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. 

 

Follow up on a Gaza story ignored by the BBC

Back in February we noted that – despite its practice of extensively amplifying UNRWA messaging – the BBC had chosen not to cover the story of an employee of that UN agency who was suspended after he was allegedly elected to the Hamas political bureau.

“On February 23rd the ITIC published a report concerning the election of the chairman of the Hamas-controlled UNRWA staff union to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip.

“One of the newly-elected members is Dr. Suhail Ahmed Hassan al-Hindi, who holds a PhD from Cairo University (his thesis dealt with improving the conditions of Palestinians teachers under the Israeli “occupation”). Since 2012 he has been the chairman of the UNRWA staff union in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas. […] In addition to his role as union chairman, he is also the principal of the Palestine Boys’ Elementary School, an UNRWA school for refugee children.”

Both Hamas and al Hindi denied that he had been elected to the Hamas political bureau despite reports in the Palestinian media and UNRWA’s Chris Gunness issued a statement saying that the organisation “has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office”.

On February 26th the head of COGAT commented on the issue and on the same day, al Hindi was suspended by UNRWA.”

A similar story that emerged the following month was likewise ignored by the BBC.

On April 22nd it emerged that al Hindi is no longer employed by UNRWA.

“The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday a Gaza staffer suspected of having been elected to Hamas’s leadership no longer works for the agency.

Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said that Suhail al-Hindi was no longer employed by the UN Relief and Works Agency. He declined to say whether al-Hindi had quit or was fired, saying the agency doesn’t “discuss the terms of departure of individual staff members.””

However, the ITIC – quoting Hamas linked sources – reported that al Hindi was presented by UNRWA with the choice of resignation (together with preservation of his social benefits) or dismissal. The ITIC also noted that it is unclear whether al Hindi’s resignation applies both to his position as chairman of the UNRWA staff union and his concurrent post as the principal of an UNRWA school.

Given that, according to UNRWA figures, the UK was the agency’s third most generous donor in 2015, members of the British public would no doubt have been interested to see some serious investigative reporting from their national broadcaster on the issue of alleged links between the UN agency they help fund and the terror organisation that is proscribed by the British government.

Weekend long read

1) It is not rare for BBC audiences to be told that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the central issue behind jihadist violence in the Middle East and beyond. At the JCPA, Dr Dore Gold examines that claim.

“There is one area in which many European diplomats connect the terror against Israel and the activities of the jihadist movements like ISIS. For decades it has been broadly assumed that if Israel would only solve the Palestinian problem, then one of the grievances driving the jihadi movements would be removed and the West would be more secure. This thesis has been proven to be false time and time again.

Looking back at the 1990s, the first major breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians was reached with the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Accords. In the years that followed, a series of implementation agreements were signed like the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the 1995 Interim Agreement, the 1997 Hebron Agreement, and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum.

But looking in the same parallel period, there was no correlation between Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and the reduction of the hostility from the jihadist threat. For in those very years, al-Qaeda’s threats on the West seemed to only worsen: in 1993, the first World Trade Center attack took place; in 1995 was the first al-Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia; followed in 1998 with the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in 2000, the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen; and finally in 2001, the United States was struck in the 9/11 attacks.”

2) At the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt provides a view of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ post JCPOA involvement in the country’s economy.

“The Revolutionary Guards’ expanded involvement in infrastructure and development projects throughout Iran is highly evident. However, the lifting of the economic sanctions following the implementation of the JCPOA provides an opportunity to reduce Revolutionary Guards involvement in the economy by means of encouraging foreign companies to invest in Iran once again. Indeed, the corps is well aware of the challenges it faces following the nuclear agreement that endanger the organization’s economic interests. However, it feels the need to control the state economy not only to finance its own activities in Iran and beyond, but also to solidify its political status, and hence the group’s increased efforts to entrench its involvement in development and infrastructure projects.”

