

With her ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ on full view Husain interrupted her interviewee yet again:

Husain [interrupts]: “It’s a combat zone though because you’re using live ammunition – that’s why it’s a combat zone.”

Regev: “It’s a combat zone because we are protecting our border against people who are trying to use explosives and other weapons to break in so as to kill our people.”

Husain: “So you don’t…when you hear about the children for example or the medics – there was a young medic who also died inside, inside the fence – when you hear about people like that who’ve paid for being at the fence with their lives, do you never have any kind of qualms about the policy that Israel’s pursuing?”

Regev: “I don’t want to see any innocent person caught up in the cross-fire between us and Hamas: I want to be clear about that. But I’d ask you the following question: in Gaza we pulled out. We redeployed behind the 1967 line which is from the international community’s point of view the recognised border. If we can’t defend that border, what border would you have us defend?”

Husain: “The question is how you defend it and the tactics that you chose to use to defend it.”

Regev: “We are preventing – so far successfully, thank goodness – people, terrorists, from entering our communities and killing our people. You spoke to the Israelis at the southern border who live in fear of terrorists coming across the border and killing them and their children. It is our obligation as a government to protect our people and we will do so.”

Husain did indeed speak to Israelis living near the Gaza border during her December visit but as readers may recall, her main interest – as expressed in 60% of her questions – was asking them about Palestinians.

Husain then changed the subject.

Husain [2:20:59]: “Let’s talk about another border: the border with…eh…in northern Israel – the border with Lebanon – where recently you found tunnels that you say have been dug by Hizballah. Ahm…given Hizballah’s links to Iran and the wider situation in the Middle East, how do you feel about President Trump – who Mr Netanyahu is so close to – deciding to pull US troops out of Syria and the…and also saying that Iranian leaders can do what they want in that country?”

After Mark Regev had answered that question and a subsequent one – “So does President Trump’s decision make Israel less safe?” – Husain closed the interview.

As we see Mishal Husain once again used this interview to advance her chosen narratives concerning Israeli counter-terrorism measures while both promoting inaccurate claims and withholding crucial background information from BBC audiences.

We await with interest the ‘Today’ programme’s interview with the Egyptian ambassador to the UK on the topic of the effects of his country’s counter-terrorism measures on life in the Gaza Strip, the interview with the PLO envoy to the UK on the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s withholding of medicines, permits for medical treatment in Israel, salaries and funding for fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip and of course the interview with a Hamas representative on the topic of the group’s prioritisation of terrorism over social and health care, clean water supplies and sewage treatment for the citizens of the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

As already noted, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was again given over to the topic of the Gaza Strip.

The previous evening viewers of ‘News at Ten’ had seen Mishal Husain’s one-sided report on the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip – filmed a month earlier when she visited the territory – and the next morning Radio 4 listeners heard her present a total of over sixteen and a half minutes of similar content in two separate items, the second of which (from 2:09:59 here) included an interview with the Israeli ambassador to the UK and the recycling of an interview with an UNRWA official.

The first part of Husain’s introduction was previously discussed here. In line with BBC editorial policy throughout the past ten months, Husain continued to whitewash violent rioting, grenade, IED and shooting attacks as well as breaches of the border fence with her tepid portrayal of “protests”.

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

Husain: “2018 was the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014. The United Nations says 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces over the course of the year. In the same period, says the UN, 15 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks and 137 injured. On the Palestinian side most of the deaths and injuries were connected to the weekly protests at the boundary fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Those protests are now in their tenth month and the number of injuries, including gunshots to the legs that often result in amputations, is causing an immense burden on Gaza’s already over-stretched medical facilities. Hospitals have been badly affected by the economic blockade maintained by Israel and on the other side by Egypt – they say for security reasons. That blockade, the lack of work, the collapsing economy of Gaza, was something we looked at when we reported from there last month. Here’s part of what Matthias Schmale, the most senior UN official in Gaza, told us.”

The counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip are not an “economic blockade” as claimed by Husain, who predictably avoided any explanation of the “security reasons” which brought about those measures.

Listeners then heard part of an item previously aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ on December 17th.

Schmale: “The disasters I have encountered were either natural – a tsunami, an earthquake – or man-made in terms of war. This is the first time I’m confronted with a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made as a result of the blockade. But if people had their own jobs and earned their own money, which they could have, we would not need to do this. Natural disasters are uncontrollable. This is controllable.”

Husain: “If there was a different security situation – Israel would say it’s not possible with the current reality, the current stance of Hamas towards it.”

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Once again listeners heard that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable [sic] safety” but with no mention made of the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip or the documented cases of Hamas’ abuse of travel permits issued to Gaza residents for terrorism purposes.

Husain: “Matthias Schmale speaking to me in an aid distribution centre in Gaza last month. And I’m joined in the studio by Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. […] Could you first answer that point from the UN? Why put an entire population of 2 million people into this basket of being a security risk to Israel?”

Despite Regev having detailed why Hamas is a “clear security risk” for Israel, Husain posed the same question again.

Husain: “Why put the entire population into the Hamas basket?”

Regev: “Well we don’t want to. We seek to differentiate. We don’t see the people of Gaza as our enemy. In many ways, like the people of southern Israel, they are the victims of Hamas violence.”

Husain: “You may not seek to but that is the effect of what the blockade does. It’s a blockade from the air, from the land, from the sea. Again, the point that the UN is making is that you could – the Israeli authorities could very easily allow at least some people to have work permits in Israel to go and earn a living for themselves and that income would make a significant difference to living conditions in Gaza.”

Husain of course skipped over ‘boring’ details such as the taxes that would potentially be paid to Hamas by such workers and the basic issue of the right of Israel to control its borders as any other country does.

Regev: “I think last year some 200,000 people crossed the borders between Israel and Gaza. Some 70% of that was for medical purposes but we are…we are interested in seeing the population go back and forth. From our point of view we want to see the people of Gaza have as normal as possible lives. The challenges…”

Husain [interrupts] “But that is not what’s happening.”

Regev: “The challenge is…that is a goal but at the same time we have to protect our people. And what does one do when you have a Hamas terrorist organisation that is committed to violence and terrorism. In this same last year – yes? – we had twelve hundred – one thousand two hundred – rockets, missiles, fired from Gaza into Israel. We had repeated attempts – as you reported* – to storm the border, to attack our people, to break into Israel, to enter our communities. You yourself interviewed Israelis on the border with Gaza who live in fear.”

Husain next made a thinly veiled reference to the notion of ‘collective punishment’.

Husain: “Indeed but overall you have been pretty successful – haven’t you? – in keeping people safe, in keeping Israeli civilians safe. What is happening in effect though through that is what arguably is the punishment of an entire people.”

Ambassador Regev then spoke about Hamas’ priorities, noting that “if they invested in schools and in hospitals, in the betterment of the life of the people in Gaza, it would be a totally different situation.”

Husain: “There is a considerable impact through the blockade on health facilities and that was shown…for example I did a report that ran last night on the ten o’clock news and you could see how medical facilities are suffering. Now I’m looking at an Israeli government list of the kinds of things that are prohibited in Gaza and they include significant things that would be incredibly important for the health care services. Scanning machines including X-ray machines are not allowed in Gaza. Instruments for physical and chemical analysis are not allowed in Gaza. Pumps intended for dirty water are not allowed in Gaza. Why are they not allowed?”

While we are not able to determine which list Husain was “looking at”, her claim that the items she cited are “prohibited” and “not allowed” does not hold water. The items mentioned by Husain appear on COGAT’s “List of “Dual Use” Items Requiring a Transfer License” which opens by stating that:

“The items delineated in this Decree are prohibited from transfer into the regions of Judea and Samaria, or the Gaza Strip, unless the relevant party has acquired a license.” [emphasis added]

In other words, those dual-use items and others can and do enter the Gaza Strip if the relevant permit is secured.

