BBC News conceals part of a story on Hamas tunnels

On August 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel to speed up Gaza tunnel barrier“.

“Israel is to accelerate the building of a huge barrier along its boundary with Gaza aimed at preventing militants from tunnelling under the border.

The 64km (40-mile) long construction will reach a depth of 40m (131ft) below and 6m above ground, at a cost of 3bn shekels ($833m).

An Israeli army commander said the barrier should be completed in 2019.

Israel has sought to neutralise the threat of cross-border tunnels since its war with militants in Gaza in 2014.”

The BBC apparently based that article on local media reports concerning a briefing given the previous day by the head of the IDF’s southern command.

“At a briefing on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Maj Gen Eyal Zamir said the hi-tech barrier would be completed, even at the risk of renewed conflict with Hamas.

“If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason [for Israel] to go to war over. But the barrier will be built,” Israeli media quoted him as saying. […]

According to local media reports, the machine used to dig the new the barrier will destroy any existing tunnels, while the barrier itself will use sophisticated technology to detect any new tunnels being built.”

While readers are not informed which Israeli news site was the source of the information used in the BBC’s article, it is notable that an additional, related and widely reported part of Major General Zamir’s briefing was omitted from the BBC’s account.

photo credit: IDF

Ha’aretz reported:

“Zamir showed reporters pictures of sites in Gaza, some of them civilian, which Hamas is believed to be using as tunnel shafts. He warned that any civilian who allows terror organizations to use his property for military purposes is risking his life, his family’s life and his property. For example, he showed a house in the Beit Lahiya area, which the army says has an entrance to an underground tunnel that is also connected to a mosque. Another structure, near the Shati refugee camp, has an entrance to a network of tunnels.”

The Jerusalem Post informed its readers that:

“According to Zamir, many of the tunnels run under civilian homes in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, he presented two residential buildings used by Hamas, including one which belongs to a family with six children and another six-story building built within the past two years.

“Any civilians who stay in these buildings endanger their lives and the lives of their families. It’s Hamas who endangers them first and foremost, but every building over a tunnel is a legitimate military target,” Zamir said. 

“Part of Hamas’s combat strategy is to conduct itself within civilian areas, which is intended to make it difficult for the IDF to locate, attack and destroy the group’s military infrastructure,” Zamir stated, adding that by drawing Israeli fire to these buildings, Hamas aims to delegitimize Israel and the IDF.”

The Times of Israel reported that:

“In addition to disclosing additional information about the border barrier, the military on Wednesday also revealed that it had found two alleged Hamas tunnel sites buried beneath an apartment building and a family’s home in the northern Gaza Strip.

Zamir accused the Hamas terror group of purposefully building the tunnels under civilian structures to provide cover for its operations. That being the case, the general warned, “these sites are legitimate military targets. Anyone inside of one, should another conflict begin, endangers himself and endangers his family, and the responsibility is on the Hamas organization.””

The IDF also published a backgrounder on the subject, including aerial photographs.

As readers may recall, during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, some senior BBC journalists claimed that there was “no evidence” of Hamas using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields and the BBC Trust subsequently defended that inaccurate reporting following complaints from members of the public.

Given that the BBC’s Middle East editor repeated that claim less than two months ago, the editorial decision not to inform BBC audiences of this clear example of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas is particularly noteworthy.

Related Articles:

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BBC ignores latest Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza civilian district

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

 

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BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

While in the last couple of weeks the BBC has invested quite a lot of resources and energy in opportunistic promotion of its chosen political narrative concerning the Six Day War, it has on the other hand to date completely ignored an additional anniversary that is, to put it mildly, no less important as far as audience understanding of the reasons for the absence of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is concerned.

This week marks a decade since the violent take-over of the Gaza Strip by the terrorist organisation Hamas and the ousting of the body recognised by the international community as representing the Palestinian people – the Palestinian Authority – from that territory.