3) In late February and early March we noted that the BBC had not covered two stories relating to the suspensions of UNRWA employees following allegations of their election to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip. The ITIC has now produced a report concerning Hamas opposition to proposed changes to the curriculum in UNRWA-run elementary schools.

“Hamas recently attacked UNRWA for its intention to introduce changes in the curriculum of the lower grades of elementary schools in the Gaza Strip operated by the agency. Hamas claimed the proposed changes served Israel and were intended to have a negative effect on the national identity of young Palestinians. In several refugee camps, “popular” protests were held against UNRWA. One was also held near UNRWA headquarters in the Gaza Strip during events marking Land Day (March 30, 2017).

During the protest near UNRWA headquarters calls were heard to reinstate Dr. Suhail al-Hindi, suspended by UNRWA after he was elected to Hamas’ new political bureau in the Gaza Strip. Sabri Sidam, Palestinian minister of education, and the Palestinian ministry of education in Ramallah stated their objection to any change UNRWA might make in its curriculum.”

4) Writing at the New York Times, Benjamin Pogrund explains why the ‘apartheid’ smear so frequently amplified in BBC content is invalid.

“The idea that Israel is an apartheid state is a staple of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which has made the South African comparison practically the lingua franca of anti-Israel activism. It’s a grave charge: If the accusation is valid, Israel deserves the censure, boycotts and isolation that the B.D.S. movement demands. But announcing it loudly and ceaselessly, as the movement does, doesn’t make it true.

Here’s why the apartheid comparison does not stack up.

Apartheid in South Africa maintained privilege for the white minority and doomed people of color to subservience; it determined every aspect of life — the school you attended, the work you did, where you lived, which hospital and ambulance you used, whom you could marry, right down to which park bench you could sit on without facing arrest.

I know this because I lived it.”

BBC News ignores another UNRWA – Hamas story

At the end of last month we noted that the BBC had chosen not to report the story of an employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who was suspended following allegations of his election to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip.

Now another similar story has come to light.

“A senior Palestinian employee of a Gaza-based United Nations humanitarian agency was reportedly elected to Hamas’s political bureau, the top governing body of the terrorist organization the rules the Strip.

One the 15 members elected to the bureau in February’s internal elections was Muhammad al-Jamassi, a senior engineer employed by UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Jamassi has held various positions within Hamas since 2007, including in the group’s public relations department and its affiliated charities, the center said.

He currently serves as board chairman for the UNRWA engineering department in central Gaza, and oversees all off the agency’s infrastructure projects in the area.”

According to UNRWA figures, the UK was its third most generous donor in 2015, contributing nearly a hundred million US dollars to its budget. Hence, members of the British public may well be interested in seeing some serious investigative reporting from their national broadcaster on the issue of alleged links between the UN agency they help fund and the terror organisation that is proscribed by the British government.

Despite being one of the few international media organisations to have an office in the Gaza Strip and therefore being well-placed to cover this story, the BBC continues to date to refrain from doing so.  

No BBC reporting on suspension of allegedly Hamas linked UNRWA employee

As regular readers know, representatives of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) featured regularly in the content produced by the BBC during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas as well as in previous and subsequent reports concerning the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA does not confine its activities to humanitarian work and frequently acts as a political campaigning group, with one focus of its efforts being the issue of the border restrictions imposed by Israel in order to curb Hamas terrorism.  Notably, UNRWA’s approach to that issue dovetails with Hamas’ standpoint, as seen in the terrorist organisation’s ceasefire demands made during the 2014 conflict.UNRWA WS tweet

The BBC has frequently used its various platforms to amplify UNRWA’s political campaigning  on that topic – examples can be seen hereherehere and here. UNRWA employees are also not infrequently given unchallenged airtime to promote their messaging on additional subjects – see examples here and here – and as we know, in 2014 UNRWA’s spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness successfully pressured the BBC to get the content of an article about casualty figures in the Gaza Strip amended to be more to his political tastes.

It is hence all the more noteworthy that the BBC has to date ignored a recent UNRWA related story. 

On February 23rd the ITIC published a report concerning the election of the chairman of the Hamas-controlled UNRWA staff union to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip.

“One of the newly-elected members is Dr. Suhail Ahmed Hassan al-Hindi, who holds a PhD from Cairo University (his thesis dealt with improving the conditions of Palestinians teachers under the Israeli “occupation”). Since 2012 he has been the chairman of the UNRWA staff union in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas. […] In addition to his role as union chairman, he is also the principal of the Palestine Boys’ Elementary School, an UNRWA school for refugee children.”

Both Hamas and al Hindi denied that he had been elected to the Hamas political bureau despite reports in the Palestinian media and UNRWA’s Chris Gunness issued a statement saying that the organisation “has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office”.

On February 26th the head of COGAT commented on the issue and on the same day, al Hindi was suspended by UNRWA.

“…in light of our ongoing independent internal investigation, we had been presented with substantial information from a number of sources, which led us to take the decision this afternoon to suspend Suhail al Hindi, pending the outcome of our investigation,” UNRWA spokeswoman Chris Gunness wrote.”

Although UNRWA’s initial statement claims that “[s]taff members are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is inconsistent or might adversely reflect upon the independence and impartiality required by their status”, the issue of the connections of UNRWA employees to Hamas is by no means new.

“Elections for the unions of the UNRWA workers in 2009 ran from March 16 to March 24. It was estimated that some 97% of those eligible to vote participated; balloting was held at UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. Once again, Hamas-affiliated candidates won all 11 seats in the teachers’ section, guaranteeing Hamas control of UNRWA schools in Gaza.

Almost immediately, a representative of Hamas in Gaza released a statement, declaring the result an indication of the “enormous support” Hamas enjoys.

Within days, John Ging, [then] UNRWA director of operations, threatened to relieve UNRWA personnel of their positions if they were associated with political parties.

Ging wrote letters to a small number of employees, indicating his concern about a “worrisome” situation. In this letter, he observed that parties “hostile” to UNRWA have advertised the victory in UNRWA elections of certain political candidates over the years, but only now did these statements come from inside Gaza, giving them enhanced credibility. […]

One of the persons who had been mentioned as having been suspended by Ging was Suhail Al-Hindi, who had been elected chairman of the teachers’ section.”

However, UNRWA did not take action against those employees in 2009, its parent organisation the UN remained silent. Al Hindi was briefly suspended by UNRWA on similar grounds in 2011 but reinstated after the UNRWA staff union declared a strike in 243 schools. In the next elections in 2012, Hamas once again received the majority of votes.

Although this latest story has been reported by a variety of local and international media organisations which do not have permanent staff and offices in the Gaza Strip, such as the Times, the BBC – which does have a bureau in Gaza – has to date chosen not to cover it.

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) UN Watch has published another report concerning teachers at UNRWA educational facilities.

“…the director of the independent monitoring group UN Watch will […] present a new report showing 40 alarming new cases of UNRWA school teachers in Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria whose Facebook pages incite to Jihadist terrorism and antisemitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”

The full report can be found here.

2) The FDD’s David Weinberg has produced an interesting report on a topic touched on by the BBC in the past which is titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Private Funders of al Qaeda in Syria”.Weekend Read

“It is particularly vital to evaluate Qatar’s record on terror finance in light of the Nusra Front’s July 2016 decision to rebrand itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which purports to have “no relationship with any foreign party.” According to sources cited by Reuters, Qatar led an effort starting in 2015 to bolster the Syrian opposition by persuading Nusra to distance itself from al-Qaeda. Reuters reported that intelligence officials from Qatar and other Gulf states met several times with Nusra’s leader around this period to suggest that his group could receive money, arms, and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaeda. Yet the more JFS legitimates itself by integrating into the broader Syrian opposition, the greater the risk of a permanent al-Qaeda army on Europe’s doorstep.”

