BBC Culture promotes Palestinian pop and a political narrative

h/t AS

On September 17th BBC Culture published an article by freelancer William Ralston titled “The rise of Palestinian pop”. In among Ralston’s long portrayal of the Palestinian (and not Palestinian) music scene readers were served context-free political framing. The article opened by telling readers that: [emphasis added]

“Growing up in East Jerusalem, Bashar Murad turned to music for comfort in a life blighted by fractious political realities and the emotional pressures of being a gay man battling the conservative elements of his society. It also became a way of transcending the borders imposed on his life by the Israeli occupation; a medium to connect with the world outside.” 

As noted when he was previously featured in BBC content, despite those alleged “borders imposed on his life” Murad:

“…was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia [USA], and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

None of that was however mentioned by Ralston, who went on to promote the notion of “Palestinians with an Israeli passport” even though the majority of Israeli Arabs do not self-identify as Palestinians.

“Since its launch four years ago, the spot has become a second home for Palestinians with an Israeli passport or those with documents allowing them to travel through Israel.”

Readers were told that:

“In cash-stripped [sic] Gaza, the smaller Palestinian territory, there are even fewer opportunities. Recording studios are scarce, and any equipment must be sourced from Egypt or Israel at an extraordinary premium. Hamada Nasrallah, vocalist for Sol, a seven-piece folk outfit from Gaza, explains that he had to sell off his possessions just to afford a guitar, only for it to be destroyed in the August 2018 Israeli bomb attacks on the Said al-Mishal Centre.”

Not only does that promoted link lead to a politicised and partisan report from the Guardian but readers were not informed that the ‘cultural centre’ was located in a building also used by Hamas’ interior security unit or that the strike came in response to over 180 missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

The article failed to inform audiences that the reason why the population of the Gaza Strip suffers from a lack of electricity and clean water is internal feuding between Palestinian factions.

“The electricity shortages and lack of drinking water make it “hard to focus on music” because “we don’t have the basics to live”, MC Gaza, a local rapper, says. “

The writer’s failure to mention the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas – which he euphemistically described as “the Islamist organization that governs the territory” – means that readers are unable to put his subsequent descriptions of restrictions on movement into their correct and full context – including the fact that in the week before this article was published 8,673 people used the Erez crossing.

“Exacerbating the problem are the restrictions on movement that Palestinians face, which means that many cannot travel abroad for gigs, or, significantly, meet with industry professionals. Special permits are required to enter Israel, which are rarely granted, especially not quickly. Palestinians have long had no access to airports in the Palestinian territories: those in Jerusalem and Gaza ceased operations around the turn of the millennium, so most Palestinians must travel to Jordan in order to fly anywhere, which costs around US$500 (£400) one-way.

Those in Gaza have great difficulty in travelling at all. There are only two crossings out: Rafah and Erez, controlled by Egyptian and Israeli authorities respectively. […] Erez, meanwhile, is also tricky, and, for reasons of security, only Israeli-defined categories of people, mainly those requiring urgent medical attention, are eligible for a permit. Permits are also granted to businessmen, students, and artists, but they are far from guaranteed…”

As is usually the case in BBC content, history in this article began in June 1967, with no mention of the fact that parts of Jerusalem were illegally occupied by Jordan in the 19 years that preceded the Six Day War or that Jordan chose to attack Israel in that conflict.  

“The position of those born in Jerusalem is uniquely complicated. After occupying and annexing East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered Palestinian residents Israeli citizenship but many refused, and instead took permanent residency, allowing them to live, work, and receive benefits in Israel. They have what’s called a ‘laissez-passer’, a travel document that allows them to pass through Israel, but they cannot pass into another country without a visa, which is hard to obtain because they don’t have any citizenship.”

The same lack of historical context appeared in a section in which Druze residents of the Golan Heights were described as ‘Syrian’ and the relevant factor of the closure of the Quneitra crossing because of the civil war in Syria was erased.

“Musicians in the Golan Heights face similar difficulties for the same reasons: Israel annexed the land, seized from Syria, after the Six-Day War. Although Syrian, the local musicians are considered part of the Palestinian scene because they’re subject to similar restrictions: they are not even allowed to travel to Syria, so they can pass through Israel and the West Bank only.”

Yet again Ralston failed to adequately clarify that if some of his featured musicians from Jerusalem and the Golan Heights do not have passports, that is because they have chosen to pass up the opportunity to apply for Israeli citizenship.

“All four members of TootArd, whom promoters regularly label as Palestinian, grew up in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan area, and have permanent residency in Israel, but their official nationality is also ‘undefined’, and they have no passport.”

As we see what could have been an interesting article is seriously marred by the writer’s uncritical promotion of a politically motivated narrative which he advances by failing to provide the relevant background information and key context which would facilitate proper audience understanding of the topic. 

BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

h/t SG

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote that Hamas approved terminology and the latest example came in the August 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Food Chain’ (repeated on August 4th) which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“When access to a city is blocked, food supplies quickly plummet, electricity and water become scarce, and people are forced to find new ways to feed themselves. Black markets thrive, and some may risk their lives to feed their families. But a dwindling food supply can also inspire creativity and compassion.

Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.

A journalist tells us how it feels to eat abundantly in a café in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat. An electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a statement of compassion and resistance. And a cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and food are scarce.”

Presenter Emily Thomas opened the programme with a description of a siege and went on with some clear signposting. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Thomas: “Your home is surrounded. Enemy forces are camped outside the city. They’ve cut off electricity and water supplies and sealed off the main roads out. You can’t leave. Nothing and no-one is coming in. But you still have to eat. Could finding a way to eat well become the ultimate act of defiance? […] In this episode people who’ve lived under siege in Aleppo in Syria, Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and the Gaza Strip are going to reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines where black markets can thrive and people may risk their lives to feed their families. We’ll hear that even as food supplies run out, creativity and compassion can flourish. How we eat behind siege lines can show our humanity and resilience.”

The first part of the programme related to Sarajevo and the last to Aleppo. In the middle (from 11:50) listeners heard a section which began with more inaccurate framing of the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ from Thomas.

Thomas: “Preserving a food culture is perhaps more important than ever when living under siege.”

Voiceover: “We make a whole variety of regional foods and as well as Arabic dishes we make pastries, different kinds of bread, chicken and rice, couscous; everything you’d expect to find in Gaza.”

Thomas: “But how much variety would you expect when more than half of the population is classed as food insecure by the UN? This is Wada Younis [phonetic]: one of a group of women who runs a catering company in Gaza. […] More than half of the territory’s labour force are unemployed so customers are in short supply.”

After her interviewee had explained that her clientele includes “women who don’t have the time to cook at home” and people with “more money”, Thomas told listeners:

Thomas: “A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people. Gazans are not allowed to farm in the mile-wide Israeli declared buffer zone on the border: an area with some of its best arable land. Add to that an intermittent power supply and almost every household relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.”

Notably listeners heard no explanation of those “security concerns” and the words Hamas and terrorism did not cross the BBC presenter’s lips. The inconvenient fact that the Gaza Strip also has a land border with Egypt was likewise airbrushed from Thomas’ portrayal.

Imports to the Gaza Strip are of course not “severely restricted” unless they come under the category of weapons or dual-use goods that can be employed for terror purposes and obviously that does not include food. Even anti-Israel NGOs do not claim that the buffer zone (the width of which varies from place to place) is a mile – i.e. 1,609.34 meters – wide. Gaza’s “intermittent power supply” of course has nothing to do with Israeli counter terrorism measures and everything to do with internal Palestinian disputes. In fact Israel continues to supply more than half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity and about 10 million cubic meters of water a year: hardly the actions of a ‘besieging’ force.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service is apparently quite happy for its audiences to be misled about the reasons for the chronic power shortages in the Gaza Strip because listeners next heard Younis repeat that falsehood.

Voiceover: “The siege causes loads of problems but the main one is electricity. Sometimes there’s no electricity and when we’re baking or preparing dishes it’s a real issue. And the other problem is the financial situation; people can’t afford much and they don’t all have incomes. Raw materials aren’t available and can be really expensive which means we can’t always make a profit. Sometimes we have to sell at cost price to keep our customers.”

Thomas: “Are there some ingredients it’s impossible to get hold of at all?”

Although Younis replied in the affirmative, the rest of her response showed that the real answer to that question is no.

Voiceover: “Yeah – the ingredients for desserts and cakes aren’t really available and if they are, they’re only in a few shops and are really expensive so we can’t afford to make them. And you just can’t get the kind of ovens we need in Gaza. You can only get them outside. And we often have to throw vegetables away because the electricity cuts out and the fridges go off.”

Thomas: “The electricity then poses a real problem. What about the water supply?”

Voiceover: “You can’t drink the water in Gaza or cook with it. It’s not clean. So we have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as for washing ingredients to avoid contamination.”

Making no effort to inform listeners why residents of the Gaza Strip face chronic shortages of electricity and clean water, Thomas summed up:

Thomas: “So the electricity supply is intermittent, the water supply is difficult too, you can’t get hold of all of the equipment and the ingredients that you need. It sounds really tough to be running a catering company.”

She later went on to claim that “food is limited” in the Gaza Strip.

Thomas: “Do you think that food and enjoyment of food and the sharing of food become more important when you’re living in the middle of a political situation like this and when food is limited?”

In her closing remarks (25:42) Thomas referred to “inhumane situations” despite the fact that no context to the measures imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to combat inhumane terrorism had been provided.

Thomas: “To me their story of food behind siege lines, like the others we’ve heard, shows not just people’s resilience but also the power of food to comfort and prove our humanity when we’re placed in the most inhumane situations.”