As Avi Issacharoff writes at the Times of Israel:

“Ten years have passed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent and swift coup during which 160 members of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah party were wiped out. Within three and a half days, the Hamas military wing defeated the military units of the Fatah-dominated PA, even though Abbas’s loyalists were four times more numerous. (The most powerful PA figure in Gaza at the time was Mohammad Dahlan, but he happened to be in Germany for physiotherapy treatment on his back.)

Unemployment at the end of the Hamas decade is around 40%. Poverty is widespread. Two-thirds of the population in Gaza needs help from international aid organizations. The water isn’t fit to drink. And now the power is dwindling.

If anyone hopes that Hamas might reconsider its policies, and start to invest in the citizens of the Strip instead of its military infrastructure, they should forget it. Hamas remains the same cynical organization that exploits the distress of Gaza’s residents for political gain, both locally and internationally. Sometimes against Israel, sometimes against the Palestinian Authority.”

The topic of Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis has been covered patchily and often inaccurately by the BBC in the past (see ‘related articles’ below). In recent weeks that crisis has been exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to continue footing the entire bill for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel.

“In April the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.”

While Israel, Egypt and the EU are reportedly trying to find solutions to the worsening crisis, Hamas continues to threaten violence.  

““The decision of the occupation to reduce the electricity to Gaza at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and dangerous. It will accelerate the deterioration and explode the situation in the Strip,” said Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua.

“Those who will bear the consequences of this decision are the Israeli enemy, who is besieging the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,” he added.”

According to some Gaza residents and others, Hamas is already organising violent ‘demonstrations’ against Israel.

“Since the beginning of Ramadan, Hamas have been organizing riots across the border area with Israel provoking a response that has left two Palestinians killed and several others wounded.”

However, as Avi Issacharoff  points out:

“Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.

According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.

Hamas could easily step in to pay for the electricity from Israel that Abbas is no longer willing to cover. But it adamantly refuses to do so. It stubbornly insists that the PA should pay the entire bill, without clarifying why.”

Likewise, the Palestinian Authority – which reportedly has also cut medical supplies to the Gaza Strip – could foot the bill for Gaza’s electricity if it so wished. After all, it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on payments to convicted terrorists (including those belonging to Hamas) and the families of terrorists. However, the PA’s decision to put pressure on Hamas by means of augmented suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip goes far beyond financial – or humanitarian – considerations.

Whether or not this crisis will escalate into another round of conflict between the Gaza Strip based terror group Hamas and Israel remains to be seen. One thing, however, is already clear: if the situation does escalate, BBC audiences will once again lack the full background information necessary for understanding of its underlying causes as they watch BBC reporters produce a plethora of pathos-rich reports of suffering in Gaza.

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BBC News parrots inaccurate claim from a politicised UN agency

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two 

 

 

BBC ignores another Gaza tunnels story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two

In part one of this post we discussed the earlier section of Tim Franks’ report from the Gaza Strip which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 1st (from 14:07 here) as part of a multi-part special feature.clip-newshour-1-2-power

A section of the report – including the baseless accusation of “collective punishment” – was later promoted separately by the BBC World Service on social media. 

Following a sketchy portrayal of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and the related demonstrations which took place last month, Franks went on to interview Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad

Franks: “So what does Hamas have to say about the burdens and disillusions of so many of the two million Palestinians here in Gaza? And in particular about people now taking to the streets to protest? Ghazi Hamad is the deputy foreign minister.”

Hamad: “I think this is a natural thing. It’s not the first time and I think the authority here give this demonstration full support and permission.”

Franks: “Shots were fired in the air and some of the organisers were arrested.”

Hamad: “I think that the police that accompany they have been commanded to protect and to give full freedom to criticize Hamas. Look, I think all kind of [unintelligible] but when they started to destroy the company and destroy the tools and the doors and the windows and the equipment inside the [unintelligible] the police was obligated to interfere.”

Franks: “Did that really happen or was it just a few kids throwing stones?”

Hamad: “No-one is shot. No-one is wounded and maybe some people they have been taken to the investigation but I think all of them they are freed now.”

Franks: “I’ve got a bigger question which is the reason Gaza is in such a terrible place at the moment. I know you will say it’s because of the Israeli presence on the border of Gaza. I just wonder whether, given that nothing has changed for the better over the past ten years, you would give any thought to a…perhaps a more radical change from Hamas. That maybe it is time to engage in some way with the Israelis.”