The full report can be found here.

3) The Tower draws attention to an interesting article by Ilan Berman published at ‘Foreign Affairs’.

“It might just be the most important terrorism case you’ve never heard of. Last fall, prosecutors in the Peruvian capital of Lima launched formal legal proceedings against a 30-year-old alleged Hezbollah operative named Mohammed Hamdar. The trial, now underway, has major regional—indeed, global—implications for the fight against international terrorism.”

4) At the Jewish Chronicle, Professor Gerald Steinberg discusses the involvement of Human Rights Watch – one of the NGOs most frequently promoted and quoted by the BBC – in a campaign to which the BBC has lent its voice.

“In November 2016, Fifa met to discuss the Palestinian effort to evict Israel from the international football federation, using the excuse that a few lower league teams are located across the 1949 “Green Line”.

Understandably, the delegates to the Fifa conference demurred, preferring not to try to referee one of the most complex and confusing political disputes in the world.

For Human Rights Watch (HRW), this response was irrelevant and this Israel-obsessed organisation continued its attack, this time during a Fifa meeting on January 10 called to consider expanding the number of teams in the World Cup.”

Read the rest of the article here

 

Weekend long read

1) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center has produced two reports concerning UNSC Resolution 2334:Weekend Read

a) Palestinian Reactions to UN Security Council Resolution 2334

b) How UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Relates to Palestinian Terrorism

“On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, with 14 countries voting in favor. The United States abstained allowing the resolution to pass. Resolution 2334 deals mostly with the Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, over which there is broad international consensus. The issue of terrorism is included in the resolution but its weight is slight (as opposed to extensive dealing with the settlements, which are represented as the main obstacle to peace). Moreover, for the most part the terminology used in dealing with terrorism is general and vague. The resolution does not explicitly refer to Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian terrorist organizations (especially Hamas) and popular terrorism and violence (the so-called “popular resistance”).”

2) At the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler fact-checks the speech made by the outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on December 28th 2016.  

““The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo. Including 100,000 just since 2009 when President Obama’s term began.”

If you do the math, that means the population growth rate in the settlements is nearly 4 percent. Israel’s overall population growth rate is about 2 percent. Israel has the highest birthrate in the industrialized world, especially among the Jewish Orthodox population that tends to live in settlements. Israelis have long maintained that “natural growth” — births — should be allowed in settlements, and even the ill-fated “road map” plan for peace pressed by President George W. Bush called for a freeze that included natural growth.”

3) An article recently published at Ynet opens:

“An Israeli investigation into school books used by United Nations-run schools in the West Bank were found to consistently delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel.

These textbooks—written by the Palestinian Ministry of Education—are used in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in both Gaza and the West Bank.

However, the most shocking discovery is that the UN schools don’t teach Palestinian children to recognize Israel as a country—not within the 1947 borders, nor any borders at all.”

The study upon which that article is based can be found here.

BBC’s 2014 claim of an attack on a UN school shown to be inaccurate

On August 3rd 2014 the BBC told its audiences that Israeli forces had attacked a UN school in Rafah.

Tweet breaking UN school

Tweet w news UN school

BBC correspondent Martin Patience produced a filmed report titled “Gaza crisis: Chaos after deadly strike ‘at UN school’” in which he informed viewers that Israel was serially attacking UN schools.Patience 3 8 Rafah

“Eye witnesses say that it was an Israeli airstrike. It struck at the entrance of this UN school in the southern town of Rafah. Now it’s believed children are among the dead. We also understand that at least thirty others have been injured. Ah…now this is the third deadly attack on a United Nations school since this conflict began. Just last week Israel faced international condemnation after an attack on a UN school left at least 17 dead.” [emphasis added]

In an article which appeared on the BBC News website on the same day, quotes from UN officials were given amplification.