So why did the BBC World Service mislead its audiences by inaccurately framing the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ in accordance with Hamas talking points and misinform them with regard to the background to the chronic problems with water and electricity supplies?

At the end of the interview with Wada Younis, listeners heard that it was set up by the BBC’s Gaza Strip office.

Thomas: “Many thanks to our colleague in Gaza Jihad Masharawi for arranging that interview.”

This is of course far from the first time the employees at the BBC’s Gaza office have amplified Hamas propaganda and neither is it the first time that Masharawi has been involved in producing BBC content that promotes the false notion that the Gaza Strip is ‘under siege’ by Israel.

How the BBC can possibly claim that this item meets editorial guidelines on either accuracy or impartiality is unclear.

Related Articles:

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

Stats defy the BBC’s repeated portrayal of a ‘siege’ on Gaza

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

 

 

More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

The top story in the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 25th was described as follows by presenter Tim Franks in his introduction to the programme: {emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “It’s eluded the Israelis, the Palestinians and countless US administrations but now this White House says it has a brand new detailed plan for Middle East peace. Today we got part one: the economic vision for the Palestinians. It’s our top story.”

The item itself (from 00:57 here) was presented thus:

Franks: “We’re used to big, bold talk from President Trump but on one thing we can probably all agree: that were his administration to be able to conjur a full peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, it would indeed be – as Mr Trump put it – the ultimate deal. Today we got the long-awaited first part of the plan, drawn up under the aegis of one of his closest – if not the closest advisor – his son-in-law Jared Kushner. At what’s been billed as an economic workshop in Bahrain, he’s laid out his proposals for fifty billion dollars’ worth of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries. Mr Kushner appealed for open minds and for patience.”

After listeners had heard two segments of recordings of Kushner speaking at the conference, Franks went on:

Franks: “The White House says this is about trying a new approach to improve the Palestinians’ prospects after many years of political stasis if not outright failure. Palestinian leaders though are boycotting the event, furious about what they say is the Trump administration’s bias against them. White House officials say they’re unmoved by that show of intransigence. They’re interested instead in appealing to ordinary Palestinians keen to improve their parlous economic prospects. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been speaking to some of those Palestinians.”

Listeners then heard a report from Yolande Knell which was similar to both a televised report billed Palestinian poverty which she produced for BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on June 20th and an article she wrote which was published on the BBC News website on June 25th under the headline “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank”.

Knell: “It’s not long after four o’clock in the morning. It’s still pitch-black but the street here is teeming with people. There’s a small, informal market place that’s popped up overnight and some are stopping to buy some breakfast, some falafel sandwiches, a cup of coffee. These are Palestinian workers heading into the Israeli checkpoint.”

Listeners heard a voiceover translation of a man saying:

“The economic situation isn’t good. That’s why we have to go to Israel to work because there are no job opportunities.”

Knell: “Rasmi, from Hebron, has nine people depending on him and earns three times more in Israel as a builder than he could at home. With the West Bank economy in dire straits, it relies heavily on the tens of thousands of labourers like him with Israeli work permits. But here at the Taybeh Brewery near Ramallah they say business could be fizzing as much as the bottles of beer on their production line if it wasn’t for the tough political situation.”

Woman: “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. We are a Palestinian company under occupation and we don’t have our own borders, we don’t have control over the water, electricity. Anything that comes in and out of the country is through Israel.”

The Taybeh Brewery is situated in Taybeh which is in Area B and has been under Palestinian Authority civil control and Israeli security control since the year the brewery was founded, 1995. Just as the representatives of the Palestinians agreed to the zoning into Areas A, B and C, they also agreed to arrangements concerning water and electricity. The Palestinians have their own Water Authority and get some of their electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation – to which the Palestinian Authority currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt.

Knell: “Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

Knell of course did not bother to mention the Palestinian terrorism which made checkpoints necessary.

Khoury: “Palestinians are very smart people. They’re very determined, they’re very hard-working and they’re very highly educated and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed and this country would be amazing.”

Knell: “But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns, after Hamas – which is widely seen as a terrorist group – took over. Hamdi has no job and lives with his six children in one room. They struggle to get by on Qatari donations of $100 a month. ‘That money isn’t enough’ he says, ‘it just goes to pay our debts’.”

Once again Knell sidestepped the crucial issue of the terrorism which brought about the situation she describes. Listeners next heard shouts of ‘go home’ but Knell did not bother to inform them that the “protests” she went on to describe were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction.

Knell: “Already there’ve been Palestinian protests against the Trump administration’s economic plan. While Israel says it’s keeping an open mind, it’s been rejected outright by Palestinian leaders. The prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, says a political solution is needed.”

Shtayyeh: “This workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and the legitimisation of occupation. The Palestinian leadership is not part of it and we think that the outcome is going to be fruitless and it is simply nonsense.”

Knell: “Back at the turnstile of the Bethlehem checkpoint, Rasmi the builder is returning home, tired at the end of a 16-hour day. He stops to buy grapes from Issam, a farmer turned fruit seller who sets up a stall here each afternoon. He tells me that there’s no work in his village.”

Issam: “Our officials can’t open new buildings or factories. They don’t have the resources.”

That of course would have been the ideal opportunity for Yolande Knell to point out that some 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget – around $330 million a year according to a BBC report from a year ago and more according to other sources – is spent on payments to terrorists and their families. Knell however refrained from providing listeners with that relevant information.

Knell: “Can President Trump fix the Palestinian economy?”

Issam: “No. From what we saw when he became the president, he has done nothing to help the Palestinian economy unfortunately.”

Knell: “With financial woes at the heart of so much suffering here, it’s easy to see why White House aides view the economy as a way to exert influence. But so far, few Palestinians are buying their argument that the ‘deal of the century’ could be their opportunity of the century.”

The rest of that nearly twelve minute-long item was given over to a conversation between Tim Franks and David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank who attended the workshop in Bahrain.  During that conversation Mr Makovsky observed that “solving the whole conflict” is “easier said than done”, noting – as a former Obama administration official – that:

“We had a president who was very engaged on the Palestinian issue and we couldn’t get even an answer from the Palestinian Authority…”

Tim Franks chose not to follow up on that statement and once again BBC audiences heard a long yet monochrome report on the Bahrain economic workshop which avoided the key issue of the Hamas-Fatah split and sidestepped the topic of Palestinian terrorism.  

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

At best, BBC portrayal of the regularly reported topic of the water supply in the Gaza Strip is superficial, with no explanation of how the chronic crisis came about. At worst, BBC portrayal of that issue leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the situation.

“There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems…”  Tom Bateman, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.” Daniel Rosney, BBC Radio 1, 14/5/19

“…they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 17/1/19

“It’s a densely populated strip of land. A place that the United Nations has warned could be unliveable 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.” Mishal Husain, BBC One, 16/12/18

“…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?” Stephen Sackur, BBC World News, 26/11/18

It is nevertheless highly unlikely that any of the BBC Jerusalem bureau staff will be making the two hour journey south to report this story.

“Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.

The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system […]

There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons). […]

Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.”

Yes, the story of a country supplying water to a terrorist-run entity which repeatedly attacks its citizens is not straightforward – but it is one which a media organisation with an obligation to “provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding […] of the wider world” should be telling.

Related Articles:

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

Banal BBC News report from the Gaza Strip fails to inform

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

 

 

 

 

BBC News website removes inaccurate claim from online profile

Back in March we noted that the BBC’s online profile of the Golan Heights informed readers that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.” [emphasis added]

As noted here at the time, that highlighted claim is inaccurate.

“A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water. […]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that topic (including a link to the relevant document) on March 26th. On April 3rd we received notification that BBC Complaints “had referred your complaint to the relevant people and regret that it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On April 22nd we were informed that BBC Complaints had “not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

Nearly three months after the complaint was originally submitted – on June 14th – we received another communication – this time from the BBC News website.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our Golan Heights profile (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14724842) and I’m sorry for the long delay in writing back to you.

You raise a fair point and we’ve since removed the reference to the area supplying a “third of Israel’s water supply”.”

The amended paragraph now reads:

“The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River.”

No explanation was provided as to why it took nearly three months for the inaccurate claim to be removed and no footnote was added to the profile to inform BBC audiences that they were previously misinformed.

The continued absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that readers who previously read that profile remain unaware that they were given inaccurate information.

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

The first part of the ‘Newsbeat’ fifteen-minute “special from Gaza” aired on BBC Radio1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 14th was discussed in part one of this post and there we saw how the programme’s target audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK was fed an often inaccurate and highly partial version of the history of the Gaza Strip.  

The programme continued with presenters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney – ostensibly in the region to cover the Eurovision Song Contest for ‘Newsbeat’ – bringing in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

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

[04:30] Rosney: “This is a Newsbeat special in Gaza – a Palestinian territory. The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is with us as well. Tom, what’s life been like in Gaza over the past decade?”

Bateman: “Well what you’ve just been hearing about in terms of the control of Gaza is something really complicated but Hamas dominates there. And this is an organisation that, to its Palestinian supporters, is the resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Of course to Israel and much of the West, they see it as a terrorist organisation.”

Hamas of course does not just object to what Bateman simplistically describes as “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories”. Hamas objects to Israel’s existence on any territory whatsoever. That very basic fact – without which it is impossible to understand the subject matter of this programme – was not communicated to listeners at any point. Rather, BBC journalists repeatedly misled ‘Newsbeat’ audiences by giving then false accounts of Hamas’ objectives.

Like Kat Collins in her ‘potted history’ heard just minutes before, Bateman also chose to lead his young audience towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action. He continued, failing to make any mention of the role played by the Palestinian Authority in relation to the perpetual electricity crisis, lack of sewage treatment and shortages of medicine in the Gaza Strip. While he failed to mention that the Gaza Strip also has a crossing into Egypt, Bateman made sure to promote the old “open-air prison” mantra.

Bateman: “Since Hamas was elected and then consolidated its grip by force on the Gaza Strip, life there really has slowly deteriorated and you just see this all around. There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems and many young people, I mean, have simply never left Gaza. There’s huge restrictions on freedom of movement. I mean some people you talk to describe it as like living in an open-air prison.”

Rosney: “And it’s been a tense 12 months.”

Listeners then heard a distorted account of the ‘Great Return March’ which actually began on March 30th 2018 rather than a month and a half later when the US embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated. Adhering to the BBC editorial policy which has been evident right from the start, Bateman portrayed the violent rioting, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the ‘march’ as “protests”.

Bateman: “Yes, so what we saw was a year ago around the time that, in a controversial move to the Palestinians, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protests began at the perimeter fence by Palestinians. Now they said they were demanding their right to return to the land that is now Israel and also an end – or an easing at least – of that blockade. The protests were seen by Israel as an attempt to breach the fence, to break into Israel and harm Israeli civilians or soldiers. And so we had a lot of violence at the fence; many, many Palestinians killed – shot dead by Israeli troops – and that story really evolved into a series of increasingly violent military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas.”

Bateman made no effort to explain to listeners that the so-called ‘right of return’ promoted by the ‘Great Return March’ is in fact aimed at bringing an end to the Jewish state. Having erased the violent nature of the events from view, he could use the phrase “seen by Israel” to downplay and blur that violence. The fact that the vast majority of those killed during the rioting have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip was not noted by any of the three BBC journalists and neither was the fact that the same factions are behind the violent events.

Holden: “This is Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney in Gaza. Sixty Palestinians were killed a year ago in that violence and thousands more were injured. But these protests on the edge of Gaza happen most Fridays. There was a flare-up just a few weeks ago.”

Rosney: “Yeah and it means many people need medical treatment which, in a place like this with very poor health care, is tricky.”

Holden: “In Gaza there are clinics that are run by independent humanitarian organisations. We’re off to one now which is set up by Médecins Sans Frontières.”

Listeners heard nothing at all about the political agenda of MSF.   

At that clinic Rosney and Holden interviewed a British doctor working for MSF and two patients who gave context-free accounts of their injuries: “I suddenly was shot by a sniper in my leg” and “they just shot me instantly”.

Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ found it appropriate to promote their nihilistic messaging to young people in the UK, including the 16 year-old male’s declaration that it doesn’t matter if he dies because his mother would have another baby to replace him and the female interviewee’s claim that “whatever happens would be God’s fate” in response to the statement from Rosney “so each time you go to the protests you know that there is a chance that you could be shot”.

Newsbeat also had no problem airing unchallenged statements from indoctrinated youth such as “Our life used to be normal before the Israelis came…” and “we need to liberate our homeland, our country…”.

[09:38] Rosney: “The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is still with us. Tom, those people that we just heard from inside the MSF clinic, they were so determined to keep going back to the fence to protest – why is that?”

Bateman: “Well many people have been and I mean as, you know, as you’ve been hearing, some people even though they’ve been shot have said that they will go back to the fence, so there has been a determination I think. On the other hand, when you speak to some people privately, they’ll start to tell you about the real cost involved in terms of lives and injuries with this and some people I’ve chatted to over time have talked about not wanting to go back. But that can be a hard thing for them to say publicly in Gaza. We have seen the scale of the protests really diminish, I think, over the last year or so but one way or another the Palestinians you speak to seem determined to show that they want their rights.”

Bateman’s failure once again to clarify to ‘Newsbeat’ audiences that those so-called “rights” actually mean the destruction of the neighbouring country by means of a mass population transfer and through the use of weapons that the blockade is intended to prevent entering the Gaza Strip means that the topic was presented to listeners in terms that most would sympathise with. Who, after all, can possibly object to people standing up for “their rights”?

Rosney next promoted yet again the false claim that all those Palestinians who became refugees were “forced to flee” and that that only happened after Israel came into being. Listeners heard nothing of the Arab attacks in the six months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence or of the fact that the nascent state was immediately attacked by surrounding Arab countries.

Rosney: “We’ve been hearing that sound a lot in Gaza. It’s the call to prayer for Muslims and right now it’s Ramadan. Those who practice Islam don’t eat or drink between dawn and sunset. Some are actually preparing for Nakba Day – that’s tomorrow – which commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee from their homes in the war that came after Israel declared independence.” […]

Holden: “So the sun’s just gone down here and if you took the picture right now it is the perfect holiday shot. You’ve got the red-orange glow on the sea in the distance; it’s beautiful. But the buildings here tell a different story. Many have got bullet holes in them. Some are half-finished, some are half-destroyed and many have got graffiti drawn all over them.”

Rosney: “Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.”

Holden: “Yeah, you don’t swim in the sea either because around 90 million litres of sewage is pumped into the Med here every day. So 95% of the water around the Strip is polluted.”

No background information on those issues – and no mention of the fact that the problems are not related to Israel – was given to audiences at all.

Rosney: “Now along the beachfront people, well they’re starting to set up food stalls actually. Some are smoking shisha. There’s no alcohol here because of strict rules so no pubs or bars.”

Rosney refrained from clarifying that those “strict rules” are enforced by the Islamist theocracy that violently imposed its rule on the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and Holden next gave more context-free promotion to the BDS campaign:

Holden: “Yeah and there’s probably no big screens that will show the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s largest live music event – which is taking place just 90 minutes up the coast in Tel Aviv. The first semi-final is actually tonight but there have been calls for boycotts of this year’s contest because it is in Israel and some argue that Israel has violated the human rights of Palestinians.”

Rosney: “We’re gonna talk a bit more about that tomorrow on Newsbeat but we’re gonna stick with music….”

Rosney and Holden then interviewed a 26 year-old rapper – mostly about his wish to leave the Gaza Strip.

“It’s not easy for a human to live in Gaza…”

“You can’t leave Gaza…”

“I can’t make audience here – people just thinking how to eat, how to fight. It’s not a normal life. It’s not human. “

The report closed on a rather odd point.

Rosney: “It’s important to point out that in some ways communication with the rest of the world here is actually pretty good. People have got social media and stuff. They are not cut off from the rest of the world entirely.”

Obviously this fifteen minute-long “Gaza special” from ‘Newsbeat’ fell well short of the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and impartiality. It completely failed to provide its target audience with the full range of information needed to understand what is clearly a complex topic and instead promoted a simplistic and partisan narrative of poor, deprived Palestinians pluckily fighting for “their rights” in a place that is mostly awful – apart from the nice sunset – but does have “social media and stuff”.

Is that really the standard of reporting that the BBC believes 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK deserve?

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

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

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

All three of the BBC News website’s March 21st and March 22nd reports concerning the US president’s announcement of the intention to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights included links to the BBC’s profile of that area which was last updated on March 14th.

In that profile BBC audiences are told that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.”

While that may have been the case in the past, does the Golan Heights really currently provide “a third of Israel’s water supply”?

A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water.

“The Israeli water sector has natural and artificial sources of water. The main natural sources are the Kinneret Basin, which includes aquifers and rivers that flow into the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer. Natural fresh water makes up some 40% of water consumption. In addition to the sources of natural water, two sources of artificial water play a vital role in the water sector: desalinated water (mostly seawater), which in 2016 provided 25% of water consumption, and reclaimed wastewater, used mostly for agriculture, which in 2016 provided 25% of the water consumed across all sectors.”

Moreover, rainfall on the Golan is just one of several sources of water supply to the Sea of Galilee and, as the Knesset report goes on to say:

“For years, Israel has faced a water crisis, which has manifested itself in low precipitation and dwindling natural resources (groundwater and sources of surface water, primarily the Sea of Galilee). The drought in Israel’s north, an area that usually receives greater precipitation, is particularly severe.”

“…the volume of water flowing into the Sea of Galilee in the past four years is the lowest ever on record: in August 2017, water flow to the Sea of Galilee reached a record low—that month, the Sea of Galilee lost 26 MCM of water (the previous record was set in August 2014). As a result, the water level in the Sea of Galilee is expected to drop and may break the record low set in 2001, despite the fact that almost no water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee in recent years.” [emphasis added]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Readers of this profile also find the following:

“Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.

In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.

But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee [sic] and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no such thing as a “pre-1967 border”. There is however a 1923 border set out by the then mandatory powers Britain and France.

“The territorial aspects of the Syrian-Israeli dispute date to 1920–23, when Great Britain and France devised a boundary between Syria (then including “Greater Lebanon”) and Palestine, two entities that would fall under League of Nations mandates. Often referred to as the “1923 international boundary,” the line was drawn to keep the upper course of the Jordan River (between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee) and the Sea of Galilee itself entirely within Palestine and to give Palestine a few kilometers of frontage on the Yarmouk River. Between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, the boundary ran between fifty and four-hundred meters east of the Jordan River, just below the Golan Heights. Along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, it ran parallel to the shore and ten meters from the water’s edge. Sovereignty over these water resources was vested in Palestine.” [emphasis added]

There is also a 1949 Armistice Agreement Line, which was specifically defined as not being a border. Article V of the agreement states:

“1. It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.

2. In pursuance of the spirit of the Security Council resolution of 16 November 1948, the Armistice Demarcation Line and the demilitarized Zone have been defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of the two Parties in such manner as to minimize the possibility of friction and incident, while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the Demilitarized Zone, without prejudice to the ultimate settlement.” [emphasis added]

As documented by Frederic C. Hof:

“During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian troops penetrated Palestine-Israel in several areas. When an armistice was signed in July 1949, Syrian forces still held blocs of territory west of the 1923 international boundary. The parties agreed to a compromise: Syrian forces would withdraw from the farthest extent of their advance (the truce line—later the Armistice Demarcation Line [ADL]) to the 1923 international boundary, and Israel would refrain from introducing military forces into areas vacated by Syria. Thus was created a demilitarized zone consisting of three, non-contiguous blocs of land in what had been mandate Palestine totaling 66.5 square kilometers. In some places the ADL corresponded to the 1923 international boundary, and in others it penetrated into the former Palestine mandate. The demilitarized zone was everything between the ADL and the 1923 international boundary. Syria — quite inexplicably — agreed that the ADL along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee would correspond to the 1923 international boundary (i.e., the 10-meter strip), even though its soldiers and civilians enjoyed access to the sea’s waters before, during, and after the 1948 fighting. Therefore, any time a Syrian national—military or civilian— crossed the invisible line to swim or fish an armistice violation occurred. Israel claimed sovereignty over the entire 66.5 square kilometer zone. Syria did not, reserving its claims for a future peace conference.” [emphasis added]

There is also what is termed the Line of June 4, 1967 (link includes map). That line is also not a border: it represents the positions – despite the Armistice Agreement – held by Israel and Syria on the eve of the Six Day War.

“Neither side lived up to its [Armistice Agreement] obligations. Syria retained pieces of the demilitarized zone, including the Palestinian Arab town of El Hamma on the Yarmouk River, and treated the 10-meter line paralleling the northeastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee as if it did not exist. […] Secret talks in 1952–53 to partition the demilitarized zone failed. Between 1954 and 1967 there was a “game of inches” for control of the zone, always fought to the advantage of Israel. On the eve of war in June 1967, Syria still controlled the 10-meter strip and some 18 of the zone’s 66.5 square kilometers, including El Hamma (along with a small salient to its west along the Yarmouk River), the east bank of the Jordan River between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, some high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and a small patch of land overlooking the Hula Valley.” [emphasis added]

Hof goes on:

“As a result of American shuttle diplomacy, Syria came to believe, by July 1994, that Israel would seriously contemplate full withdrawal “to the line of June 4, 1967” in return for a peace treaty satisfactorily addressing Israel’s core concerns. Syria demanded that all land wrested by Israel from Syrian control in June 1967—18 square kilometers of demilitarized zone in the Jordan Valley and the 10-meter strip along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights—be returned to Syria in its entirety. […] Syria wanted a line that had, for the most part, not been demarcated: a line that, in several key areas, corresponded neither to the 1923 international boundary nor to the 1949 ADL. Syria wanted the eve of war (1967) status quo restored and a boundary drawn reflecting, in effect, a snapshot of who was where on June 4, 1967.”

In other words, the BBC falsely claims the existence of a “pre-1967 border” and its assertion that the existence of a border to the east of the shore of the Sea of Galilee is something that only “Israel says” exists is untrue.  

The claim that a return to a “pre-1967 border” would “give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee” is inaccurate, seeing as the only border in existence prior to 1967 was the one agreed upon in 1923 by France and Britain which left access to the lake within the borders of Mandate Palestine. 

Related Articles:

Partial portrayals of international law in three BBC reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

On January 15th the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry published an English language Facebook post in which – apparently this time in reaction to the delay of a transfer of cash from Qatar to Hamas – it claimed that “the fuel crisis in hospitals and primary care centers continues to hit critical levels”.

On January 17th the flagship BBC programme ‘News at Ten’ – aired on BBC One and the BBC News channel – ran an item that seemed to have been inspired by that Facebook post and further milked Mishal Husain’s December 2018 trip [see ‘related articles’ below] to the Gaza Strip.

Failing to clarify to viewers that the health ministry in the Gaza Strip is run by the terror group Hamas, presenter Huw Edwards introduced the report (from 23:49 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edwards: “Now the Palestinian health ministry in the Gaza Strip has said hospitals in Gaza may have to shut down because of shortages of fuel. The UN has warned of a real catastrophe if additional fuel isn’t found. The health system – already on the verge of collapse following years of an Israeli blockade and divisions between Palestinian groups – is now overburdened with casualties from the protests that began last year. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been injured. The BBC’s Mishal Husain visited Gaza and sent this report.”

Edwards of course refrained from clarifying to BBC audiences that those casualties could have been avoided had the same Hamas terror group now claiming that hospitals “may have to shut down” not organised, facilitated and financed weekly violent riots at the border for the past ten months.

As has previously been noted here on the many occasions on which the BBC has falsely promoted the notion of a link between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the sorry state of medical services in the Gaza Strip:

“…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 has in recent months exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.”

Edwards did not bother to clarify to viewers that what he euphemistically and unhelpfully described as “divisions between Palestinian groups” actually means the fact that the Palestinian Authority has in addition been responsible for power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as other fields.

Mishal Husain began her report by also describing months of violent rioting as “protests”, once again employing the specious ‘everybody does it’ argument.

Husain: “It is a new and extreme burden on a health system that was already stretched to the limit: thousands of people with gunshot wounds. Fourteen year-old Walid Ahu [phonetic] is one of those who’ve been injured at the weekly protests near the perimeter fence with Israel. His father says he went along just as other young people have. An Israeli bullet went through both of his legs. There’ve now been months of demonstrations at the boundary. Many Palestinians say their intentions were peaceful, although some have thrown stones, burnt tyres and sent incendiary kites and balloons over the fence. Israel says it’s only used live fire when necessary to protect infrastructure, its soldiers and Israeli civilians living nearby.”

Significantly, Husain sabotaged her audience’s ability to understand and assess what “Israel says” by concealing the fact that in addition to stone-throwing, tyre burning and incendiary attacks, what she calls “protests” have also included border infiltrations, shooting attacks, grenade attacks and IED attacks, with a high proportion of those killed or injured during the riots connected to terror organisations. She went on:  

Husain: “The vast majority of the gunshot wounds have been to the lower limb. People like 23 year-old Ahmed Abu Guri [phonetic] who was hit in the upper thigh and will need two more operations and months of rehabilitation. Doctors here say health care in Gaza is now overwhelmed. One calls it an epidemic of gunshot injuries.”

Viewers then heard unsupported speculation from Mohammed Abu Mughalseeb of Medecins Sans Frontiers:

“From my experience I think the…you know, from some friends and colleagues in United Kingdom and in France and United States, if they had the same number of injuries received in the emergency department the health system would collapse. No other places in the world can cope with this, with this huge number of injuries.”

January 2019 report

Husain: “Even before this hospital here had acute and unmet needs. This is Gaza’s biggest emergency department which sees around 500 patients every day. There’s a long list of what hospitals here are short of – it’s beds, drugs, medical supplies – but also there’s a chronic shortage of power. There isn’t enough fuel for their backup generators and they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.”

As was the case in her December reports, Husain yet again made no effort to adequately explain the background to power and water shortages in the Gaza Strip.

Husain: “For the last few years staff here have received only half their salary. Some are paid by Hamas which controls Gaza, others by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The blockade of Gaza and its effect on the economy comes up again and again. Israel says it doesn’t restrict most medical supplies but Gaza has little money to pay for the health needs of its people.”

Husain failed to inform viewers that medical supplies to the Gaza Strip are provided by the Palestinian Authority or that her claim that “Gaza has little money” for healthcare does not stand up to factual examination.

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

Viewers then heard from Dr Ayman Al Sahabani of Shifa hospital who, while providing a list of those allegedly ‘responsible’ for the dire situation, notably could not bring himself to utter the word Hamas but did employ the terror group’s favoured inaccurate ‘siege’ terminology.

“Our civilians people died and injured all the time. Big question – why? Why? And why we are seeing the siege for 12 years?”

Husain: “Who do you hold responsible for what you are experiencing at the hospital?”

Al Sahabani: “All people. The United Nations, Red Cross, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, here…eh…eh…who’s are in the authority. All are responsible.”

Husain closed her report with a story that does not include enough detail to be verified.

Husain: “Those at the very start of their lives are among the most vulnerable, dependent on specialist equipment and in some cases with conditions that can’t be treated here. Because the blockade restricts the movement of people, patients need to request permission to leave. This two-day old baby with a congenital heart defect was waiting for an exit permit when we filmed him. Four days later he died. His permission hadn’t come through.”

When Husain’s colleague Yolande Knell similarly used the story of an unnamed baby with congenital heart disease in 2017 BBC Watch contacted COGAT and was told that:

“To our regret, an internal Palestinian dispute harms the residents of Gaza – instead of the regime in Gaza helping them – but Israel has no connection to the issue. We would highlight that in cases in which the Palestinian Authority sends requests, and particularly those classified as urgent, COGAT coordinates the immediate passage of patients at any time of the day in order to save lives. This activity is carried out on a daily basis at the Erez Crossing, through which residents of Gaza enter Israel for medical treatment.”

The permits for patients from the Gaza Strip to receive treatment in Israel of course include not only “permission to leave” but a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to fund that treatment. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority – which went completely unmentioned by Husain – actually submitted a request to the Israeli authorities concerning the baby in her report we do not know but what is clear is that Husain attempted to lay the blame for his death at the feet of “the blockade” – i.e. Israel – while concealing the PA’s role in the process of patient transfers from audience view.

Throughout this report and its introduction BBC audiences heard multiple references to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures – but no explanation of why they are necessary – and just one euphemistic reference to “divisions between Palestinian groups”. Yet again we see that the BBC is fully conscripted to promotion of the false narrative according to which the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily attributable to ‘the blockade’ and that it will erase the actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, use sketchy stories about dead babies and dig out previously unused footage filmed over a month ago in order to promote that politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

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

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

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

 

 

 

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

 

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