On July 24th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an excerpt from what it termed an “exclusive” ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al who of course resides very comfortably in Qatar.
If audiences were expecting the BBC’s representative Stephen Sackur to fulfil the corporation’s mission of cutting through Hamas slogans and propaganda in order to bring them accurate and impartial information which would help them reach informed opinions and enable them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues“, they would have been sorely disappointed.
Stephen Sackur: “What would it take for Hamas to sign on to a ceasefire now?”
Khaled Masha’al: We want a ceasefire as soon as possible that’s parallel with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the demand of the Gazan people. I call on the UN, the UK and the US to go to the Gazan people and ask them what they want. I can guarantee that will be the answer of the Gazan people.”
SS: “What the Americans seem to be working on is a two-stage deal where there will be a truce – where the guns, the rockets, will stop firing – and then there will be a serious negotiation about how to boost the Gazan economy, how to ease the blockade on Gaza and to give the people of Gaza a better life. Are you prepared to accept a two-stage solution to this?”
KM: “Regardless of the mechanisms, what is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza. These promises have been made in the past but nothing was done. Gaza is part of the Palestinian land. We have 1.8 million people. They need to live without a blockade. We want an airport. We want a port. We want to open up to the world. We don’t want to be controlled by a border crossing that makes Gaza the biggest prison in the world. People cannot go for medical treatment or to work. Why are the people of Gaza being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison? This is a crime. We want a halt in the aggression and the end of the siege. We are eager that the bloodshed should end in Gaza.”
SS: “You talk of resistance. How can any idea of resistance justify putting rockets in a school building?”
“KM: “Frankly speaking this is a lie. Let Israel show where the rocket launchers are in Gaza.”
SS: “In respect, this is not something that has come from Israel. This is the UN relief and Works Agency which has said that up to 20 rockets were deposited in a school building inside Gaza. They are furious. The Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his outrage. He said those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children.”
KM: “This is not true. Rocket launchers in Gaza belong to the resistance. They are underground and Israel is unable to reach them. This is why it pretends they are in civilian areas. Israel is hitting hospitals, mosques, towers and buildings. It committed a massacre in Shuja’iyeh, Tufah district. There is a new massacre in Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, that the world has witnessed this morning. This is butchery in Gaza and the world is sitting idle and it blames Hamas.”
Now obviously Khaled Masha’al is lying (unhindered) through his teeth in every single answer here and – difficult as it must be to interview a compulsive liar so disconnected from reality – if the BBC is not going to challenge Masha’al’s blatant falsehoods and cut through his propaganda, then the obvious question must be what journalistic value does such an interview have in the first place?
Questions Stephen Sackur could and should have asked Masha’al in order to provide BBC audiences with some insight into this issue include:
If Israel and Egypt lift the blockade and ease border restrictions, will Hamas rearm itself with missiles and weapons imported from Iran, Libya and elsewhere as it has done in the past? Will it import concrete and other materials in order to reconstruct its attack tunnel network currently being destroyed by the IDF? Will foreign aid money for the rehabilitation of Gaza be commandeered for reconstruction of terrorist infrastructure?
If Hamas is so worried about the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza, why did it not stop carrying out acts of terrorism itself and facilitating terrorism by other groups which are the reason for the implementation and continuation of the blockade and border restrictions?
Why did Hamas breach the ceasefire agreement of November 2012 and why did it initiate this current escalation?
If you, Khaled Masha’al, reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, can you ensure that Mohammed Deif will honour it and do you – based as you are in Qatar – actually have any control over Hamas’ armed militia?
Why should Israel open its borders and allow people from Gaza to work in Israel given the history of terror attacks and suicide bombings carried out by workers from Gaza in the past?
Are you eager to stop the bloodshed in Israel as well as in Gaza? Will you stop all acts of terror against Israelis for good?
Sackur, however, failed to present anything approaching a robust challenge to Masha’al’s blatant lies. Hence, this interview joins the previous items of BBC content in the category of one-sided, context-free promotion and amplification of Hamas’ demands.
‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al