“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the attack as a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.”

“In a strongly worded statement, Mr Ban called for those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” to be held accountable.”

“Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: “The locations of all of these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times.

“They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea.””

An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on August 3rd 2014 is also available online. Two years on, listeners can still hear presenter Rebecca Kesby’s inaccurate allegations: [emphasis added]Newshour 3 8

RK: “Well the UN seems pretty convinced that it was an Israeli shell that hit their school. Robert Turner has been saying that it’s now the third such facility of theirs that your forces have hit. He’s very cross. He says that the UN keeps telling the Israeli forces the precise location of all their facilities where people are going to take shelter and they keep being hit.”

RK: “People listening to this will be very cross to hear this again – just three days after another attack on a UN school which provoked widespread condemnation around the world. You talk about surgical strikes and precision bombing but the evidence is very different.”

“On the question of the UN-run school that was hit in Rafah this morning: when will you know if it was your rocket that killed those ten people and injured those 30 others?”

“Excuse me, sir, but you’re telling Palestinians to evacuate from their homes and seek shelter. They seek shelter at UN schools. You then bomb the schools. Whether it’s near the school or not, it’s not safe for them there, is it?”

The Military Attorney General recently published the results of the investigation into that incident (section 7 here). [emphasis added]

“In media reports, as well as in the complaints and reports of NGOs and international organizations, it was alleged, that on August 3, 2014, at around 10:45, a number of civilians were killed and others injured, as the result of an IDF aerial strike in proximity to a Rafah school run by UNRWA. The number of fatalities varies from report to report, and ranges from seven to fifteen fatalities. According to the main allegation arising in the aforementioned complaints and reports, the strike took place a few meters from the gate of the school, which was at that time serving as a shelter for civilians who had evacuated their homes, at the exact moment when the gate was open, and was aimed at a motorbike that was passing through the area and its riders. The incident was subsequently referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination.

The factual findings, collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG, indicate that the school was designated as a “sensitive site” on the relevant operational systems of the IDF. In accordance with the IDF’s operational instructions, any military operation to be conducted in the vicinity of such sites requires the adoption of special precautions. The fact that the school was serving at the time as a shelter for civilians who had evacuated from their homes was also noted on the relevant systems.

It was further found, that on 3 August 2014, the IDF observed three people riding on a motorbike, who were identified, on the basis of up-to-date intelligence information, as military operatives. From the moment that the decision to strike the operatives was made, the IDF carried out aerial surveillance on the motorbike’s path, and surveyed a wide radius of the estimated continued route of the motorbike, in order to minimize the potential for harm to civilians on the route or in proximity thereto. The final destination of the military operatives was not known to the operational authorities. The strike on the military operatives was planned for execution by means of a precise munition, with a reduced explosive load, in a way that would allow for the strike’s objective to be achieved, whilst minimizing the potential for harm to civilians or passing vehicles.

It was further found, that a period of time after the munition had been fired, and mere seconds before it reached its target, the motorbike entered a traffic circle with a number of different exits, and left it via one of them. The FFA Mechanism’s findings indicate that with the means that were at their disposal, and under the visibility conditions prevailing at that time, the operational authorities were not able to discern in real-time the group of civilians that were outside the school, in proximity to the route along which the aforementioned motorbike was travelling. It was further found that, in any case, at the moment upon which the motorbike exited the traffic circle and started to travel along the road bordering the wall which surrounded the school, it was no longer possible to divert the munition which had been fired at the motorbike.

The strike on the motorbike riders occurred immediately after the motorbike passed by the gate of the school. As mentioned above, it is alleged that as a result of the strike between seven and fifteen people in the vicinity of the school’s gate were killed (as indicated above, the number of fatalities varies from report to report). According to the findings of the FFA Mechanism, three military operatives were among the fatalities.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG found that the targeting process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements.