Given Husain’s claims, listeners could well have understood that there are no medical scanners or X-ray machines in the Gaza Strip. That of course is not the case.

“The spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced today, 19 July 2010, that the equipment for the USAID greenhouse project as well as medical equipment for Shifa Hospital in Gaza City were delivered to the Gaza Strip.

The medical equipment to Shifa Hospital includes a CT scanner and an X-ray machine donated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The transfer was coordinated by the Coordination & Liaison Administration in Gaza.”

A Reuters report from 2016 about the opening of a new hospital in the Gaza Strip includes the following:

“Umm Hashem, a mother bringing her 17-year-old daughter to the hospital to have a stomach problem examined, praised the new facility, saying it was long overdue.

“The best thing here is the X-ray machine,” she said, referring to the CT-scanner. “We used to go to Shifa hospital to get checked, but now we can do it here.””

In January 2018 the Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences published a paper titled “Evaluation of advanced medical imaging services at Governmental Hospitals-Gaza Governorates, Palestine”.

“Medical imaging services are the key tool to diagnose many diseases and have an important role in monitoring treatment and predicting outcome. The current study [was] conducted to evaluate advanced medical imaging services (CT and MRI) at Governmental Hospitals-Gaza Governorates, Palestine.” 

So, while the situation of medical services in the Gaza Strip may be far from ideal, Mishal Husain’s promotion of the notion that scanners and X-rays are “prohibited” and “not allowed” is clearly inaccurate and materially misleading to listeners.

Regev then spoke about Hamas’ use of metal pipes for making rockets and the fact that dual-purpose items such as fertiliser and some types of medical equipment can be used for military purposes, stating:

“…as long as Hamas controls the hospitals – and they do – we have a problem with that sort of equipment going in. We have to protect our people.”

Husain: “Well some people who work in the hospitals are paid for by Hamas, some are paid for by the Palestinian Authority.”

Regev: “But they all live under the rule of Hamas.”

Husain: “The question is the impact of what you’re doing on the civilian population of Gaza. I mean for example there was a doctor who said to me that among the items that are considered dual use are the stains that are used for medical diagnosis. For example radiotherapy is barely available in Gaza. Chemotherapy is barely available in Gaza. The chances of a woman surviving breast cancer in Gaza after 5 years is half of the chance of an Israeli woman just across the boundary fence. This is the reality of the policies that you are pursuing and their impact.”

A relevant paper published in October 2018 states that:

“Five-year survival rates for breast cancer in Gaza are about 50%, compared with about 85% in the United States and Israel (including women referred to East Jerusalem). Part of this disparity is explained by a later stage at diagnosis, but limited therapeutic options also contribute.” 

That is not “half the chance of an Israeli woman” as claimed by Husain.

Regev: “I think you’d find that a large part of the shortages in Gaza hospitals are because the Hamas regime refuses to invest in its own medical facilities for its own people and prefers to invest in violence: digging tunnels, building missiles and so forth. That is the fundamental problem. I agree that on some issues because of our concerns – and I think they’re legitimate – on dual-use items we do place restrictions but the overwhelming problems facing the Gaza medical system is because of Hamas’ own policies.”

Husain then changed the topic of conversation – as will be seen in part two of this post.

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BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

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BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

A significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to what appears to have become one of its presenters’ pet topic – the Gaza Strip.

The previous evening viewers of ‘News at Ten’ had seen Mishal Husain’s one-sided report on the healthcare system in Gaza – filmed a month earlier when she visited the territory – and the next morning Radio 4 listeners heard her present a total of over sixteen and a half minutes of similar content in two separate items.

Those two items will be discussed in upcoming posts but first let’s take a look at statements made by Mishal Husain near the beginning of both those items – from 37:13 and 2:09:59 here.

