BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

h/t RB

An edition of the BBC World Service radio news and current affairs programme ‘Weekend‘ that was broadcast on September 3rd included an item promoting some noteworthy framing of the Gaza Strip but before that, presenter Paul Henley introduced his studio guests (from 26:30) Stewart Purvis – formerly of ITV and OFCOM – and Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House.

Leading up to the Gaza related item, listeners heard some interesting signposting (from 28:09) concerning radicalisation and terrorism which dovetails perfectly with the BBC’s chosen narrative on those topics.

Henley asked Kinninmont: [all emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “How much…when you’re looking at causes of instability and the endless problems that you concentrate on there [the Middle East], how much do you put down to unemployment, which seems to be the big social and economic problem?”

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. We need to look at the political economy of the region and the sense of injustice that’s created for many young people because they see corrupt people succeeding and they see so little opportunity for themselves even if they are hard-working, even if they are highly educated. These are probably more important things to look at than the ideology that the media obsesses over when thinking about terrorism; not least because you can actually address some of these economic problems.”

Henley: “And because of the interest in terrorism and…and where it comes about, do you have particular countries that you’re more interested in?”

Kinninmont: “Well we cover the whole region and we try very much in our team of analysts to speak about the 99% of people from the Middle East who have nothing to do with terrorist groups. Ah…I fear that the oxygen of publicity is still an issue; that there is a kind of media obsession with terrorism over and above all other problems.”

Following that (at 29:22) Henley turned listeners’ attentions to the topic of the UN Secretary General’s recent visit to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the PA controlled territories: a topic previously very briefly covered by BBC News in one report. While referencing Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures, Henley did not bother to inform listeners why they are necessary.

Henley: “Last week the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Israel and the Gaza Strip for the first time since he took office. Speaking at a UN run school, Mr Guterres said urgent solutions were needed to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. A recent UN report says living conditions for the two million people who live in Gaza – which is blockaded by both Israel and Egypt – are deteriorating rapidly. Mr Guterres stressed that resolving the crisis also required political will and he called on the Palestinians to end the division between Hamas – which rules Gaza – and Fatah – which governs the West Bank. In a speech in Tel Aviv he said he’d never shied away from criticising all sides in the conflict if he felt their actions weren’t moving towards a peaceful solution.”

Guterres’ remarks at a UNRWA school in Gaza also included “an appeal for unity” between the Palestinian factions engaged in a decade-long dispute along with a call to “avoid the buildup of the militantism” that is the cause of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Significantly – given the later framing in this item – listeners were not told of those remarks.

The “recent UN report” to which Henley referred was previously presented to BBC World Service listeners in a problematic report that failed to clarify the real reasons for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Guterres’ “speech in Tel Aviv” was delivered at the Museum of the Jewish People and listeners then heard the small part of it that the BBC chose to highlight – but without being informed of the crucial fact that Hamas rejects the two state solution.

Recording Guterres: “It’s my deep belief that the two state solution is the only way forward; the only path towards the historic compromise that can settle this conflict and lead to a better future for all. That is why I have been – and will continue to be – expressing my disagreement when it’s the case with unilateral measures and facts on the ground that can or could undermine that solution, including settlement activities but also continued violence, terror and incitement.”

At 30:40 Henley gave a brief introduction to a guest who was allotted almost half the air-time of the entire item. Her unchallenged claims were also separately promoted by the BBC World Service in a related programme.

Henley: “So away from the talk of the so-called important people, what is life like for the people of Gaza? Najla is a mother of two children. She was born in Gaza and she’s lived there all her life.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, that first name only introduction clearly does not allow listeners to understand who the speaker actually is or what her affiliations and “particular viewpoint” are.

Najla Shawa appeared on the BBC World Service over two years ago and then too the introduction was inadequate with the fact that she works for the politically partisan NGO Oxfam and was previously employed in various roles by the UN left unclarified. With Shawa having studied for three years at Birzeit University near Ramallah and subsequently at George Mason University in the US, Henley’s claim that she has “lived in Gaza all her life” is obviously misleading.

Shawa began with the promotion of the ‘Gaza prison’ theme. On the last working day before this item was aired, 638 people had entered or exited the Gaza Strip, seven ambulance crossings had been facilitated and 18,157 tons of goods in 577 trucks had entered the territory on one day alone.

