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

Last month the BBC aired reports from the Gaza Strip presented by Radio 4’s Mishal Husain which included multiple references to issues concerning water, electricity and sewage.

As was noted here at the time:

“…listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.”

The portrayal of those issues focused mainly on framing them as being primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures while no effort was made to explain the role of Hamas terrorism in bringing about those measures. The effects of Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare, its chronic mismanagement of services and utilities and infrastructure and the influence of the Hamas-Fatah split on the situation in the Gaza Strip were not adequately explained in the BBC’s reporting.

Like other BBC reporters before her, Mishal Husain did not bother to clarify that the “shortage of clean water” in the Gaza Strip is the result of years of over-pumping.

“The coastal aquifer, which is located under the coastal plain of Israel and the Gaza Strip, is the only source of natural water in Gaza. Due to rapid population growth, which in the last decade increased from nearly 1.5 million in 2007 to more than 2 million today, the demand for water in the Gaza Strip has surged. The increased water needs alongside the scarcity of alternative sources of water have led to the extreme over use of the aquifer. While the renewable extraction rate for Gaza’s underground aquifer is about 60 million cubic meters of rain water annually, Palestinians in Gaza have been drawing an estimated 200 million cubic meters a year for over a decade, leading to the infiltration of sea-water into the aquifer, and therefore raising the levels of salinity far beyond WHO health regulations.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed of the effects of Hamas’ failure to address the issue of sewage treatment.

“Gaza’s groundwater has also been extensively contaminated by sewage. The discharge of untreated sewage generated by the two million inhabitants into shallow ponds – which eventually percolates into the aquifer – has caused alarming levels of Nitrate (NO3).”

The chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, which was exacerbated in 2017 by the Palestinian Authority’s dispute with Hamas, also contributed to the problem.

“Wastewater plants are not fully operating, resulting in more than 100,000 cubic meters of raw or poorly treated sewage being discharged into the sea on a daily basis.”

Notably BBC audiences have heard nothing whatsoever about the health and environmental hazards created by the increased draining of sewage from neighbourhoods in the northern Gaza Strip since summer 2017 into a stream which crosses into Israeli territory. That practice continues and an additional hazard has emerged.

“Due to the dire economic situation in Gaza, the wastewater plant cannot undergo the needed treatments, prompting Palestinians living in the northern neighborhoods of the Strip—Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia—to drain sewage into Nahal Hanun, which crosses Israel and empties into the sea, polluting the groundwater in the process.

In order to stop wastewater flow and reduce the environmental damage, the [Israeli] Water Authority has recently set up a pumping station near the Erez border crossing, which effectively made Israel responsible for water purification of the northern Gaza Strip. Before the Israeli intervention, the moshavim and kibbutzim near the border—Netiv HaAsara, Erez, Yad Mordechai, and Zikim—suffered from a continuous onslaught of mosquitoes and flies. […]

As well as that, massive piles of trash have accumulated in the area bordering the Eshkol Regional Council after three giant landfills were set up along the border fence, leaving the locals to cope with a putrid and toxic smell being carried by the wind across the border. 

The landfills are derelict as dry and wet waste gets mixed up and subsequently burned, increasing the environmental impact.”

BBC reporting on the subject of shortages of water and electricity in the Gaza Strip and the related issue of inadequate sewage treatment nevertheless continues to adhere to the type of framing seen in an edition of ‘Hardtalk’ aired on multiple BBC platforms in November 2018 in which presenter Stephen Sackur told the Israeli minister being interviewed: [emphasis added]

“…you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

Although BBC audiences have long been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story, that framing clearly does not meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. 

Related Articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

In two previous posts concerning the December 17th ‘Today’ programme live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (here and here) we saw how well-worn BBC themes were promoted in that programme.

In a third ten minute-long segment (from 1:16:27 here) listeners once again heard from representatives of international organisations rather than the “people on both sides of the divide” as promised by presenter Mishal Husain.

The two themes of blaming the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel (with a cursory mention of Egypt) and providing unquestioning and context-free promotion of UNRWA were repeated in that segment too.

Husain began with misrepresentation of a press release put out by UNOCHA, claiming that its appeal for funding is intended to provide aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “As the United Nations appeals for funds to support 2 million Palestinians who live here [Gaza] saying that living conditions are deplorable, the UK has today pledged £5 million in emergency food aid.”

The UNOCHA statement actually describes the scope of its appeal thus:

“The 2019 HRP appeals for $350 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.4 million Palestinians, who have been identified as most in need of humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

In other words, Husain once again misled BBC audiences by claiming that all 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are in need of foreign aid. She continued with repetition of previously heard messaging.

Husain: “But the dire economic reality is taking immense toll on people’s lives. Unemployment is at 50%. Even those who have jobs often receive only half their salary. The economy has been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt citing security reasons. Incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas which has been in full control of Gaza since 2007. In recent weeks aid from Qatar has been making a difference but it will only last till April.”

As was the case in the first hour of the programme, listeners were told nothing of the Hamas terrorism which has made counter-terrorism measures in the form of restrictions on the movement of people and dual-use goods necessary. Once again the very relevant issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over the well-being of Gaza’s civilian population went unmentioned. Likewise the topic of “Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas” was not expanded and so listeners were unable to comprehend what aspects of the situation in the Gaza Strip (e.g. electricity shortages, shortages of medicines, unpaid wages) have been brought about by internal Palestinian disputes rather than by Israeli actions.

Husain similarly failed to tell listeners why there are still Palestinian refugees in a place that has been ruled by Palestinians for over 13 years before re-introducing her next guest.

Husain: “More than half of Gaza’s population are registered refugees and Matthias Schmale – head of Gaza operations for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – took me to see one of the eight camps in this small stretch of land.”

During Husain’s walkabout with Schmale listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.

Listeners heard more repetition of this programme’s prime messaging.

Husain: “When you say that people are living in poverty, why is that?”

