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.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences need an impartial explanation of water issues

BBC News ignores two water-related stories

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

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.

Related Articles:

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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.

Related Articles:

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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.

Related Articles:

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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.

Water, NGOs and the BBC

The topic of water most recently appeared in BBC coverage in Lyse Doucet’s series of reports on the city of Rawabi (see here and here) but the subject has also featured in numerous previous BBC reports – see examples here, here, here and here.???????????????????

Some of those reports rely on information supplied by NGOs such as Friends of the Earth Middle East and B’Tselem and as we know, the BBC’s approach to NGOs does not usually include any meaningful examination of their underlying political agenda before information is repeated and amplified.

Given that uncritical BBC approach, a new report by NGO Monitor on the politicization of the issue of water by NGOs makes for particularly interesting reading.

“Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have increased their exploitation of the water issue in their political warfare campaigns against Israel. This includes false accusations of water “discrimination” and “stealing water”; pressure on international corporations to boycott the Israeli national water company, Mekorot; and blatant distortions of binding international agreements between Israelis and Palestinians. […]

Unfortunately, despite the existence of cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, water has also become a destructive weapon in the hands of political advocacy NGOs, which use allegations regarding water rights and availability as part of their delegitimization and anti-normalization campaigns against Israel. NGOs present a distorted narrative of the water issue, ignoring the negotiated agreements between Israel and the Palestinians (e.g. the 1995 interim agreement, “Oslo II”) that determine water arrangements, internal Palestinian dynamics, and other complexities – in order to falsely accuse Israel of violating international law relating to water rights, while in reality Israel’s supply of water to the Palestinians is actually “far beyond its [Israel’s] obligation in the Water Agreement.” […]

The NGOs leading these campaigns include Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), BADIL, Coalition of Women for Peace/Who Profits, and EWASH (a coalition of Palestinian NGOs, international development organizations, and UN agencies). International and European NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and United Civilians for Peace (UCP – an umbrella group comprised of Dutch NGOs ICCO, Oxfam Novib, Pax (formerly IKV Pax Christi), and Cordaid), also accuse Israel of denying the Palestinians “fair access to water” and make distorted claims regarding Israel’s alleged obligations vis-à-vis Palestinian water rights.”

Readers can find the report here or a pdf version here