Shawa: “The entire population is simply living in a big prison. We are unable to move, there’s no way to travel so the restriction of movement is on everything; on people and on goods – at least from Gaza to the outside world. Gaza has some input such as food and basic items but there’s no way for any economic activity to take place.”

In fact, in June 2017, 1,304 tons of goods were exported from the Gaza Strip. Shawa continued with a presentation of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip which did not clarify to listeners that it is the product of the internal dispute between Fatah and Hamas and is completely unconnected to the previously mentioned “blockade”.

Shawa: “People are continually living uncertainty and challenged by different issues every day. The last few months there was the electricity situation that worsened and has really deepened the humanitarian situation in Gaza and affected everyone, and particularly affects people who have less financial ability or less ability to access things like food or basic items. You know, in Gaza unemployment is at really alarming rate: some 60% among people who are able to work; in a working age. Poverty is also at very high rates. “

Shawa appears to be passing off rounded-up youth unemployment figures as general unemployment rates: according to the World Bank, the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2016 was 42%, with youth unemployment at 58%. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has slightly different figures and notes the very low workforce participation rate among females over the age of 15. The CIA World Factbook cites a poverty rate of 30%. Shawa continued:

Shawa: “Again, electricity; this is something that we’ve been living with for many years – I would say at least 10 years. But the last few months we are getting only 3 to 4 hours of electricity every day. You can imagine people’s refrigerators are turning into closets. We joke about it but there’s no way to keep things in your fridge. And you can imagine what this means to poor people who can’t afford simply to buy things every day. We adapt to schedules; we are going to have electricity from this hour to this hour so yeah we plan for laundry, we plan to maybe go out and do whatever. I mean, you know, you simply want to get out of the house.

You can also look at like small producers, small enterprises; they have shut down. Even big, larger ones are affected; they’re having to endure large amount of money just to survive, just to keep their business going and keep their work going. If we talk about water, water is the major, major threat problem in Gaza since many years. The way we get water, you need electricity for water to be pumped. You need water to be in a good quality. We have very salty water. There’s very little infrastructure. There is very little room for even doing any solutions for water. The majority of the sea is polluted with sewage. I mean real sewage – like raw sewage – and this is another huge problem. It’s causing a real environmental problem. We simply cannot eat the fish that is from the sea because it’s only full of sewage. We’re in the summer season and the heat and humidity in Gaza is very high and living under these conditions, children – I’m thinking about health – the simple, simple daily activity of people is extremely challenging.”

Yet again, no effort was made to clarify to listeners that the issues concerning sewage and water are rooted in the internal dispute between Hamas and Fatah and the all-important issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of replenishing and expanding its military infrastructure over civilian needs was not brought to audience attention.

Henley then inserted linkage to his previous conversation with Jane Kinninmont concerning ‘reasons’ for radicalisation.

Henley: “And I know you consider yourself relatively privileged but there are an awful lot of poor people judging by the rate of unemployment.”

Shawa: “That’s correct. I mean you’re talking about 80% of the Gaza Strip depends on aid. The Palestinian internal divide is also causing an additional layer to these problems that the Gazans are facing.”

No attempt was made to explain to listeners what that passing reference to “the Palestinian internal divide” actually means or how it affects Gaza residents.

Henley: “And when the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres comes to Gaza and calls for an end to the blockade, is he seen as an ally by people there? I mean the demonstrators were greeting him angrily.”

Henley did not clarify that the demonstrations were in support of convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.

Shawa: “Of course. I mean people here appreciate the role of the UN because it is providing basic services to the majority of the population of Gaza. I mean we know that people considers as their right because the majority of the Gazans are refugees and the services are provided by UNRWA in addition to other agencies. However, there is a great deal of anger because the UN is simply not doing much on the political level of things and this is purely a political issue and everybody knows that. Expressing concern and calling for an end of blockade is not enough and we’ve heard it again and again. And a generation – maybe after a generation now talking the blockade for the last 10 years, but you are talking about the general picture that the occupation is the issue here. That’s why people are angry because nothing is changing on the ground.”

Henley did not intervene to explain to audiences why, after nearly 70 years, the “majority of the Gazans” are still classified as refugees or how their status is different from that of refugees in the rest of the world. Neither did he remind audiences that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and – predictably – did not clarify that the territory is not ‘occupied’. Shawa closed her unchallenged and unquestioned monologue with the promotion of claims she did not support with statistical evidence.

Shawa: “You know, this pressure will simply lead to extremely negative phenomena. Young people are committing suicide. I mean I cannot talk about rates or numbers but we are seeing this every day. We are seeing more crime. We never heard of so much crime in the last years; only a few months we’re hearing so many incidents. And this is really worrying and again, people have the right to be angry.”

Henley concluded his guest’s appearance with a description no less inadequate than the one in his introduction:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza.”

As we see, throughout this lengthy item BBC World Service listeners heard nothing of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians and of the link between that and Israel’s counter-terrorism measures along its border with the Gaza Strip. While they did hear long and detailed descriptions of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the absence of any adequate explanation of how the lengthy dispute between Hamas and Fatah has adversely affected electricity, water, medical and sewage services in the territory means that listeners would be quite likely to reach the erroneous conclusion that those issues are connected to the ‘blockade’ which is mentioned repeatedly.

However, the item was not over yet and its final section will be discussed in part two of this post.

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Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

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

 

 

 

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Landmark Israel-PA agreements not news for the BBC

In the past week two major agreements have been signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which relate to topics the BBC has covered – from certain angles – in the past.

The first deal involves the electricity supply to Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

“High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.

The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity. […]

The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.

The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.

The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.

When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.

The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

[Israeli Energy minister] Steinitz described the deal as a “win-win project” for Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he said. […]

Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.”

When the agreement that paved the way for this new substation was signed last September, the BBC ignored that story and there has to date been no reporting of this latest news.

While the topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the corporation’s Middle East coverage over the years, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

The second agreement signed last week concerns water and a project that the BBC has covered in the past.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process. […]

The agreement announced Thursday is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 220-kilometer (137-mile) pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water. […]

The water sharing deal reached on Thursday calls for an Aqaba desalination plant in Jordan to sell water to southern Jordan and Eilat, while water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan. Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority from Mediterranean desalination plants — 10 million to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank…”

BBC audiences have seen much politicised coverage of the topic of water in the past. Only last March BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged promotion of the falsehood that Israelis consume ‘Palestinian’ water.

Nevertheless, the media organisation that pledges to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world” did not find this latest landmark water-related story newsworthy either.

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Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

Last November we noted that the commander of COGAT, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, had written to several international bodies warning of a potential water crisis in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2017.

In January we noted that the BBC had not reported the opening of a desalination plant (constructed by the EU and UNICEF) in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step. […]

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.”

However, it turns out that the desalination plant is not functioning and, as reported by the Times of Israel, COGAT has once again called on international bodies for help.

“In a letter sent last week to representatives of the international community in Israel and to the Foreign Ministry, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, warned that the Strip’s aquifer has been destroyed by years of excessive pumping and an estimated 96 percent of water in the enclave is now unfit to drink. It is the second such warning Mordechai has issued in the past six months.

To improve the situation, Israel supports the establishment of desalination plants, he said. In January a UNICEF team finished construction of a desalination plant in Khan Younis with a production capacity of 6,000 cubic meters of water per day — enough for 75,000 people.

However, according to Mordechai, the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, won’t allow the plant to be connected to the electric grid.” [emphasis added]

Only last month the BBC found it appropriate to provide unchallenged multi-platform amplification for water-related propaganda promoted by the PA’s Husam Zomlot:

Zomlot: “Steve, the whole situation here is that of a system of entitlement. These people – some people in Tel Aviv right now – the government, the Right-wing extreme government, wants to keep a system whereby there is a group that are privileged as per these numbers. It’s our own water that they consume, most of it. Some groups that are privileged and others that are disprivileged [sic] and discriminated whether by means of occupation or by means of colonisation or by means of apartheid.” [emphasis added]

Significantly, BBC audiences have not been informed of Israel’s actions to ease the water crisis in the Gaza Strip – and the lack of effort on the part of Hamas and the PA.

“A second desalination plant is in its planning stages and Israel supports the construction of a third, larger plant in Deir al-Balah, but only part of the money has been raised by the international community.

Until those plants are completed, Israel has offered to double its supply of water to Gaza, from 10 million cubic meters per year to 20 million. However, Mordechai told Army Radio that the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is not rushing to implement the offer.” [emphasis added]

In addition to water, the topic of the electricity supply in the Gaza Strip is also serially misrepresented in BBC reporting. From the same Times of Israel report we learn that:

“The water shortage is compounded by the ongoing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. The energy shortfall is an estimated 200 megawatts a day. Israel currently provides 60% of the electricity for Gaza, a power plant in the Strip provides some 30% and Egypt provides the remaining 10%. […]

Israel has approved the construction of another high-voltage power line to Gaza, which could provide an additional 100 megawatts of energy. This will take a few years to complete and is intended to provide power to the desalination plants.

Additionally, in September 2015, Israel approved construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Strip which could provide cheap, efficient energy to the Palestinian population. However, the PA has yet to sign a deal with any gas supplier.” [emphasis added]

If a serious water shortage does occur in the Gaza Strip this coming summer, BBC audiences will lack accurate and impartial background information essential for proper understanding of the causes of the crisis.

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BBC News ignores two water-related stories

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

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Challenged and unchallenged claims in a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the claims and topics on which presenter Stephen Sackur chose to challenge Fatah’s Husam Zomlot during a ‘Hardtalk’ interview broadcast on BBC World News on March 2nd. In this post we will look at the claims and statements that Sackur chose to let stand by failing to use his role as interviewer to intervene and clarify issues to BBC audiences.

For example, Sackur made no effort to challenge Zomlot’s inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the Oslo Accords, failing to point out that they do not include the stipulation that Israel should withdraw from “all the territories” which came under its control following the Six Day War and that they do stipulate that the issue of borders is to be determined in final status negotiations. Neither did Sackur bother to remind viewers that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 or to clarify that the territory is not ‘besieged’. Likewise, he refrained from clarifying that the 1949 Armistice lines are not borders and that definition of the two-state solution as meaning “a State of Palestine on the 1967 borders” is merely the PLO’s interpretation of the term.

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

Zomlot: “…you know I also witnessed the Oslo process as a young man, you know, witnessed the demise of the implementation of the peace process. I think if you are talking about the process itself, yes, it has been discredited. All along since 1997 we should have had a state. According to the Oslo Accords Israel should have withdrawn from all the territories it occupied in 1967 and in fact what happened after was the deepening of the occupation and the spread of colonial settlements and the besiegement [sic] of the people in Gaza and what have you and therefore, yes; you’re right – the process has failed miserably to deliver the outcome. And to many people it was a process actually designed to prevent the outcome; a process that was going in the opposite direction. But the hope and the aspiration and the goal of two states – of a State of Palestine on the 1967 borders – the hope for two states…”

Zomlot’s whitewashed and misleading portrayal of the PLO charter went unchallenged by Sackur with no effort made to clarify that Jews in Zomlot’s “egalitarian” Palestinian state only include those “who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion”.

Zomlot: “The PLO official…the Palestine Liberation Organisation official platform until 1988 was a one democratic state for all its citizens in the historic land of Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews but that platform had to be compromised simply because there was a condition by the international community – in fact by Reagan, the Reagan administration – on the PLO that we must abandon our dream of one democratic, egalitarian state, diverse and respecting the rule of law for all of its citizens, to a two-state solution.”

Sackur failed to challenge the falsehood promoted by Zomlot according to which the current economic situation in the PA and Hamas controlled areas is “unprecedented” and refrained from clarifying that GDP is currently significantly higher than was the case during the second Intifada and in 2006. Neither did Sackur challenge Zomlot’s bizarre claim of a Palestinian population of 12.7 million or the falsehood that Palestinians are ‘coerced’ into working in Israel.

Zomlot: “The socio-economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza is simply unprecedented in terms of how deteriorated it has been. All economic indicators show some sort of an economic – what’s the word? – slaughter-house, actually. Let me give you some numbers very, very quickly about the economic disparity because of us having to work in Israel – not, by the way, by choice but by coercion. You know our population is around 12.7 million. We have 95% literacy and we have 70% under age of 29. This is a very youthful, very educated society. And we have very wealthy natural resources yet GDP – our GDP – I’m talking about 2015 – just a quick number – is $12 billion compared to $305 billion in Israel. Our per capita is 2,800 compared to 36,000 in Israel. Our unemployment rate…”

Sackur failed to inform viewers that Zomlot’s claims that the Israeli government seeks “full annexation of the West Bank” and that such a move is ongoing “on a daily basis” are false.