Hamad: “I think you have to ask the question to the Israeli side.”

Franks: “I ask the Israelis but I’m asking you.”

Hamad: “Our experience with the Israelis – these people don’t want peace, they don’t want any kind of political solution.”

Franks: “Why don’t you test them?”

Hamad: “No, I mean if you look to President Abbas he tested them for ten years now. I think he’s a very moderate man. He believes in peace, believe in coexistence, believe in peaceful talks. He does not believe in intifada or armed struggle. He did everything in order to make the peace process successful but they are…”

Franks: “Except the Israelis can also say to him you don’t speak on behalf of the Palestinians ‘cos look at Hamas.”

Listeners then heard a statement from Hamas which is identical to the messaging they have been hearing from the BBC for weeks: the notion that Israeli building is the prime obstacle to the two-state solution.

Hamad: “But they are refusing every day. They say that he is not a partner, they opening more settlements, they are confiscating lands in the West Bank. No place for the two-state solution. I think…”

Of course Hamas rejects the concept of the two-state solution outright, but Franks chose not to challenge Ghazi Hamad on that point. 

Franks: “But it’s also very easy for the Israelis to say look, President Abbas, you don’t speak for the Palestinians. Look how powerful Hamas is.”

Hamad: “But look on something on the ground. OK, this is maybe my ideology, is my thoughts but what are you going on the ground…”

Franks: “Listen, I hear what you’re saying about the Israelis and believe me, I ask the Israeli government lots of tough questions about what they are doing but I’m asking you and I’m asking about Hamas and I’m asking about the fact that because, for example, the Hamas charter talks about a war with Jews it’s easy…”

Hamad: “No, no…”

Franks: “No – hang on – it makes it easier for the Israeli government to say we don’t have a partner here.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. Don’t judge to the charter of Hamas. If you look there’s big a change inside Hamas.”

Franks: “It still says in the charter it’s about a Manichean war with the Jews.”

Hamad: “No, no. Look to the statements and the new vision of Hamas. Hamas has started to participated in the elections. Hamas has said frankly we accept the ’67 borders.”

Franks: “Hamas also puts out statements when, for example, four rabbis are stabbed in West Jerusalem praising a magnificent operation.”

Franks is referring to the terror attack in Har Nof in November 2014 which resulted in the deaths of six Israelis and about which the BBC found it appropriate to interview Ghazi Hamad at the time.

Hamad: “Well I think we have the right to fight against occupation because we…”

Franks: “But we’re talking about four rabbis in West Jerusalem. They were stabbed. I mean this was a couple of years ago.”

Hamad: “Every day we have people [unintelligible]. People are under the occupation. We have to use all the means against the occupation.”

Franks: “Ghazi Hamad from Hamas here in Gaza. That rhetoric – using all means against the occupation – may be familiar, as may be the idea that Gaza is a by-word for confinement, for shortages, for a confrontation with no exit. But it’s also a place that can bubble with pride and energy and later in the programme you’ll meet a woman who embodies that. We’ll ask whether there’s any chance that Gaza can escape what is pretty much a slow, suffocating decline at the moment.”newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Franks’ subsequent interview with web developer Rana al-Qirnawi can be heard from 45:08 here. Following that, listeners heard a conversation between Franks and programme presenter Owen Bennett Jones which included promotion of the debatable notion that people are radicalised by difficult conditions. 

Bennett Jones: “Now Tim, you were talking about Hamas earlier – talking to them – can you just give us a take on where Hamas stand now, how much popular backing there is, what’s the politics at the moment?”

Franks: “Well as far as Hamas are concerned, they say that they are fully in control and there is no doubt, Owen, that this place is a lot less unstable; it feels a lot safer internally than it did for many years…ehm…and when I used to come here. But there’s…there is also no doubt that some young people in particular are drawn towards harder line Salafist and Jihadist groups and, you know, this is something that I’m aware that senior figures in the Israeli security establishment have long been worried about as well: that as conditions deteriorate here, you are going to get increasing radicalisation – it’s just bound to happen.”