Schmale: “The answer to that is twelve years of blockade. We live in a place that is very small; 40 kms by 6 to 12 kms in width and there’s almost 2 million people living in this constrained space and it’s completely sealed off from the rest of the world.”

Husain: “Hamas is governing Gaza. Shouldn’t it be providing for people here rather than you?”

Schmale: “Yes, I think the responsibility of host authorities is to cater to essentials – provide essential services like electricity, like water, like proper sewage and I think the fact that much of that is non-functional is a reflection of ten years of failed government by the Hamas authorities.”

That of course would have been the ideal moment for Mishal Husain to explain to listeners how Hamas has spent millions of dollars on the construction of cross-border attack tunnels and other terror infrastructure but instead listeners heard about “warm winter sunshine”. Husain likewise avoided the highly relevant topic of Hamas terrorism in the part of her conversation with Schmale concerning fishing.

Husain: “There’s a young man I can see in a small boat just beneath us by the water’s edge. What about fishing? Can people make a living from fishing?”

Schmale: “One of the constant debates with Israel is the fishing zone because in order to fish for safe fish that are not contaminated by the water we see coming out of that pipe you need to be a distance out and they say…”

Husain: “How far are they allowed to go out?”

Schmale: “At the moment 3 miles and 3 miles is not enough.”

Husain then did another pointless tick of the impartiality box which contributed nothing to audience understanding.

Husain: “Israel says the blockade is maintained for security reasons and indeed Egypt also blockades on Gaza’s other border.”

Husain and Schmale visited an UNRWA food distribution centre in the Shati refugee camp.

Schmale: “About 60% of the million people that get food from us [are] living with abject poverty as we call it. That means on about a dollar – just a bit more than a dollar – a day. So about 600 thousand people really depend on this food. They would not survive if they didn’t have this.” […]

Husain: “Who pays for all of this food?”

Schmale: “The biggest donor until the beginning of this year was the United States. For Gaza we need roughly $110 million per year. Last year – 2017 – we got 90 million of 110 million from the United States. 80 million of that was food. As a result of their dramatic cut in the beginning of the year, we ran out of money for this at the end of June. We were only able to continue it and what you’re seeing today because the rest of the organisation [the UN] gave us an advance. We took a loan.” […]

Husain: “So what are you going to do in the long run?”

Schmale: “My hope is that appeals to the international community to prevent Gaza sliding into a Yemen-style situation of massive hunger will be heard.”

Remarkably, listeners were then told that the situation in the Gaza Strip is not connected to armed conflict.

Husain: “You’ve worked all over the world. What do you think of what you see here? How does it compare with what you see elsewhere?”

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

The interview closed with the repetition of a statement from Schmale that had already been heard earlier on in the programme.

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

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

Once again listeners did not hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

With UNRWA’s politicised messaging having gone completely unchallenged and with no effort having been made to provide vital background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas terrorism, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the Hamas-Fatah split, Husain then handed over to the BBC’s economic correspondent who – as we shall see in the next post – interviewed yet another person who does not fall into the “ordinary people” category.  

Related Articles:

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

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

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

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

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

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

As previously mentioned, the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme aired on the BBC’s domestic radio station Radio 4 was split between live broadcasts from London and the Gaza Strip. Over 40% of the programme’s airtime was devoted to the latter in various segments available here. (00:28 to 01:38, 09:35 to 24:20, 36:07 to 39:40, 47:53 to 57:25, 1:16:27 to 1:26:40, 1:34:15 to 1:44:00, 2:06:21 to 2:07:25, 2:10:13 to 2:23:30, 2:40:34 to 2:51:10 and 2:56:33 to 2:59:55)

Mishal Husain’s introduction to the broadcast (00:28 to 01:38) included the following explanation as to why the publicly funded domestic BBC radio station sent a reporter and crew all the way to the Gaza Strip despite having permanent staff both there and in nearby Jerusalem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “And we’re broadcasting from Gaza this morning because this has been a year which has seen tension and violence flare up again between Gaza and Israel. There have been months of protests at the boundary between the two and I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the divide.”

As regular readers know, since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ events at the end of March the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with a clear and comprehensive explanation of who initiated, organised and facilitated that publicity stunt, even though the information was available before it began and despite its British connections. For the past nine months BBC audiences have seen that violent rioting repeatedly portrayed as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place under the ‘Great Return March’ banner.

That editorial policy was also evident in this broadcast (notwithstanding an occasional ‘Israel says’ scrap tossed in the direction of impartiality requirements) and additional themes that have long been featured in BBC reporting were also evident.

One of the main themes promoted in this broadcast was the idea that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. However in seventy-five minutes of reporting from the Gaza Strip, Radio 4 audiences did not hear Mishal Husain utter the word terrorism even once and neither did they hear anything of Hamas’ use of funds and resources (including building materials) for the purposes of terrorism at the expense of the civilian community.

Husain began (09:35 to 24:20) with a review of one Israeli newspaper two Hamas-linked Gaza Strip papers, noting coverage of “the rally that took place here yesterday where supporters marked the 31st anniversary of Hamas”. She did not bother to inform listeners of the pertinent fact that Hamas reportedly spent over half a million dollars on that rally.

Husain: “Well Gaza is a place that the UN said six years ago could be unlivable by 2020. Today they’re warning that two million people who live here are slipping deeper into poverty because of what they’re calling deplorable living conditions. The blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons – is a major factor. Matthias Schmale who’s head of Gaza operations for UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – has told us that needs to change.”

Husain of course did not bother to ask Matthias Schmale to explain to her listeners why there are still people classified as refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian control for over 13 years.

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

Listeners were not told that nearly a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip attended that Hamas rally the previous day and neither did they hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

Having just promoted the views of one interviewee who does not fall into the category of ‘ordinary people’ – and with more to come – Husain went on to make the following claim:

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel where there are bomb shelters next to bus stops and in playgrounds and in every home.”

After listeners had heard clips from interviews with Israelis and Gaza residents that were repeated in full later on in the broadcast, Husain continued:

Husain: “Well more now on how the economy has been affected here in Gaza in recent years –something that I’ve been seeing first hand over the last few days.”