Zomlot: “…in our situation, given the calamity of the Israeli agenda now – the current government – and it’s very clear: they want full annexation of the West Bank. This is not what I’m saying; this is what they’re saying and doing on a daily basis. You’ve just quoted some of their bills passed in the Knesset and we are witnessing on a daily basis here in the West Bank and Jerusalem of course – East Jerusalem. Now if this is their agenda…by the way part of them pushing Gaza out of the equation so their annexationist agenda can prevail.”

Zomlot’s denial of Jerusalem as the capital – and seat of government – of Israel, his ridiculous claim concerning water consumption and his use of ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonisation’ tropes went unremarked by Sackur.

Zomlot: “Steve, the whole situation here is that of a system of entitlement. These people – some people in Tel Aviv right now – the government, the Right-wing extreme government, wants to keep a system whereby there is a group that are privileged as per these numbers. It’s our own water that they consume, most of it. Some groups that are privileged and others that are disprivileged [sic] and discriminated whether by means of occupation or by means of colonisation or by means of apartheid.”

Even the ridiculous claim that Palestinians are “treated as slaves” and use of the ‘chosen people’ trope produced no reaction from the BBC interviewer.

Zomlot: “Does this mean ending Israel’s occupation and establishing a State of Palestine? We are happy to proceed with you as partners. But if this means we will continue to be treated as slaves in our own land and we continue to put up against some people who argue that God is estate agent and God chose some people at the expense of others.”

In addition, on several occasions Sackur himself failed to adhere to the BBC’s own style on the use of the term ‘Palestine’ which states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” – for example:

Sackur: “I’m going to stop you because you’re raising so many different points, all of which are important, about internal politics in Palestine.

As we see, while Sackur challenged Zomlot repeatedly and rigorously on claims concerning internal Palestinian affairs during this interview, the same standard was not applied when Zomlot was speaking about other issues. The result of that discrepancy is that Zomlot was allowed him a free hand to mislead BBC audiences by propagating blatant falsehoods, delegitimising tropes and inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda.

 

 

BBC News ignores two water-related stories

Back in February 2015 the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet produced a number of reports on different platforms concerning the city of Rawabi. As was noted here at the time:Rawabi 1

“The main focus of all these reports is the issue of Rawabi’s water supply. […] the bottom line impression given to BBC audiences is that Rawabi’s lack of water is Israel’s fault.

At no point does Doucet clarify to her audiences on various platforms that the Joint Water Committee (JWC) is a product of the Oslo Accords – signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Those same accords stipulate that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the water supply in Areas A (where Rawabi is located) and B.

Whilst she does tell audiences that the JWC “hasn’t met for years”, Doucet refrains from informing audiences why that is the case, avoiding any mention of the fact that the Palestinian Water Authority suspended cooperation in 2008 as part of a political strategy and with no interview or comment from that body appearing in any of her reports. Hence, audiences remain ignorant of the fact that the committee which must convene in order to approve the water pipeline to the new Palestinian city is hobbled by the Palestinian Water Authority and Doucet makes herself party to the Palestinian politicisation of water issues.”

In the month after those reports appeared the problems concerning Rawabi’s water supply were solved, but no follow-up coverage from the BBC appeared.

That, of course, is not the only example of politicised portrayals of the subject of water that BBC audiences have seen over the years.

Last week – as the BBC was busy once again telling its audiences that the two-state solution is “fading” and “may be passing” – an event took place which went entirely unreported on the corporation’s various platforms.

“Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee.

The committee is tasked with developing and modernizing the water infrastructure in the West Bank, allowing better water access to Palestinian towns and villages, maintaining existing infrastructure and approving new projects. It hasn’t met in six years. […]

Key topics under discussion include increasing water supplies to the West Bank and Gaza, as well as approving drilling new wells and updating water rates.

The agreement was signed in winter in order to allow the committee to be fully operational when water demand is at its highest in the summer months.