Bennett Jones: “Right and I think your sort of general purpose on this trip to…ah…to the Middle East is to sort of assess the viability of the two-state solution. What are your – as you start – what are your thoughts on that?”

Franks’ answer to that question reveals that he knows full well that Hamas is opposed to the two-state solution or any other kind of peace agreement with Israel – which of course begs the question why that crucial point is not sufficiently prominent in both his own reporting and the broader coverage by the organisation he represents.

Franks: “Well I’m… you know, these are the views in terms of this programme from Gaza. We’ve looked at Jerusalem earlier in the week. We’re going elsewhere later in the week. But in terms of Gaza the truth is, Owen – I mean yes; that was the starting point for this project – no-one’s really talking about it here. They haven’t been talking about it for years and it’s partly because there’s no real incentive to talk about it…ah…in public or with a journalist. After all, the official Hamas position is that in the long-term there’s no place for a Jewish state in the land of Palestine. But there’s a more immediate point I think…ahm…which is that, you know, the people here have far more direct concerns. It’s about the next meal, when is the power going to go off, how do you make money, what’s the water supply like – answer: not terribly good. So it’s those sort of much more quotidian dreary concerns that are driving people rather than any grand thoughts about a solution to all of this.

It is of course quite remarkable that a journalist could produce such a lengthy report (nearly 14 minutes long in total) from the Gaza Strip – especially one which purports to “assess the viability of the two-state solution” and includes an interview with a representative of Hamas – without uttering the word terrorism even once, without informing audiences of Hamas’ efforts to rehabilitate its military capabilities – including cross-border attack tunnels – and without mentioning the fact that it is those priorities which play a significant role in creating the difficult conditions for the residents of the Gaza Strip which he does report widely. Tim Franks, however, managed to do just that.

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BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

 

BBC ignores latest Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza civilian district

Over the past two and a half years the BBC has produced numerous reports from or about the Gaza Strip district of Shuja’iya, many of which have focused on the topic of structural damage resulting from the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas while playing down the issue of the terror infrastructure in that neighbourhood. For example:Tunnel shafts Shujaiya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

“This is the Shuja’iya neighbourhood and the destruction here is immense. Wherever you look buildings have been either hit or they’ve got bullet holes in them. Windows have been blown out and there is rubble all around me. Israel’s army says it went against this neighbourhood because it believed that Palestinian militants were digging tunnels from here to go across the border into Israel and that those militant groups led by Hamas were also carrying out rocket strikes from here.” [emphasis added]

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

“One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.” [emphasis added]

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.” [emphasis added]

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

“Yes, it’s interesting they use the word ‘massacre’ because Israel calls it a targeting of military sites. But for the people here; so many died they do call it a massacre.” [emphasis added]

Concurrently, since the end of that conflict the BBC has produced little content of any value in contributing to audience understanding of the issue of Hamas’ reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels.

BBC News sidesteps the real issues in Hamas tunnel collapse story

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel

Patchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

In April 2015 the BBC’s Middle East editor told audiences that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

Jeremy Bowen also misled audiences with an inaccurate description of the purpose of the tunnels:

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

On December 7th Hamas announced the deaths of two of its operatives working in a tunnel in Shuja’iya about half a kilometer from the border with Israel. Additional operatives are apparently missing since the tunnel’s collapse.

“Two Hamas terrorists were killed while working on an attack tunnel intended for an infiltration from Gaza into Israel collapsed in the territory near the border with Israel, according to a statement issued by the group.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said another Palestinian was injured in the incident. Hamas said they were working in a “resistance tunnel.””

This latest evidence of Hamas’ efforts to reconstruct its terror infrastructure in civilian neighbourhoods has once again gone unreported by the BBC and audiences continue to be deprived of the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of past or future Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, BBC News did find the time and the column space this week to ensure that its audiences were made aware of some short-lived “guerrilla artwork” in Tel Aviv.  

