Erasing Gaza’s Jewish history with the help of the BBC

Readers visiting the homepage of the BBC News website on January 7th will have noticed the feature entitled “Preserving the Past”. 

hp 7 1 features

The link leads to an article entitled “Gaza’s archaeological treasures at risk from war and neglect“. 

Gaza archaeology

The article opens:

“Settled by civilisations spanning some five millennia, Gaza has been built layer-upon-layer since the Bronze Age.

As each era ended, its people left behind remnants of their times – churches, monasteries, palaces and mosques, as well as thousands of precious artefacts.”

Detail from mosaic in 6th century Synagogue from Gaza

So from its very beginning, this article airbrushes out any mention of one group of people who were among the most consistent inhabitants of Gaza, beginning with the Hasmoneans in 145 BCE (long before the religions which built churches, monasteries or mosques were founded) through the Middle Ages and up to 1929 when, in the wake of the Hebron massacre, the British mandatory authorities ordered the Jews of Gaza to leave. 

Israelis, however, do get a mention in this BBC feature. It is, according to the author, because of them that Gaza’s archaeologists have no equipment to take care of the antiquities and cannot attend professional conferences abroad.

“It is not only war that makes her job so hard. Israel strictly controls passage out of Gaza, for what it says are security reasons, and does not allow in machinery and other equipment which it suspects can be used against it by militants.”

“People working here can’t travel for training outside and we are only able to use local tools, which don’t allow us to excavate in a precise manner,” Ms Albetar said.” [emphasis added]

It is also suggested that because of Israel that the people of Gaza have, apparently, little interest in its archaeological treasures.

“Most Gazans are too preoccupied with high unemployment, poor housing and the restrictions on agriculture, fishing and importation to care about ruins and antiquities.”

Of course no real context is given either by the author of this piece or her Hamas-employed interviewees as to why restrictions exist or what steps Hamas might take to reduce the risk to archaeological artifacts by ending its terror war on Israeli civilians. Instead, this article is constructed in such a way as to leave the reader with the impression that Israel alone is to blame for the impending loss of historical treasures. 

The reason behind that becomes a little clearer if one stops to take a look at the ideological CV of the article’s author. 

In addition to this latest piece for the BBC (some of her previous BBC contributions are here and here), Welsh-born Ruqaya Izzidien has also written for the Guardian and the New York Times. However Ms Izzidien does not confine herself to the mainstream media: she also writes for outlets such as the vehemently anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss, the Egyptian site Bikya Masr, Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor, ‘Ceasefire‘ magazine and the Lebanese site Al Akhbar which includes among its editors a member of the organizing body of the March 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’, Rami Zurayk. Her work has even been picked up and reproduced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ikhwanweb and Occupied Palestine

al akhbar zurayk

Inevitably, Ruqaya Izzidien’s writings on Gaza-related subjects paint context-free, monochrome portraits of helpless Palestinians just trying their best to get along under the yoke of Israeli restrictions, and without any agency of their own. This latest piece for the BBC is no exception.

Does the BBC really think it appropriate to reduce the standard of its reporting even further by providing a platform for the kind of ideologically-motivated polemics which are to be found in abundance on anti-Israel sites such as those which already publish Ms Izzidien’s work? 

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