The parties also announced that the two sides have approved a joint strategic planning mechanism that will operate until 2040, including new infrastructure ventures to deal with expected population growth.

Mordechai said the agreement shows it is possible to reach “understandings and agreements when dealing with practical, bilateral issues, free of external influences, dealing with natural resources and other infrastructure issues that affect the entire population.””

Also last week, a second desalination plant was opened in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step. […]

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, did not participate in the project, and is not represented at the ceremony.”

That event was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC either: could it be that only water-related stories which can be framed with a specific angle are of interest to the corporation?  

Why BBC audiences need an impartial explanation of water issues

BBC audiences are by no means strangers to politicised portrayals of the topic of water:ec094-tap-water

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

BBC jumps on EU’s water politicisation bandwagon

No BBC follow-up on Lyse Doucet’s Rawabi water story

Politicisation of BBC World Service programme on Israeli water technology

A letter recently sent by the commander of COGAT to several international bodies suggests that the issue of water in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip could soon be attracting media attention once again. Ynet reports:

“According to Head of the Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the joint Israeli-Palestinian water distribution council—which manages water infrastructure in the West Bank—hasn’t met since 2010 due to the Palestinians’ refusal to approve water infrastructure upgrades in the West Bank settlements.

The major general sent an urgent letter to the UN humanitarian aid coordinator in the West Bank, the head of the Palestinian UNRWA, the head of the Red Cross, head of USAID, and various ambassadors, including the German, UK, Italian, French and EU ambassadors to Israel.

The COGAT head said that he wants significant steps to be taken to fix the water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, saying “the Gaza Strip almost completely relies on its aquifer, and the water quality in it has become very poor as a result of years of over-pumping and pollution.”

Regarding the West Bank, he wrote that “according to Palestinian estimates, 96% of the water drawn from the aquifer there isn’t fit to drink, and thus the Palestinians rely on water from Israel… the water infrastructure in place isn’t enough to meet the needs of the population, leading to water shortages in certain areas (of the West Bank).”

Meanwhile, he continued “waste water treatment (in the Palestinian Authority) is seriously lacking. According to official estimates, there will be huge water shortages amounting to tens of millions of cubic meters of water in the coming years.”

Israel recently approved sending 10 million cubic meters of water to Gaza and six million cubic litres to the West Bank. Yet despite Israeli efforts to help the Palestinians solve this crisis, the problem still hasn’t been resolved.

“This additional supply of water to Gaza fulfills the Palestinian request for Israeli aid, and the Palestinians have made it clear that they are not interested in more water,” Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote. […]

… Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote “we are warning the international community that if there is no immediate change in the water situation, we can expect a water crisis by next summer. (Israel) will continue efforts to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority on this issue, and we hope that our efforts will bear fruit.” [emphasis added]

Sadly, there is therefore all the more reason for the BBC to finally get round to presenting its audiences with an accurate, impartial and comprehensive portrayal of the water-related problems affecting the areas controlled by the PA and Hamas.

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Water, NGOs and the BBC

 

BBC’s Connolly adds a postscript to his Dead Sea reporting

The June 23rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 45:10 here) by the Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly on the topic of the Dead Sea.

As readers may recall, six days earlier Connolly had produced a long written report on the same topic for the BBC News website. In this audio report Connolly focused largely on the effects of the declining level of the Dead Sea on tourism in the area and his superficial portrayal of the reasons behind that process was as follows:

SONY DSC

“The sea is dying because the countries of the Middle East are tapping into the waters of the River Jordan that once fed it.”

As far as this writer is aware, the River Jordan still flows into the Dead Sea.

Earlier, in his introduction to the report, presenter Julian Marshall had displayed an equally bizarre understanding of the geographical term ‘Middle East’:

“…for years there’s been a fear that the sea might live up to its name and die, as the countries of the Middle East drain the river system for precious drinking water.”

As was the case in his written report, Connolly refrained from providing his audience with more meaningful portrayal of the relevant issues of water agreements, irrigation practices, water recycling and water use efficiency. In what may perhaps be a first for the BBC, both of Connolly’s reports also ignored the topic of the influence of climate change on the River Jordan’s catchment area.

Connolly’s portrayal of the project intended to rehabilitate the Dead Sea was as follows in this audio report:

“A fix is possible: a grand scheme to build a pipeline across the desert from the Red Sea far to the south.”