Notably listeners heard nothing throughout the entire programme concerning the economic effects of Gaza terrorism on businesses, tourism and agriculture southern Israel before Husain handed the item over to the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David who continued with promotion of the ‘blockade’ theme.

David: “From what you’ve been hearing there it may or may not surprise you to hear that the World Bank has been warning that the Gaza economy is in free fall – that’s after it contracted by 6% at the start of this year. It says that the impact of that decade long blockade has been compounded by budget cuts from the Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid. Four out of five people now rely on food aid. We can reveal this morning that the UK will be giving an extra £5 million in emergency supplies to sixty thousand refugees.”

Once again listeners were not told why there are Palestinian refugees in a place ruled and run by Palestinians. David then went on to introduce another not so ordinary interviewee: the World Bank’s director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, clarifying that “she’s also the author of its report”.

Having presented unemployment and poverty statistics and discussed the relevance of “donor money” (but with no mention of Israel’s recent agreement to millions of dollars in cash given by Qatar entering the Gaza Strip), Wes went on to promote the ‘blockade’ theme again.

Wes: “…we also need to start working now on the medium term to put in place an enabling environment that will support jobs for Gaza’s youth and that will enable these youths to really make their own living. Critical to this is to remove the constraints on trade and movement of goods and people. They need to be relaxed otherwise there’s no way a small economy like Gaza can flourish.” 

Neither at this point nor anywhere else in this programme were listeners given factual background information concerning the numbers of people who do exit the Gaza Strip on a daily basis or the amounts of fuel and goods entering the Gaza Strip via Israel.

David: “…can you put any kind of numbers on what kind of difference getting that greater access could mean?”

Wes was unable to answer that question.

David: “…what about security concerns? What kind of impact could that have on the economy as well?”

Wes: “I think relaxing the blockade is going to be critical going forward. There is for instance something called the dual-use list and if there is scope to relax that I think that could have a very large impact on the economy in Gaza.”

As readers may know, “dual-use” (or “dual-purpose”) items – i.e. items which can also be used for the purposes of terrorism – enter the Gaza Strip only in coordination with Israeli security officials in order to ensure that they are used for civilian purposes. When asked to explain that term, Wes went on:

Wes: “So this list puts, highlights, goods that have security concerns – for instance certain tubes. So I told you that there is a severe water crisis in Gaza. So getting pipes into Gaza that could help alleviate this crisis and that would simultaneously also take care of Israeli security concerns would be critical.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been told at this point of Hamas’ past use of water and sewage pipes to manufacture rockets that were then fired at Israeli civilians but instead David closed the conversation there and went on to introduce her next two interviewees.

David: “Now as we’ve been hearing it’s Gaza’s young who have been particularly hard hit as Marina Wes there was saying. Could they play a key part in turning round the economy? The blockade means they can’t rely on the industries that their parents may have turned to such as fishing or growing strawberries so they are looking at new areas. Gaza Sky Geeks is the Strip’s first tech hub. It was formed after a charity collaborated with Google in 2011.”

In fact – as even Palestinian outlets acknowledge – strawberries are exported annually from the Gaza Strip during the season.

David’s interview with two women from Gaza Sky Geeks included a question concerning electricity and “a stable internet connection”. Listeners were not however informed that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is entirely unconnected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

As we see, in the first fourteen minutes of this broadcast from the Gaza Strip BBC Radio 4 listeners were repeatedly steered towards the view – promoted by two ‘experts’ – that the solution to the economic problems in the Gaza Strip is the lifting or easing of counter-terrorism measures. They did not however hear any serious portrayal of the Hamas terrorism which brought about those measures in the first place and continues to make them necessary. Neither were they given any information concerning the transportation of gas, fuel and goods into the Gaza Strip via Israel or Israel’s supply of electricity to the territory. The highly relevant topic of Hamas’ policy of prioritising terrorism over the needs of Gaza’s civilian population was – unsurprisingly – studiously avoided. 

Additional themes seen in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

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

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

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

The December 16th edition of ‘News at Ten’ – aired on BBC One and the BBC News channel – included a report titled ‘Life in Gaza’ by Mishal Husain who was scheduled to report from the Gaza Strip the following morning for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

“Two million people in Gaza are poised to slip deeper into poverty and increasingly deplorable living conditions – according to the UN – it warns that basic services are at risk of collapse. Gaza’s economy has been badly hit by a blockade by Israel and Egypt – needed, they say – for security reasons.

The blockade was tightened after Hamas took full control of Gaza more than a decade ago. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and many Western governments.

Inside Gaza – 54% of the labour force is unemployed, and 97% of tap water is unfit for human consumption.

Mishal Husain visited the Bolbol family to find out what life under the blockade is like.” [emphasis added]

Unsurprisingly, Husain followed the usual format seen in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip: high on pathos and slogans, low on facts and context. [emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “It’s a densely populated strip of land. A place that the United Nations has warned could be unlivable by 2020. One of the most acute problems is a shortage of clean water – something that Maher Bolbol needs not only at home but for his business. It’s a coffee stall where he makes the equivalent of just £2 a day. Gaza’s economy is at a standstill; badly affected by years of a blockade by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons.”

Gaza’s water problems of course have nothing to do with the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007. Those problems stem from excessive pumping from the aquifer by the local population and attempts to alleviate them by means of foreign-funded desalination plants have been thwarted by Hamas and by internal Palestinian disputes.

With Husain failing to make any mention of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians which are the reason for the implementation of restrictions on the import of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip, viewers then heard from her main interviewee.

Maher Bolbol [voiceover] “This blockade is like a cancer in the whole Gaza Strip. It spread and affects everyone and of course it’s endurable unless the blockade is lifted.”

Husain: “Today the World Bank says half of Gaza’s population is living in poverty. This is the busy home of a big family – the grandparents, their sons and daughters, their sons and daughters-in-law and all the grandchildren. But of course in a place like this that means many mouths to feed and it’s not easy to provide for such a large family in Gaza. The household is 21 people in all, living here since 2014 when their old home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. There are three generations under this roof but Maher is the only one who has any work at all.”

Viewers were not told where the family’s “old home” was or why it was allegedly “destroyed in an Israeli airstrike”.

Khadra Bolbol [voiceover]: “No clothes, no furniture. It’s barely enough for food and water and sometimes we can’t even find that.”

Husain: “This is the only existence the children know. But for the generation in the middle – their parents – dreams of jobs and livelihoods have been shattered.”

Alaa Bolbol [voiceover]: “It is sad to have to drop out of university. I thought I was going to make something of myself, that people would call me Alaa the accountant. Now I find myself unable to pull myself out of the hole I fell into.”

Husain: “He has a wife and child but no means of supporting them. His unpaid debts meant he had to go to prison. Now Maher has a new worry – another son went to the weekly demonstrations near Gaza’s boundary with Israel and was hit by a rubber bullet.”

In compliance with standard BBC editorial policy, Husain described eight months of violent rioting that has included shooting attacks, arson attacks, grenade attacks, IED attacks and border infiltrations in which a high proportion of people connected to terror organisations have been killed or injured as “demonstrations”.

Mohammed Bolbol [voiceover] “All young adults go and take part. I went there just like the rest of them, like anyone does. God willing the blockade will be lifted, then we will find jobs, live our lives and secure a future for our children.”

Maher Bolbol [voiceover]: “After the injury of course I’m upset. This is my son, I raised him. I’m scared for him. I also know that this will be an added burden to us as a family.”

Husain: “Tonight there is fresh bread even if scrap paper is the only available fuel. And few believe the blockade can end while Hamas – whose founding charter denies Israel’s right to exist – is in power here. When I’ve talked to Israeli officials and ordinary people they have said that Gaza is in this position because of Hamas. What do you think of that?”

Maher Bolbol [voiceover]: “No, our internal Palestinian governments cannot be held responsible. The siege that was imposed is really strangling us.”

Making no effort to clarify to BBC viewers that the counter-terrorism measures are not a “siege” and that they were implemented because of Hamas’ terror attacks against Israeli civilians, Husain closed her report with a brief and opaque tick of the ‘impartiality’ box.

Husain: “But as well as the blockade incomes here have been affected in the last year by Palestinian divisions; sanctions imposed on Hamas by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Maher’s family like many others here say they have little real hope of a better future.”

On the day that the BBC aired this report Hamas staged a rally in Gaza to mark 31 years since its founding. According to documents obtained by Israeli journalists, the cost of that rally amounted to over half a million dollars. BBC audiences of course heard nothing about that or about the highly relevant topic of Hamas’ long-standing diversion of funds and resources for the purpose of terror at the expense of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population.

Instead – and notwithstanding Husain’s few half-hearted ticks of the ‘impartiality’ box’ – BBC audiences were once again steered towards the view that the root cause of the problems faced by civilians in the Gaza Strip is the counter-terrorism measures that had to be implemented due to Hamas terrorism – the “blockade” – rather than Hamas terrorism itself.

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BBC audiences materially misled by inaccurate claims from ‘Hardtalk’ host

Earlier this month we noted that the BBC had ignored a protest march organised by teenagers living in communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Since the BBC began reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting over seven months ago, BBC audiences have seen the grand total of one minute and twenty seconds of coverage reflecting the point of view of residents of the Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip-Israel border who are affected by the violence.”

That particular protest did eventually get a very brief mention in one radio programme over a week later but BBC audiences have heard nothing of the many additional protests organised by those affected by terrorism from the Gaza Strip, both before and after the last serious incident in mid-November.

“Residents of the Gaza border and their supporters protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night [August 18th 2018 – Ed.], demanding the government to “restore the sense of security.”

The protesters called out “We’re not cannon fodder” and “Bibi, Bibi, wake up, the south is burning”—referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

They carried signs saying: “The south is on fire” and “We’re tired of burned fields and weeping children.””

And:

“Hundreds of residents from southern communities, which were battered by recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, protested in Tel Aviv on Thursday [November 15th, 2018 – Ed.] against a truce reached with the Hamas terror group and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. […]

It followed two days of protests in which southern residents burned tires and blocked the entrances to cities battered by Gaza rocket fire in protest of the ceasefire, which they say has left Hamas poised to renew attacks at will. […]

The truce prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to resign on Wednesday and has drawn criticism from some residents of southern Israel who accuse the government of being soft on Hamas.”

That serially withheld context is critical to audience understanding of the subject matter of an edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ that was aired on the BBC World News and BBC News channels on November 23rd (available in the UK here) and on BBC World Service radio on November 26th.

“Israel’s seemingly indestructible Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dodged another political bullet. After the recent flare up of violence in Gaza, his defence minister quit and another key cabinet hawk- Naftali Bennett, said he would go too if he wasn’t given the defence portfolio. The prime minister called his bluff, and Mr Bennett, who speaks to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur has decided to stay put after all. What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

A similar introduction was given by presenter Stephen Sackur. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “Israeli politics is always fractious but the last few days have taken the plotting and manoeuvering to another level. The spark was a major flare-up of violence in and around Gaza. An Israeli Special Forces raid [sic] was followed by a sustained volley of militant rockets fired into Israel, with Israeli bombers then responding from the air. The violence ended in an uneasy ceasefire which the hawkish defence minister opposed and prompted his resignation. Another key Israeli cabinet hawk said he would go too if Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t give him the defence job. The PM called Naftali Bennett’s bluff. Rather than prompt a government collapse, the education minister then backed down. So what on earth is causing this political chaos in Israel? Why is there so much mutual mistrust and loathing on Israel’s right-wing? Well the man at the centre of recent storms, Naftali Bennett, joins me now from Jerusalem.”

The programme followed the usual format employed by Sackur when interviewing an Israeli official or public figure in which he lays out pre-prepared lists of things he considers to be wrong with Israel based on quotes from usually predictable sources – in this case mostly the UN. The opening third of the programme was devoted to domestic Israeli politics: a topic which to most viewers and listeners would be unfamiliar and of little interest.

At 08:15 minutes into the interview, Sackur posed a question-cum-monologue which promoted inaccuracies that are materially misleading to audiences.

Sackur: “You’ve decided to stay in the government. You’ve said – and I’m quoting you again – ‘the ship of Israel’s security has sailed in the wrong direction’. It seems to me that what you’re saying is that – particularly with regard to Gaza – what Israel has done in recent years – including, let us not forget, several wars, the last of which in 2014, Protect…Operation Protective Edge, killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the UN says at least 65% of those Palestinians were civilians and we know that hundreds of them were children – you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

As long-time readers know, the BBC has made absolutely no effort to independently verify the casualty figures and the debatable civilian-combatant ratios that it has been quoting and promoting for over four years, despite their dubious and partisan sourcing.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s efforts to persuade audiences otherwise, the Gaza Strip is not subject to “besieging tactics” and – as the BBC well knows – the chronic shortages of electricity and potable water in the territory have nothing to do with Israel’s counter-terrorism measures but are the result of internal disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Equally misleadingly, Sackur presented the youth unemployment rate (age 15 to 29) as the general unemployment rate, which is actually lower.

After his interviewee had clarified that his calls for firmer action relate to Hamas rather than the people of the Gaza Strip, Sackur interjected with a re-run of his questionable statistics.

Sackur: “Just look at the record, Mr Bennett. I don’t want to repeat myself but the last big assault on Gaza killed more than two thousand Palestinians, most of whom were civilians. We see in our media every week the images of the stand-off between Palestinian protesters who have…sometimes they have stones, sometimes they have flaming torches. They go to the fence. They are shot by Israeli service personnel. We have seen hundred…more than a hundred killed, thousands wounded. And you’re telling me that you want the Israeli army and the Israeli air force to up the ante and kill more people? That’s what you’re saying.”

Readers may recall that just two months ago in an interview with another Israeli official, Sackur used a very similar and equally inaccurate portrayal of what he – and the BBC in general – portrays as ‘protests’, thereby erasing both the severity of the violence and the fact that a significant proportion of those killed had links to the Gaza terror factions which initiated, organise and facilitate the violent rioting. The conversation continued:

Bennett: “I have a better suggestion: that the Palestinians stop shooting rockets at Israel.”

Sackur: “I’m…I don’t know if you’re maybe not understanding my question but when you respond to the rocket fire that we saw as part of that recent flare-up in Gaza, you respond with your air force. Sometimes you respond with troops on the ground. But the reality is – and the record shows it – that the people who suffer are the civilian population, including children. That is the reality. And you want more of it.”

Sackur later pursued his chosen theme further:

Sackur: “Let’s talk about the reality of the UN reaction. We’ve seen the recent – now he’s retired – but the recent UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Zayd Raad al Hussein, say that Israel’s response is suggestive of something entirely and wholly disproportionate and he looks at the casualty figures on the Palestinian side. We also know that the International Criminal Court is still investigating what you did in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Do you understand that the scrutiny being brought to bear upon Israel goes right through the international community and runs the risk of tarnishing Israel’s reputation in a very significant way?”

Further on in the programme audiences heard Sackur misrepresent Bennett’s proposals concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before claiming that “if Israel pursues your vision it will end up being an apartheid style state”. When Bennett noted the failure of the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip to bring calm, Sackur retorted with yet another inaccurate and misleading reference to a ‘siege’ which does not exist.

Sackur:”If, if you intended to besiege…if you intended to lay siege to the West Bank as you did to Gaza, there might be some relevance to that but of course that’s not on the table because you’ve got all these Jewish settlements which you intend to annex…”

photo credit: Sderotnet

Leaving aside the issue of Sackur’s style of interviewing, it is perfectly obvious that his aim in this programme was not to provide BBC audiences with insight into the context to the defence minister’s resignation, not to explain the differences between the approaches of different Israeli politicians to the 17 year long plight of Israeli civilians living under the shadow of terrorism that includes attacks using military grade projectiles and not to answer the questions posed in its own synopsis:

“What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

Rather – as usual – Sackur was intent on promoting his own agenda: in this case primarily to focus audience attentions on civilian suffering in Gaza and allegedly ‘disproportionate’ Israeli actions. In promoting that agenda, Sackur tossed accuracy and impartiality out of the window, citing dubious casualty ratios, promoting the notion of a non-existent ‘siege’, distorting unemployment figures and falsely claiming that Israel’s actions have brought about power and potable water shortages.  

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards…”

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Banal BBC News report from the Gaza Strip fails to inform

A filmed report titled “Gaza family: ‘Our children suffer to get a bottle of water’” was posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on September 27th.

“There are fresh warnings about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where there are severe water and power shortages.

A new World Bank report says the economy is in “free fall”.

Meanwhile, deadly protests have resumed along the Gaza-Israel border and the situation “could explode any minute”, according to Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Talks brokered by Egypt and the UN have so far failed to agree a long-term truce between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.

BBC News visited one family in Gaza to see how they were coping with the lack of resources.”

That synopsis does not inform BBC audiences that the pre-planned violence it euphemistically describes as “protests” has increased (rather than “resumed”) because in early September Hamas decided to up the pace of rioting along the border fence with a “nighttime deployment unit“. Neither are BBC audiences informed of the tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which have to date thwarted a cease-fire agreement.

Viewers of the filmed report saw context-free statements from one female interviewee – who was only identified late in the report using the epithet ‘Um Mustafa’ and is apparently the same person who appeared in a radio report by Yolande Knell in August – alongside equally uninformative BBC commentary.

Woman: “Our children suffer to get a bottle of water. The mains water isn’t drinkable. If we don’t have money, they take containers to a communal water supply.”

BBC: “Nidal and Mohammed live with their mother and siblings in Khan Younis refugee camp. At home, their family also suffers from power shortages.

Woman: “The electricity problem means that in every 24 hours we get only three or four hours. When we get electricity we plug in our mobile phones, the water pump and charge the battery so we can use it for lights when the power is cut.”

BBC: “Medicine shortages in Gaza hospitals are another problem. Khaled needs kidney dialysis four times a week. His drugs cost $80 a month.”

Woman: “My hope for the future? We only have faith in God. We don’t have hope from the government or expect anything positive from anyone.”

BBC: “Khan Younis has seen some of the deadliest protests on the border with Israel. When Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel there were also Israeli air strikes. Um Mustafa, a widow, worries for all her six children.”

Woman: “I hope that when my son goes out to university he comes back safe and isn’t shot by a stray bullet or hot by a rocket fired at an area he’s in or by shelling. I hope we get stability and live in safety.”

As we see, viewers of this report get an entirely context-free portrayal of water, power and medicines shortages in the Gaza Strip. They are not informed that all three of those issues are linked to the infighting between the terror organisation Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that this report meets its remit of providing audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to “help people understand” this particular issue.

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Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The JCPA has a report on part of the background to a story covered by the BBC last week.

“Deadly riots in Iraq’s southern city of Basra erupted following protests waged by the local population that have been going on since early July 2018. The turmoil worsened after the governor of Basra ordered troops to use live bullets against the protesters. Rioters stormed the provincial government building on September 4, 2018, and set it ablaze.

The cause of discontent is the crumbling and obsolete state of the local infrastructures. Today, the blame is directed mainly against the failing water infrastructure, which is causing plague-like conditions in the local population: according to the news from Basra between 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases. Some 17,000 intestinal infection cases due to water contamination were recorded, according to Basra health authorities. Hospitals are unable to cope with the flow of the sick, nor do the authorities know how to deal with the spreading diseases and the threat of cholera.”

2) At the INSS Oded Eran takes a look at “The Idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation, Revisited“.

“In the quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation/confederation, which has been raised from time to time, has recently resurfaced. In a September 2, 2018 meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and a group of Israelis, the Palestinian leader said that the idea was raised by the US team engaged in the effort to renew the negotiations between the parties and formulate a proposal for a settlement. Beyond the major question regarding the Palestinians’ political and legal status in the American proposal, a confederation model, particularly one involving Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel, creates a possibility for “creative solutions” to issues related to economies, energy, and water. A trilateral framework of this nature may also facilitate solutions that include relinquishing elements of sovereignty for the sake of the confederation.”

3) Jonathan Spyer discusses the situation in northern Syria.

“Before the civil war, Syria’s Kurds were among the most severely oppressed, and among the most invisible minorities, of the Middle East. Numbering between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the pre-war Syrian population, they were prevented from educating or even naming their children in their native language. A section of the Kurdish population was deprived of travel and passport rights. Some, the so-called maktoumeen (unrecorded), lacked even citizenship and access to education.

The emergence of a de facto Kurdish enclave following the withdrawal by the Assad regime from a swath of the county’s north in 2012 changed all this. The enclave successfully defended itself against an early attempt by the rebels to destroy it. In 2014 the Kurds formed a de facto alliance with the US and the West in the war against Islamic State. This war, along with the regime’s (and Russia and Iran’s) war against the rebels, now is in its closing stages.”

4) The ITIC reports on recent violent power struggles in eastern Syria.

“In August 2018, several cities in the Euphrates Valley witnessed violent clashes between the Syrian army and Syrian militias affiliated with it on the one hand, and Shiite militias handled by Iran on the other. The clashes took place in the region between Albukamal and Deir ezZor, and both sides sustained dozens of casualties. In the background, there were violent power struggles and conflicts on the extortion of money from local residents, mainly by collecting “crossing fees” in return for the use of crossings between the two banks of the Euphrates River. During the clashes, attempts were made to find local solutions to defuse the situation: the militias were supposed to stop running the crossings and the Russian Military Police was supposed to take their place. However, since late August 2018, the clashes stopped and a reconciliation committee was convened in the city of Albukamal, to resolve the conflicts.”

 

 

Superficial BBC reporting from Gaza recycles jaded narratives

h/t GB

Earlier this month we noted that:

“In addition to holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – the Hamas terror group is also keeping prisoner at least two Israeli civilians – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al Sayed – who have not been the topic of any BBC reporting in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the morning of August 27th would therefore have been unlikely to understand what Yolande Knell was talking about when she briefly referred to “two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains”.

Presenter Justin Webb introduced that item (from 02:42:00 here) with a reference to another story about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing: the partial closure last week of the Erez Crossing in response to Palestinian violence the previous Friday.

As is now standard in BBC reporting, Webb euphemistically described violent rioting that includes shootings, IED and grenade attacks and border infiltrations as “protests” and listeners were not told that a significant proportion of those killed during that violence were linked to terror factions.

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

Webb: “Israel is going to reopen the Eretz [sic] border crossing with the Gaza Strip today. The defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that it’s going to happen. It’s happening a week after it was closed, he said, because of clashes. And more than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the end of March when protests began along the border with Israel. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. And since last month there’ve been three further violent flare-ups. The UN is warning that the Palestinian territory is close to collapse. There are severe water and power shortages. There is a broken economy. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at what can be done to fix Gaza.”

Obviously any serious examination of that question would have to include clarification of the way in which the actions of the Hamas terror group have led to a deterioration in conditions within the Gaza Strip such as its use of water piping to make missiles, its hijacking of cement intended for construction and its diversion of funds to the terrorism which forces neighbouring countries to employ counter-terrorism strategies such as restrictions on the import of dual-use goods. Likewise, that topic cannot be seriously addressed without explanation of the actions of the Palestinian Authority which have included cutting electricity supplies, medical supplies and salaries to Gaza Strip residents.

Yolande Knell, however, chose to present a picture devoid of that context.

