Two days after the Hamas rally in Gaza City on December 8th, the BBC News website’s Middle East page still featured prominent coverage of that subject – with most of it coming from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell.
Under the title “Hamas’s Meshaal rallies Gazans” Knell reports on what she describes as Masha’al’s “fiery speech”, whilst adding credence to the notion of Israel as “Palestinian land”:
“In a fiery speech during his first ever visit to Gaza, he said Palestinians would not cede any part of their land.”
(If readers would like to see for themselves footage of Masha’al’s speech, with English subtitles, it can be viewed here.)
The article continues:
“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Gaza City says the event was intended to send a message that, after 25 years, Hamas is a force to be reckoned with.
It enjoys support in Gaza and feels it is gaining regional political influence after the Arab uprisings brought new Islamist governments to power, she adds.
Tens of thousands of Gazans made their way to the rally at the al-Qatiba complex west of Gaza City to hear the speech by Mr Meshaal.”
Of course even if one takes the Hamas estimates of participation of 500,000 people in the rally at face value (most other sources put the figure at around 200,000, including some 2,500 delegates from Indonesia, Mauritania, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey and Jordan), then one is still left with the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population of the Gaza Strip – which the BBC puts at 1.6 million – did not attend the rally.
A side box in the article which apparently purports to provide ‘quick facts’ on Hamas states that it “Fought two conflicts with Israel in 2006 and 2012 costing lives of almost 1,500 Palestinians”.
One must presume that the BBC actually intended to write 2008/9 and 2012, referring to Operation Cast lead and Operation Pillar of Cloud. During the former, around 700 terror operatives were killed, as later admitted by Hamas’ Fathi Hamad, and during the latter operation, 93 of the dead were terrorists. The BBC’s failure to distinguish between terrorist and civilian casualties allows readers to go away with the mistaken impression that more than double the number of civilian lives were lost than is actually the case.
Other related items still featured on the Middle East home page included a filmed report by Yolande Knell entitled “Hamas leader defiant in 25th anniversary rally speech” and another article by Knell titled “Hamas displays united front at Gaza rally“. Also available was a filmed report entitled “Khaled Meshaal rallies Gazans to mark Hamas anniversary“.
Whilst, to her credit, Knell finally does get round in these reports to touching on the actual content of Masha’al’s speech, she still fails to make sufficiently clear to her audiences the fact that what she euphemistically terms “nationalist speeches and songs” are in fact a declaration of intentions to annihilate a sovereign state. Her repeated references to “occupation” and “Palestinian land” further muddy the picture as regards audience understanding of the real message stated by Hamas.
In most of her reports, Knell puts emphasis on Hamas’ supposed support for ‘Palestinian unity’ although only in one of them does she mention that Fatah representatives also attended the rally.
For example, with erroneous use of the word ‘frontiers’, Knell writes:
“The general consensus is that efforts to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory are undermined by internal political divisions. However, there was also a reminder in Mr Meshaal’s words of a barrier that will be difficult to overcome.
If he insists on recognition of the importance of violent resistance, the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas – who is considered a partner to peace with Israel by Western countries – will not be able to accept closer ties.
Mr Abbas has accepted a two-state solution to the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel based on the frontiers that existed before the 1967 war when Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
That Pollyannaish analysis fails to take into account a multitude of factors, including the fact that terror activities never ceased in the PA-controlled territories and a series of recent violent events involving Palestinians – which went unreported by the BBC whilst it was so busy concentrating on Khaled Masha’al’s visit to Gaza. Also ignored by the BBC are reports that the PA is apparently embracing a far more ‘relaxed’ approach to Hamas activity in the territories under its control – precisely in the name of that ‘unity’.
In fact the Palestinian news agency Ma’an informs us that yet another Hamas 25 year anniversary celebration is to be held this coming Thursday – in Schem (Nablus) – with the PA’s blessing. Will the BBC still continue to portray Mahmoud Abbas as “the moderate” after that?