In his earlier written report, Connolly had encouraged readers to view that project with scepticism:

“But the technical, financial and political difficulties are forbidding and the pipeline is unlikely to be built soon, if indeed at all.”

No such declarations were heard in this audio report – perhaps because just two days after Connolly published the above words, the Jordanian government announced that no fewer than seventeen international companies had made bids to carry out the work.

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Final status negotiations on Area C passé for BBC’s Kevin Connolly

On June 17th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Dead Sea drying: A new low-point for Earth“. Towards the end of Kevin Connolly’s long and at times rambling and repetitive piece, readers found the following:Connolly Dead Sea

“If the waters of the River Jordan are not to be restored, the likeliest scheme to revitalise the Dead Sea involves constructing a huge pipeline that would bring water across the desert from the Red Sea, far to the south. […]

Water would have to be desalinated first at the Red Sea (salty water would pollute the Dead Sea’s unique chemistry). It would then have to be pumped up to a great height and fed into enormous pipes that would channel the water across the desert to its destination.

The extra fresh water would benefit not just Jordan and Israel but the Palestinians too, so the World Bank is keen and the US is likely to provide at least some of the start-up capital.

But the technical, financial and political difficulties are forbidding and the pipeline is unlikely to be built soon, if indeed at all.”

In fact a conference on the project was held in Jordan just last month.

“Israel and Jordan presented the planned Red Sea-Dead Sea canal to potential investors at an international conference in Aqaba, Jordan on Monday. […]

At the conference, project representatives presented a tentative timetable and listed its benefits. These include stabilizing the dropping water level in the Dead Sea, providing a source of desalinized water for Israel’s Arava desert and for Jordan, and strengthening cooperation between Israel and Jordan.

The U.S. government has already stated that it will be contributing $100 million to fund the project.

A tender to fund the project was recently published. Some 94 major international corporations have paid a fee to receive the tender paperwork.”

Connolly’s article is also remarkable for the crucial omissions in its portrayal of irrigation related issues, as shown for example in this particular passage:

“Israel has a dam across the southern section of the Sea of Galilee which gives it control of the amount of water flowing into the Jordan – it regards the Galilee as a vital strategic water asset, even though it’s been steadily increasing the amount of fresh water it creates through desalination plants in the Mediterranean.

The Israeli government began taking water out of the Jordan Valley system in the 1950s, the decade before it completed the dam.

And this creates problems for farmers in both Jordan and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank – all of whom need water to irrigate their farms and feed their people.

But Israel has problems too – although it has enough money and enough technical resources to ensure its own people have enough water.”

Any objective portrayal of that topic would necessarily inform readers of the existing water related agreements between Israel and Jordan and Israel and the Palestinians. It would also inform them on the topic of water use efficiency. In contrast to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Israel recycles waste water for agricultural irrigation, produces water for domestic consumption in desalination plants and uses water conserving irrigation methods

“The Palestinians absolutely refuse to irrigate their agricultural fields with treated sewage effluents. By comparison, more than half the agricultural fields in Israel are irrigated with treated waste water. Irrigating Palestinian agricultural fields with recycled water instead of fresh water would free up large amounts of water for home usage. This would greatly reduce the water shortage in many places.

Some Palestinian farmers irrigate their fields by flooding, rather than with drip irrigation technology. Drip irrigation, as practiced in Israel, brings water directly to the root of each plant, thereby reducing water consumption by more than 50 percent. Flooding fields causes huge water evaporation and leads to great waste.”

In other words, Connolly’s portrayal of a ‘rich’ Israel with “enough water” and – by inference – ‘poor’ Palestinians and Jordanians lacking water for crop irrigation is a very partial (although in no way unusual) picture of the real situation.

An additional notable feature of Connolly’s article is its use of politicised terminology – for example:

“Part of the [Dead Sea] shoreline is in the Palestinian West Bank under Israeli occupation so it’s possible that in future Palestinians too will reap the economic benefits of the sea’s unique properties.” (emphasis added)

Not only does that framing do nothing to enhance audience understanding of the history of the region, but it also conceals the fact that, like all other parts of Area C, the future of the area concerned is to be determined in final status negotiations according to the terms of the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians are of course party. 