37: 13 Husain: “The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period.”

2:09:59 Husain: “2018 was the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014. The United Nations says 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces over the course of the year. In the same period, says the UN, 15 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks and 137 injured. On the Palestinian side most of the deaths and injuries were connected to the weekly protests at the boundary fence that separates Gaza from Israel.”

First let’s examine the source of that information. Although Husain uses the terms “UN” and “United Nations”, the data specifically comes from a press release put out by the local branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which, as regular readers know, is a highly politicised and partisan organisation that has in the past used highly dubious methodology to produce reports on casualties in the Gaza Strip.

That UNOCHA press release states that 23,000 (79%) of the 29,000 people described by Mishal Husain as “injured by Israeli forces” sustained their injuries “in the context of Gaza’s ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations by the fence”. As we see on UNOCHA’s own data base its definition of injured means:

“…people who were physically hurt in a relevant incident and received medical treatment at a clinic or hospital, or by paramedic personnel on the site of the incident. This includes people who received treatment due to suffocation [sic] by tear gas.”

And indeed, according to the break-down titled “Injuries by type of weapon” appearing on that data base, the most frequent cause of those injuries is defined as “Tear Gas (inhalation)”.

Another point arising from that data – but airbrushed away from audience view by Husain – is UNOCHA’s admittance that some of the casualties were terrorists.

“At least 28 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018 were members of armed groups in Gaza…”

The figure cited by UNOCHA is considerably lower than that claimed by Hamas. As was noted here in May 2018:

“On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15th – Hamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.””

Just as the BBC overwhelmingly avoided reporting that information at the time, it continues to have no place in the narrative promoted by Mishal Husain.

A report published by the ITIC two days before this Radio 4 broadcast went on air identifies 150 out of 187 Palestinians killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting between March 30th 2018 and January 16th 2019 as being linked to terror organisations – i.e. 80%. Of those 150, ninety-six (52%) were affiliated with Hamas and 45 of those (i.e. 24% of all the fatalities) were operatives in Hamas’ military wing.

An additional piece of information in that UNOCHA press release likewise exposes the motivations behind Husain’s framing.  Again relating to “Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018” the report states that:

“…another 15 were perpetrators or alleged perpetrators of attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.”

In other words, while encouraging audiences to compare the number of Palestinians killed in “the worst year…since the Gaza conflict of 2014” with the number of Israelis killed “in the same period”, Husain airbrushed away the fact that some of the Palestinians killed were in the process of carrying out the very attacks in which some of those Israelis were murdered and concealed the fact that a high proportion of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ were affiliated with the terrorist groups that instigated, organised, financed and facilitated that violent rioting.

The obviously significant connection between “the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014” and the fact that Palestinians chose in 2018 to engage in terrorism and weekly violent mass rioting has of course no place in the politically motivated framing advanced by Mishal Husain.

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BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

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BBC News website still not sure who dug Lebanon border tunnels

On the evening of January 17th an article titled “Lebanon arrests US man for crossing illegally from Israel” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

While the account of that still sketchy story is much the same as that seen in other media reports, the BBC also found it appropriate to add the following unrelated information.

“Tensions have been high in the region in recent weeks, with the Israeli military launching an operation to destroy six “attack tunnels” under the border that it says were dug by Hezbollah. Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels.”

Apparently the BBC is still not convinced that Hizballah dug those cross-border tunnels or of their purpose. Yet again however the corporation refrained from providing audiences with an alternative explanation for tunnels hundreds of meters long quarried through solid limestone under the international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction. And once again the BBC inaccurately stated that the terror group “has not commented” when in fact Hizballah’s second in command did just that.

The article closed with the following claim:

“Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 in which more than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed.” [emphasis added]

The same statement previously appeared in two BBC News website reports relating to Operation Northern Shield:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

While the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time. Nevertheless, the BBC now promotes a narrative that portrays Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

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An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield