As regular readers will be aware, we have in the past raised here the subject of the BBC’s failure to address the issue of the culture of financial mismanagement and corruption which has long been a feature of the Palestinian Authority. For example, in response to a BBC report on ‘wealth disparity’ in the PA which was broadcast on BBC television in October, we noted:
“In its attempt to explain the Palestinian Authority’s current – and seemingly evergreen – budget deficit, the report does briefly touch on the subject of salaries and benefits paid to members of the inactive Palestinian Legislative Council but fails to sufficiently clarify to viewers that in addition, an estimated 60,000 PA employees (some 40% of the total) reside in the Gaza Strip where the PA has not functioned for over six years. The report also makes no mention of serious allegations of corruption which are far from new – but were recently highlighted by European auditors – or of the fact that some 6% of the PA budget is spent on salaries for imprisoned terrorists, including those affiliated with Hamas.”
The publication of the results of an EU audit of its financial support to the Palestinian Authority on December 11th finally prompted the BBC News website to take note of some of the issues above in a report titled “EU ‘must stop paying Gaza officials’ – auditors” which appeared on its Europe and Middle East pages.
Despite this ostensibly being an article which concerns the European Union and the Palestinian Authority, the BBC saw fit to introduce a gratuitous mention of Israel into the story.
“Many Gaza civil servants had not worked since the Islamist movement Hamas came to power in 2007, the auditors added.
Hamas, which won parliamentary elections the previous year, ousted forces loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, and set up a rival government.
Israel subsequently tightened its blockade of the territory, with Egypt’s co-operation, to weaken Hamas and end rocket attacks.
The move has contributed to the 1.7 million people in Gaza suffering severe socio-economic hardship, with 80% dependant [sic] on aid.”
In other words, the BBC wants audiences to understand that “severe socio-economic hardship” in the Gaza Strip is attributable at least in part (although notably it fails to mention any other factors which have “contributed” to the situation) to the restrictions enacted by Israel in 2007 as a response to escalated missile fire on Israeli civilians.
This theme is by no means new: we have seen the BBC claim on several occasions that poverty in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli attempts to curb terror attacks against civilians by exercising its right to control its border with a hostile entity. We have however not seen the BBC suggest to its audiences that “severe socio-economic hardship” is the outcome of the decision made by the Hamas regime to engage in terrorist activity towards its neighbour and its choosing to spend funds on weaponry and military projects rather than on a social welfare programme or investment in economic development.
The most recent statistics concerning poverty in the Gaza Strip according to the CIA Factbook describe 38% of the population as being below the poverty line in 2010. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cited 38.8% of the population of the Gaza Strip as being below the poverty line in 2011. As the graph below (with added dates/events) shows, poverty levels were actually higher before the introduction of the partial blockade in 2007.
The BBC article also quotes the unsourced figure of 80% of the 1.7 million population of the Gaza Strip being “dependent on aid” in both its text and its photo caption. That would mean a figure of 1.36 million aid-dependent people, whereas another recent BBC report quoted a UNRWA official as saying that his organization provides for 830,000 people.
Later on in the BBC report, reference is made to the current power crisis in the Gaza Strip.
“The auditors also said they had identified weaknesses in the European Commission’s methods for allocating EU funds.
Their report said it was unclear what had happened to 90m euros allocated to pay for fuel taxes and keep Gaza’s only power plant running.
The territory is currently facing an electricity crisis because a shortage of fuel forced the plant to shut down on 1 November. This has caused blackouts lasting 12 to 16 hours a day, disrupted health services and sent raw sewage flooding into the streets.”
Notably, no clarification is provided for audiences concerning the background to that “electricity crisis”, which – as we reported here last month – is actually the result of a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and hence has garnered no interest among BBC reporters.
The subject of misappropriation of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority is one which is probably of considerable interest to many BBC audience members. Hence, it is all the more regrettable that when the BBC finally does get round to doing some reporting on the issue, it wastes column space on the inclusion of gratuitous smears against Israel which only serve to hamper audience understanding of the real issues at hand.
We Really Need to Talk About Corruption – Dr Jonathan Schanzer