Do BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy permit the misleading of audiences by means of an unqualified and preemptive claim about the end result of a process which has yet to take place?  

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Politicisation of BBC World Service programme on Israeli water technology

h/t LO

BBC World Service radio has been running a series called ‘Elements‘ which advertises itself as taking “[a] close look at chemical elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. Where do we get them, what do we use them for and how do they fit into our economy?”WS Elements water

The latest episode of that programme – broadcast on April 27th on ‘Business Daily’ – dealt with hydrogen as water and was described its synopsis as follows:

“In his second gulp of H2O, presenter Justin Rowlatt hears from climatologist Raymond Pierrehumbert about how global warming is causing drastic but often unpredictable disruption to our natural supplies of freshwater.

Yet as Israel enters its third year of dought [sic], few of the country’s citizens are aware of any water shortages. The BBC’s Shira Gemer reports on the technological breakthroughs that have made this possible – from the gigantic Sorek desalination plant, to the drip irrigation pioneered by Netafim in the Negev desert.

We also hear from desalination expert Raphael Semiat of Technion University how much the rest of the world can emulate Israel’s success.”

The part of the programme concerning Israel (from 12:50 here) is both interesting and informative. One must therefore wonder all the more why presenter Justin Rowlatt found it appropriate to introduce the item using facile politicized messaging.

“…and it is to Israel that we turn our attention now. Water is of course an extremely contentious issue in Israel’s neighbourhood. Israel and Palestine are in deadlock over water sharing across the green line. Meanwhile, Jewish settlements are accused of hogging water supplies on the West Bank and the River Jordan itself is shrivelling as Israel and its Arab neighbours collectively draw too much from it.”

The BBC’s long-standing and repeated politicization of the topic of water means that we have addressed that issue many times on these pages. Agreements regarding water form part and parcel of the Oslo Accords – but apparently Rowlatt has never heard of the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee and does not know that Israel actually supplies the PA with more water than stipulated in the agreements. Rowlatt’s populistic claim that “Jewish settlements” are “hogging water supplies on the West Bank” is obviously not based on an understanding of the fact that 97% of the Palestinian residents of that area get their water supplies from the Palestinian Water Authority and his jaundiced portrayal of the Jordan River is likewise devoid of context.

What a pity it is for BBC World Service audiences that even a science programme is allowed to become a platform for opportunistic uninformed Israel-bashing.

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Water, NGOs and the BBC

 

 

 

 

BBC WS behind the times on Israel – California water collaboration

The BBC World Service’s weekly radio show ‘Boston Calling’ focuses on American issues and its December 12th edition included an item concerning the drought in California which can be found from 18:19 here or in an abridged version here.Boston calling

That report is about “one immigrant [Israeli] farmer in California who’s brought a few lessons from his homeland” concerning water conservation and it is introduced by presenter Carol Hills as follows:

“To California: the state produces half of America’s fruit, nuts and vegetables. It’s also heading into its fifth year of drought. So California is looking at ways to be more efficient with its water. Maybe it should look at Israel.”

However, listeners to this otherwise interesting item are not informed that California understood some time ago that it “should look at Israel”. 

“In an agreement signed earlier in September, LA County will work with Israel to study Israeli water technology, seeking the most appropriate systems to be used in the county to conserve water resources.

“The technology Israel has developed and employed to stretch its meager water resources is truly impressive,” said LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I look forward to working together on ways that Los Angeles County can benefit from their work on technology and research concerning point of reuse, recycling and groundwater recharge. ” […]

In March 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal with California Governor Jerry Brown to export Israeli desalination, water recovery and recycling, water filtration, and water security technology to the state.”

The results of collaboration are already evident on the ground.

“Israeli water sector giant IDE Technologies dedicated the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere on Monday – a facility that will produce some 190 million liters of water daily for the residents of southern California.

Providing a new source of water in a state that has long suffered severe droughts, the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant will be quenching the thirst of roughly 10 percent of San Diego County, according to IDE. Employing advanced pretreatment and seawater reverse osmosis technologies, the plant is able to generate potable water of the highest quality while significantly reducing energy consumption, the company explained.”

Given the BBC’s keen interest in reporting on environmental issues, one would have thought that it would be capable of providing audiences with an up to date report on this topic.