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Comparing BBC reporting on ISIS and Hamas tunnels

When in the summer of 2014 the BBC finally got round to providing its audiences with information about Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels thirteen days after the conflict began, the corporation was unable to describe the purpose of those tunnels to audiences in its own words.

Billed “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, the filmed report appeared under the equally interestingly punctuated title “Middle East crisis: Israel releases ‘Gaza tunnel footage'”. In the synopsis audiences were told that:tunnels vid 1

“Israel sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday, saying the ground operation is necessary to target Hamas’ network of tunnels.

It has stated the tunnels pose a threat of terrorist attacks against the Israeli population.”

The film itself employed similarly qualified language:

Israel says tunnels like this are being used by militants to infiltrate its territory”.

“This Israel Defense Forces footage shows suspected Hamas fighters in bushes, firing on Israeli troops”.

Israel says it has been forced to send troops into Gaza to find and destroy tunnels like this one” [all emphasis added]

In contrast, five days after the operation to retake Mosul from ISIS began on October 16th 2016, the BBC’s Ahmed Maher was able to tell audiences that:tunnels-mosul-maher

“These tunnels are very important and a key element in the military strategy of the jihadist group.”

The BBC was similarly able to describe the purpose of the tunnels in its own words in the synopsis to Maher’s report.

“The tunnels have been mainly used as hideouts and escape routes by the militants.”

In an article by Richard Galpin published on October 25th under the title “Mosul battle: Four ways IS is fighting back” readers found a section sub-headed “Tunnels”.

“As the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces have advanced towards Mosul, regaining control of towns and villages which had been in the hands of IS, they have discovered networks of tunnels dug in many areas, a classic tactic for guerrilla warfare.

They seem to be primarily defensive, designed to protect the militants from air strikes, artillery and other attacks. Inside the tunnels troops have found sleeping bags, food supplies, water, and even electricity cables so the users have light.

The tunnels are often dug beneath buildings, including mosques, so the excavation work cannot be spotted. But the tunnels can also be used for surprise attacks.

In one of the most dramatic moments captured on video since the offensive began, an IS militant climbs out of a tunnel in a rural area and opens fire on a group of soldiers who had presumably thought they were on safe ground. The man then blows himself up before the soldiers can react.

It is assumed that there is a similar network of tunnels in Mosul city itself, which could enable IS fighters and their leaders to hide during the anticipated assault and if necessary escape.

Troops have found booby-traps in tunnels which the militants have been forced to flee, including one which had been attached to a copy of the Koran.”

Notably, the BBC has found no need to employ superfluous punctuation or qualifiers such as “Iraq says” when describing the existence and purpose of those tunnels in those and other reports.

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BBC (sort of) gets round to telling audiences about Hamas tunnels

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Figures missing from BBC’s June article on Gaza economy emerge

Back in June of this year the BBC’s Gaza based correspondent Rushdi Abu Alouf produced an article about the grim economic situation of Gaza Strip residents titled “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“. As was noted here at the time:Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

“On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.””

That “unknown amount of money” has now been quantified.

“As the residents of the Gaza Strip endure daily hardships due to the dire economic situation in the enclave, their Hamas leaders spend over $100 million a year on the group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to estimates by both Israeli and Palestinian sources. Spending on digging tunnels accounts for some $40 million of that annual sum.

By way of comparison, the budget of the last Hamas government, which dissolved in April 2014, was $530 million. In other words, some 20 percent of the budget was funneled toward arming the group with advanced weapons, digging tunnels, training, and salaries for Hamas fighters.”

Abu Alouf did however tell his readers that:

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Obviously, the Hamas terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel digging contributes both directly and indirectly to the economic and social pressures endured by ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip.  Audiences of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” have however yet to receive the full range of information which would enable them to properly comprehend this issue.

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Reviewing the BBC’s use of a Hamas interviewee

Our colleagues at CAMERA note that:

“A top operative of Hamas and news media favorite named Ghazi Hamad has recommended “small stabs to all parts of Israel” as a strategy against the Jewish state. Hamad is currently the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit organization that translates Arab and Persian media, Hamad suggested a war of attrition against Israel in an Op-Ed he wrote for the Alwatanvoice.com, an online Palestinian news outlet based in the Gaza Strip.