The decision to strike was taken by the competent authorities, and the object of the attack was lawful – military operatives. The attack complied with the principle of proportionality, as at the time the decision to attack was taken it was considered that the collateral damage expected to arise as a result of the attack would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated to result from it (essentially, it was considered in real-time that the strike would only harm the military operatives targeted). This assessment was not unreasonable under the circumstances, in light of the fact that aerial surveillance of the routes which the motorbike was predicted to take, which had commenced when the decision to strike was taken, had not shown any civilian presence on those routes.

Moreover, the attack was carried out in conjunction with various precautionary measures, such as the selection of the munition used to carry out the strike, which aimed to mitigate the risk to civilians and passing vehicles. It was also found that under the circumstances, the operational authorities had not foreseen that the strike on the motorbike would take place in the vicinity of the school, and that, in any case, at the time at which it became clear that the strike would occur in proximity to the school, they did not have the capacity to prevent the strike from taking place in that location. The fact that, in practice, civilians who were uninvolved in the hostilities were harmed, is a tragic and regrettable result, but does not affect the legality of the attack ex post facto.”

Obviously footnotes need to be added to the relevant reports still available online in order to clarify to members of the public that the claim that the UN school was attacked is inaccurate.

Likewise, a similar clarification needs to be added to the BBC News website article titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which is also still available online and in which audiences are told that:

“Locals have told the BBC there were no militants in or near the school.”

Since the end of the conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip two years ago, investigations into several of the incidents reported by the BBC have shown (see related articles below) that audiences were at the time given inaccurate and misleading information.

To the best of our knowledge, none of the specious reports which still remain available online (and form part of what the BBC terms ‘historical record’) have been amended to inform the general public of the outcome of investigations into the incidents and to correct inaccurate and misleading information included in their content.  The failure to take such necessary steps risks the waste of publicly funded resources on complaints relating to those reports due to the fact that the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that if content is still available online, it may legitimately be the subject of editorial complaints.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Martin Patience tells TV audiences that Israel attacks UN schools

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

BBC reports on Wafa hospital shown to be inaccurate

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

Revisiting BBC reporting on July 2014 Shuja’iya market incident

BBC News passes up on the chance to correct Gaza misinformation

A BBC story from August 2014 still in need of clarification

Revisiting the BBC’s claims about a 2014 story from Rafah

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

BBC uses coverage of attack in Jordan to promote politicised messaging

On June 6th the BBC News website reported an attack on security personnel in Jordan in an article titled “Jordan officers killed in attack at Baqaa camp near Amman“.Jordan attack

“Five people have been killed in an attack on Jordanian intelligence officers at a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital, Amman, government officials say.

They described the incident, rare in Jordan, as a “terrorist attack”.”

Covering the same incident, AP reported that:

“The targeted security office is a two-story building facing the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa near the Jordanian capital of Amman. The camp has a population of tens of thousands, including many Syrian refugees who have settled there since the start of the Syria conflict in 2011.

A highway separates the security compound and the camp.”

Although the relevance, if any, of the location of that still unfolding story is unclear, from the second version of its report onwards, the BBC elected to promote UNRWA messaging, including a link to the organisation’s profile of Baqaa camp – but not to its webpage which clarifies that “[m]ost Palestine refugees in Jordan, but not all, have full citizenship”.

“The Baqaa camp was one of six set up in 1968 for Palestinian refugees fleeing the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. […]

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says Baqaa is the largest camp in Jordan.

It is believed to house more than 100,000 refugees.

UNRWA says the camp continues to face major challenges, including unemployment, poverty and the need for structural repair.”

Furthermore, one of the two links to related reading posted under the article itself on the BBC News website’s Middle East page is a link to a photo essay from 2013 which promoted an exhibition staged within the framework of UNRWA’s public relations campaign.

Attack Jordan on ME pge

One can but wonder what was going through the mind of the editor who found it appropriate to exploit a report about a terror attack in Jordan for the opportunistic promotion of politicized messaging on an unrelated topic.