Knell: “These children sound like they’re having fun but this is a daily task they have to do: collecting water from a stand pipe at the edge of the Khan Younis refugee camp. They get very little running water at home. What they do get isn’t drinkable. There’s no electricity. Their mother explains another problem. The power here comes on for just 3 or 4 hours a day. Umm Mustafa has only ever been able to leave Gaza once to take her sick son to a hospital. But she knows life doesn’t have to be this way.”

Voiceover woman: “I’ve seen the people outside. They don’t have a crisis like the one we live. I’ve seen how people have running water in their houses and it’s clear and clean. Mothers outside don’t organise their daily routines around when the electricity comes on. Our life is hostage to the electricity.”

The “people outside” did not elect a violent terrorist organisation to power but Yolande Knell’s account does not dwell on the connection between that choice and the current situation in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “Over a decade ago Hamas took full control of Gaza, ousting Palestinian Authority security forces in bloody fighting a year after it had won elections. Israel and Egypt then tightened a blockade of the territory. Three armed conflicts between Hamas and Israel followed. This year saw the deadly Gaza border protests. Palestinian economist Omar Shaban says people’s desperation played a big role.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that in addition to being an economist, Omar Shaban is a policy advisor for Al Shabaka. Predictably for a person who three months ago wrote an article claiming “Gazans are protesting their economy, not Israel’s existence” about the pre-planned agitprop titled ‘The Great Return March’ that openly promotes the elimination of Israel by means of the so-called ‘right of return’, Shaban managed to eliminate the word ‘return’ from his account but did use the inaccurate Hamas-favoured terminology “siege” with no challenge from Knell.

Shaban: “The economy was a key decisive element on the Great March. Unemployment, the siege, the lack of business, Palestinian Authority measures against Gaza that started 2 years ago. To fix Gaza it’s about bringing hope, bringing more jobs to the people, lifting the siege, allowing export from Gaza to get out.”

Neither Shaban nor Knell bothered to ask why – if, as Shaban claims, the violence along the border was driven by the state of “the economy” – Gazans have not been demonstrating against the Hamas regime which is responsible for their “desperation”.

Knell: “Ideas have been suggested to open up Gaza. From a seaport in Cyprus with Israeli security checks to this:

Recording: The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel.

Israeli security cabinet minister Israel Katz proposes a new multi-million dollar island off the Gaza coast with a port and power and desalination plants.”

Katz: “You solve the two main problems. The first problem is the security of Israel – not endangering the security of Israel – and the other thing; to improve the humanitarian conditions of the people in Gaza. Private companies that are not willing now to act in Gaza, to build things, will do it on the island.”

Knell: “But in the past month tensions between Israel and Hamas have flared up three times with Palestinian militants firing rockets and Israeli airstrikes. The intervention of Egypt and the UN calmed the situation. So what are the chances now for a longer term deal? Not good says Israeli defence analyst Alex Fishman. He points to the Palestinians’ own deep political rift and Hamas’ insistence that it won’t return two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains without a release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.”

Fishman: “Hamas is a terrorist group: nobody will talk with them directly. Therefore we need to bring Palestinian Authority to this agreement otherwise nothing will work. Secondly, the problem with the Israeli missing soldiers – it’s a matter of national pride; nobody will give up. Therefore it will be only a limited agreement.”

As noted above, in the three years that it has been public knowledge that at least two Israeli civilians are being held prisoner by Hamas, BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that story whatsoever. Knell’s brief mention obviously did nothing to contribute to audience understanding of that issue.

Knell closed her report with a reference to a “new security barrier around the Strip” by which she presumably means the underground barrier designed to thwart the cement and cash guzzling Hamas cross-border attack tunnels which she failed to mention throughout this report.

Knell: “In Gaza the lack of power means untreated sewage is discharged off the coast. Although Israel is building a new security barrier around the Strip, it’s a reminder of how its humanitarian crisis is increasingly difficult to contain. Already waste from here is washing up on southern Israeli beaches.”

There is of course nothing remotely novel about BBC audiences being steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story.

In this report Yolande Knell managed to combine that politically motivated narrative with yet another dumbed down portrayal of the topic of a potential truce.

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BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

As noted in a previous post, an item relating to incidents which began the previous afternoon which was aired in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 07:56 here) with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that interview thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “…we want to hear from Hamas. Are they trying to provoke another war in Gaza? Ghazi Hamad is Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in the Strip.”

Hamad: “No, I think that we are not interested in a new war. We try to avoid this. I think we have kind of understanding with all Palestinian factions to avoid any escalation or tension but you know that the source of the problem is the occupation. The problem is the blockade imposed by Israel. So it creates a lot of problems in Gaza.”

Donnison did not bother to clarify to listeners that “the blockade imposed by Israel” is a counter-terrorism measure made necessary by the dramatic rise in attacks on Israelis after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup eleven years ago. Neither did he inform audiences that when Hamad refers to “the occupation” he means Israel’s presence in Israel rather than the Gaza Strip from which Israel disengaged completely 13 years ago.  

Donnison: “You say you want to avoid an escalation but these cease fires are meaningless – aren’t they? – if your snipers are shooting at Israeli soldiers.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Donnison, listeners then heard Hamad repeatedly – and inaccurately – describe the Hamas organised, funded and facilitated ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “peaceful” and a “protest”.  

Hamad: “Look…ahm…I can say that regarding the ‘March of Return’ [it] is a peaceful march. We [are] controlling the situation very well. This march is as I said is a protestingpeaceful protesting – but sometimes you find some problems [unintelligible] we try to control this. But Israel try to use some mistakes or some things done by individual in order to punish people, in order to target the different sites in Gaza, to try to kill people as yesterday – they kill four people and injure more than 60 or 85 people. It is not the first time that Israel try to use some excuses to increase the number of victims in Gaza.”

Donnison: “What do you expect them to do if Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are continuing to fire rockets out of Gaza into Israel indiscriminately?”