Hamad—a former spokesperson for Hamas—has frequently been treated as a credible source by many media outlets. A Lexis-Nexis search showed that The New York Times alone quoted Hamad—often uncritically—no less than 18 times between 2006 and 2016. Despite, or perhaps because of the frequency with which he has been quoted, some U.S. news outlets seemingly have been taken in by the Hamas operative.”

Ghazi Hamad has also been a fairly frequent BBC interviewee. For example, he appeared on the self-described “hard-hitting flagship news programme” ‘Hardtalk’ in May 2011 and in July 2012. In August 2013 Hamad was quoted by Yolande Knell in an article about Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing.

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.” “Pigua Har Nof int Hamad

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Synagogue in Har Nof in November 2014 included an interview with Hamad in which he was given an unchallenged platform to promote inflammatory falsehoods, including the baseless accusation that “settlers” killed a Palestinian bus driver who committed suicide.

“…every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day there is a new crime in Jerusalem. Every day there is a crime against the Palestinian citizens, either in the Al Aqsa Mosque or in Jerusalem as a city.”

“We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers; not to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack Al Aqsa Mosque, attack the Palestinian, to kill the Palestinians. Yesterday they killed a Palestinian driver. I think that they all should open their eyes. There’s a revolution in Jerusalem. There’s uprising, there is tension and they did not take any action in order to stop this, to protect the Palestinians. But they did everything to protect the settlers.”

In February 2015 Hamad appeared in a filmed report by Lyse Doucet. As was noted here at the time:

“Doucet then gets Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad on camera but, instead of posing any incisive questions about his organisation’s responsibility for the conflict and its aftermath, she merely provides him with a stage from which to promote the usual propaganda unhindered.

Hamad: “Main reason for all this catastrophe is the occupation. Now Gaza’s turned to be like a big prison. There’s no exit, no import, no export.”

Not only does Doucet fail to clarify to viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” since August 2005, she makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impression received by audiences as a result of Hamad’s lies. […]

Doucet continues:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

Hamad: “Look, I think this time – that’s right – but I think that Hamas is doing this in order to protect our people here. We don’t want to be surprised with a new war – a new aggression against us.”

In addition to displaying no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from and why Hamas is doing nothing to improve the lives of the ordinary people it holds hostage, Doucet also makes no attempt to enlighten viewers with regard to the fact that Hamad’s faux victimhood is mere propaganda.”

In March 2016 Yolande Knell once again interviewed Ghazi Hamad on the topic of Hamas collaboration with the branch of ISIS active in the Sinai Peninsula.

Knell: “Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”

Hamad:  “We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”

Clearly the BBC’s use of Ghazi Hamad as a source of information on that particular issue and many others has not only done nothing to contribute to meeting its remit of building an “understanding of international issues” but has actively hindered the achievement of that aim.

Related Articles:

Years of BBC amplifications of Hamas denials unravel

Hamas terror cash shoes not news for the BBC

As has been noted here on numerous occasionsover the past two years the BBC has avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ efforts to build up its infrastructure in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and certainly has not proffered any analysis of how that factor has influenced the surge in terrorism seen over the last ten months.

Concurrently, the BBC’s portrayal of the reasons for restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip is often at best superficial and at worst misleading; particularly when its journalists elect to amplify populist notions of “collective punishment” but ignore cases in which entry permits are abused for the purpose of terrorism.

A recent announcement from the Israeli security forces highlights both those issues as well as that of Hamas’ deliberate use of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields – a topic which the corporation has similarly failed to adequately address.

The Jerusalem Post reports:Euros

“A joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police Southern District and IDF operation resulted in the arrest on June 16 of 65-year-old Faiz Atar from Bet Lahia in Gaza, who had a permit to enter Israel to conduct trade. […]

The Shin Bet said the suspect hid cash in his shoes for Hamas, and smuggled tens of thousands of euros to terrorist operatives in the West Bank.
As the investigation continued, the domestic intelligence agency gleaned valuable information on Atar’s family in Gaza and their activities on behalf of Hamas, including tunnel digging.