BBC self-conscripts to UNRWA PR campaign

An article by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 21st using the headline “UN schools targeted in Middle East”. The report itself – titled “More than half UN schools in Middle East targeted in conflicts” – carries the following somewhat ‘cloak and dagger’ introduction:Doucet UNRWA

“Nearly half the schools run by the UN in the Middle East have been attacked, damaged or rendered inoperable in the past five years, according to a new report obtained by the BBC.” [emphasis added]

Seeing as the head of the organization which produced that report – UNRWA – was interviewed in connection with its content on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 45:53 here) on the very same day, we can probably conclude that “obtained” means “given to us by UNRWA”.

Reflecting the framing used in the headlines, Doucet’s report tells readers that:

“More than 300 UN schools were attacked or shut down.” [emphasis added]

In the ‘Newshour’ interview a rather different portrayal was in evidence when presenter Julian Marshall put the following question to Pierre Krahenbuhl:

JM: “And the schools have been damaged as a result of the overall conflict rather than being targeted, have they?”

PK: “Yes indeed. It’s a mix between some having been of course affected by the fighting that takes place in some of the camp landscapes. […] and many of them are beyond reach in frontline areas that have become very, very delicate.”

Doucet’s report also includes the following:

“UNWRA [sic] runs 692 elementary and preparatory schools in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria; and 8 secondary schools in Lebanon. […]

At least 302 (or 44%) of UNWRA [sic] schools were directly affected by armed conflict or violence in the past five years.”

Readers are not however told how many schools were affected in each location.

In April 2015 the UN released a report concerning the seven UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip which were damaged during the conflict between Hamas and Israel in the summer of 2014. The report also examined the cases of three additional UNRWA schools in which weapons belonging to terrorist organisations were found and noted the potential for “confusion” caused by UN practices on the ground at the time.

“The Board found that, at times, there had been multiple channels of communication, both within the United Nations and with outside interlocutors. While this could be helpful, it could also lead to misunderstandings. The Board also found that the existence of two United Nations operations emergency rooms, one organized and coordinated by OCHA and the other by UNRWA, could lead to confusion, even though they carried out distinct functions, which were clear to United Nations actors on the ground. […]

While they were channelled [sic] by the United Nations to the IDF in a timely manner, the Board sensed a degree of confusion concerning the names and coordinates of installations, as, on occasion, the IDF and the United Nations used different mapping references and some schools have multiple names. The Board welcomed the intention of UNRWA and Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) to refer to installations in the future by numbers, as opposed to names.”

Interestingly, neither Marshall nor Krahenbuhl mentioned those UN findings, the storage of weapons in three schools or the all-important context of the terrorist activity in the vicinity of the damaged schools when they later turned to the topic of the Gaza Strip.Newshour 21 5 UNRWA

JM: “Syria clearly in the midst of conflict at the moment but Gaza, the West Bank – we’re very much aware of what happened in Gaza way back in 2014 – but…eh…presumably the problem is not as acute any longer.”

PK: “The problem is not acute in the same way because we have rebuilt and repaired all the schools that were damaged or – more largely – destroyed during the 2014 war.”

Whether BBC audiences are in fact “very much aware of what happened in Gaza way back in 2014” is of course debatable given the corporation’s record of reporting in general and its frequent amplification of politicised UNRWA messaging (both during and after the conflict) in particular.

The timing of the appearance of this UNRWA report is – as stated in Doucet’s article – linked to the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit and – as is evident in the final part of the ‘Newshour’ item – UNRWA’s related funding drive. The BBC’s predictable self-conscription to UNRWA’s public relations campaign means that audiences are fed context-free messaging in the guise of ‘news’ – as ever with no critical examination of the organization concerned or its mandate.

Related Articles:

BBC article on UN Gaza report includes inaccurate representation of its content

BBC amends inaccurate claim on Gaza mortar fire