Hamad: “We never started to fire rockets. I think we respect that…”

Donnison’s notably weak response to that blatant lie came in three words:

Donnison [interrupts]: “That’s not true.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. We respect the ceasefire approved in 2014 but you know that if it…why you forget now, since the beginning of the March of Return which [is] a peaceful march, we have about 160 people were killed? There is no [not] one, no [not] one Israel soldier were injured or killed. And we have more than 15,000 people were injured. Many of them were amputed [sic – amputated]. Many of them are [unintelligible]. This [is a] bigger crisis, this bigger tragedy among the Palestinian people. Now because one Israeli soldier was killed all the world they will criticize and say that the problem on the shoulder of Hamas. You should not forget the high numbers of victims among the Palestinians.”

Donnison: “Hamas has been in power in Gaza now for more than ten years. Three wars during that time. Close to 3,000 Palestinians killed in those wars. Unemployment at 44%. Youth unemployment at 60%. Only 3 to 6 hours of power a day. Hamas has failed as a government and failed the Palestinian people living in Gaza, hasn’t it?”

Hamad: “The question [is] why Hamas failed. Because Hamas is [in] a big prison which is called Gaza. Gaza is about 360 kilometers. It’s closed from all sides by the Israeli occupation. They prevent export, import, free access. Prevent us from even having fresh air, fresh water, electricity. Everything is closed. So after that you come and blame Hamas that they are responsible for this. Now if Israel, now if the occupation, if Israel end that blockade, if Israel give the Palestinians a freedom of access, I think the situation is getting better in Gaza. Now if you ask now international organisations including UN, UNRWA, UNDP – these people will say very frankly that who is responsible for the blockade in Gaza is Israel. Israel is still controlling all the borders around Gaza. Now we ask people now to give us chance now to establish airport or sea port or to open the crossing around Gaza but Israel they don’t want. They want to punish people; to punish Hamas and to punish also the ordinary citizen.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the claim that Israel ‘controls all the borders’ is untrue because the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt, failing to clarify that goods and people enter and exit the Gaza Strip on every working day and refraining from challenging even the supremely absurd lie that Israel prevents Gazans from having “fresh air”, all Jon Donnison had to say after that tirade of falsehoods was:

Donnison: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad.”

Apparently the BBC World Service believed that those four minutes of barely challenged lies and propaganda from a terrorist organisation could be passed off as “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards“.

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BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

When the BBC News website published its July 10th report concerning Israeli actions in light of three months of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, it also offered readers some background reading.

Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip“, that backgrounder first appeared in November 2012, was revamped in July 2014 and has been amended on numerous occasions since then, most recently in May 2018.

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

“It [the Gaza Strip] is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.” [emphasis added]

Obviously those claims are not accurate: the PA does not exercise control over the territory and Hamas rule did not end in 2014.

Readers are then told that:

“When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.”

No mention is made of the fact that the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel after Hamas’ violent coup in Gaza were a response to increased terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Once again with the relevant issue of Palestinian terrorism concealed from audience view, under the sub-heading ‘Freedom of Movement’ BBC audiences find the following:

“In the north, crossings into Israel at Erez have picked up marginally this year compared with 2017, but remain well below pre-blockade levels due to new restrictions.

Fewer than 240 Palestinians left Gaza via Israel in the first half of 2017, compared with a daily average of 26,000 in September 2000.” [emphasis added]

According to UNOCHA (quoted on a different topic in the same section), during the first half of 2017, 43,009 people crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Erez Crossing. Obviously that BBC claim is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Readers are not told that the cited comparison date “September 2000” was immediately before the second Intifada and – crucially – the launching of countless terror attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The context of terrorism – and the resulting restrictions on the passage of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel and trade – is likewise absent from the backgrounder’s section titled “Economy”.

“Gaza is significantly poorer than it was in the 1990s. Its economy grew only 0.5% in 2017 according to a World Bank report, with annual income per person falling from $2,659 in 1994 to $1,826 in 2018.”

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

“Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. On average, some 5,479 people live on every square kilometre in Gaza. That’s expected to rise to 6,197 people per square kilometre by 2020.

The number of people living there is expected to hit 2.2 million by the end of the decade, and 3.1 million by 2030.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places in the world with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, an accompanying map shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

In a section sub-titled “Health” the BBC once again disseminates inaccurate and misleading claims.

“Access to public health services has worsened due to border restrictions. […]

Exit passes through Israel have also dropped in recent years, with approvals for medical reasons dropping from 93% in 2012 to 54% in 2017.

Moreover, drugs, supplies and equipment are all restricted because of the blockade – including dialysis machines and heart monitors.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which last year exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.

The backgrounder goes on:

“A recent fuel shortage for generators has also affected medical services. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three hospitals and ten medical centres have suspended services due to a lack of power.”

It is of course the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for the fuel and power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services but the BBC’s backgrounder implies that too is attributable to “border restrictions” – i.e. Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

While a section titled “Power” includes an interestingly punctuated link to a 2017 report billed “PA ‘stops paying for Gaza electricity'”, the backgrounder itself does not clarify that in 2011 Hamas elected to discontinue the purchase of fuel from Israel for Gaza’s power plant, instead relying on an erratic supply via smuggling tunnels which were later destroyed by Egypt or that internal disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulted in an exacerbation of the power crisis in the Gaza Strip during 2017.

Similarly, a section titled “Water and sanitation” fails to inform BBC audiences that sewage pipes in the Gaza Strip were used to make rockets, that new supplies of pipes transported in by Israel were diverted for the same purpose rather than being used to solve the Gaza Strip’s sanitation problems or that the electricity crisis exacerbated by the dispute between the PA and Hamas has also seriously affected sewage treatment and water supply

Obviously this ‘backgrounder’ does not give BBC audiences an accurate and impartial view of the reasons why “life in the Gaza Strip” is as it is. The BBC’s failure to report impartially on Hamas’ responsibility for the deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip – brought about by its putting continued terrorism against Israeli civilians at a higher level of priority than taking care of the population’s welfare – clearly means that this backgrounder is not fit for purpose and does not meet the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand “issues across…the world”.

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