“It emerged that his sons made use of his home to meet with Hamas operatives. The investigation revealed information on tunnel openings, which are partly located underneath civilian structures – including innocent civilian residential buildings and mosques – and rocket launch locations, which are located near civilian structures in a manner that endangers the civilian population in the Strip,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.”

In addition:

“Security forces nabbed a Gazan resident at the Erez Crossing in June with 10,000 euros stuffed in his shoes, intended for Hamas operatives in the West Bank. When the suspect, identified as Jabaliya resident Itallah Sarahan, 37, was questioned, security forces learned that he received a permit to enter Israel for trade purposes two weeks prior to his arrest.

On his first day visiting Israel, a Hamas policeman on the Gazan side of the crossing asked Sarahan if he would smuggle cash to Hamas in the West Bank. Sarahan “expressed his willingness to do so,” the Shin Bet said, leading the Hamas police officer to take him to a meeting with the Islamist regime’s operatives, who paid him for the mission and provided him with special shoes in which the money was hidden.”

The BBC cannot possibly claim to be meeting its remit of enhancing “audiences’ awareness of international issues” as long as it continues to avoid such stories and the broader issues behind them and the omission of that context of course shapes audience views of Israeli counter-terrorism measures. 

 

 

BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant

On June 20th an article by Rushdi Abu Alouf of the BBC’s Gaza bureau appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“.Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

The article relates to a story which broke two months ago when Hamas once again announced a rise in import tax under the ‘National Solidarity Tax law’. Abu Alouf correctly reports that:

“The movement [Hamas] says funds will be used to pay its 40,000 civil servants, who have not received regular full salaries in more than two years.”

However, he does not clarify to readers that salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ over two years ago. As the Times of Israel explained at the time:

“The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.

On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.”

The Palestinian Authority refused to pay Hamas’ 40,000 employees and, as readers may recall, payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated in the summer of 2014.

Abu Alouf’s explanation for why Hamas does not have the funds to pay those ‘civil servants’ focuses on the terror organisation’s alleged reduction in income.

“Iran provided significant financial and military aid to Hamas from early 2006 – amounting to $23m a month, according to Palestinian political analyst Fathi Sabbah.

But Tehran, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dramatically reduced its support in early 2012, when Hamas refused to take sides in the Syrian civil war.

The movement also lost about $10m a month, said Mr Sabbah, when Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013. […]

After Mr Morsi was ousted, Hamas lost a second key source of income when Egyptian forces destroyed tunnels it said were used by militants to smuggle weapons into Sinai.

Hamas used to make millions of dollars from taxes it imposed on goods brought through the tunnels.”

On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.”

Hamas has of course made no secret of its efforts to rehabilitate its military capabilities since the 2014 ceasefire came into effect.

“There are those who think that the calm is a time of rest,” Haniyeh said. “But this is a continuation of the struggle. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are working and preparing for Palestine. Fighters are digging twice as much as the number of tunnels dug in Vietnam,” he said.

“In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine,” Haniyeh added.”

Hamas’ policy has of course resulted in the misappropriation of thousands of tons of building materials intended for the repair and reconstruction of civilian homes damaged during the 2014 conflict (a topic severely under-reported by the BBC). It has also meant the spending of millions of dollars on tunnel construction rather than on public services for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip. In 2015 Israeli intelligence estimated that:

“Today, due to rising prices, the annual cost [of tunnel building] is estimated to be at least 18-20 million USD — or approximately 50% of the budget of Hamas’s military wing. Indeed, the total annual cost is likely even higher, as IDF intelligence confirms that there are additional expenditures that cannot currently be quantified.”

However, Rushdi Abu Alouf ignores that core issue of Hamas’ financial mismanagement, preferring to focus audience attentions elsewhere.

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Any objective portrayal of Hamas’ “financial crisis” could not ignore the fact that the terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel building plays a key role in the creation of economic and social pressures on ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip. The Gaza representative of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” has however managed to completely conceal that decidedly large elephant in the room.