The fact that the BBC has lately had so many reporters located in the Gaza Strip means that audiences are getting recycled versions of the same story over and over again from different talking heads.
Just three days after the topic of Hamas’ demand for the construction of a seaport in the Gaza Strip had been promoted in a context-free written article on the BBC News website and in a filmed report by James Reynolds equally lacking in facts and background information, Orla Guerin took to the seas to promote the same Hamas demand.
Guerin’s filmed report for BBC television news also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Mid-East crisis: Gazans hope for ‘open seas and borders‘” on August 11th. She opens:
“In Gaza harbour plenty of boats were idle today. Only a few would set sail, even in a ceasefire. Our skipper was Ramez Bakr [phonetic]. Seventy relatives depend on the income from this boat but Israel’s blockade limits where he can fish. It controls access to Gaza from land, sea and air. He’s looking to the negotiators in Cairo to secure a seaport – a key Palestinian demand. ‘The people are hungry’ he tells me ‘and the economy has died. This is why Hamas is fighting Israel: to open the siege and the borders. We’ll be very unhappy if the talks fail.'”
Guerin of course neglects to point out the fact that had Hamas not opted to turn the Gaza Strip into a terrorist enclave, there could have been a seaport in Gaza years ago.
Despite this being the third report in as many days promoting the Hamas demand for a seaport, yet again BBC audiences were exposed to context-free presentation of the topic of the naval blockade with no explanation of the relevant background and no mention of the terrorist activity by Hamas which brought about both the naval blockade and the restrictions at land crossings.
The BBC has made absolutely no attempt to inform audiences of the relevant sections of agreements signed two decades ago by Israel, the Palestinian authority, Egypt and representatives from the US and Russia. Article XIV of the Interim Agreement is titled “Security along the Coastline to the Sea of Gaza” and it maps out the areas in which fishermen from the Gaza Strip can fish. The terms of that agreement place Gaza’s coastal waters under Israeli responsibility and those waters are divided into three different zones named K,L and M.
“Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, Zones K and M will be closed areas, in which navigation will be restricted to activity of the Israel Navy.”
Zone L was designated for “fishing, recreation and economic activities”, subject to specific provisions, including the following:
“As part of Israel’s responsibilities for safety and security within the three Maritime Activity Zones, Israel Navy vessels may sail throughout these zones, as necessary and without limitations, and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, of for any other illegal activity. The Palestinian Police will be notified of such actions, and the ensuing procedures will be coordinated through the MC.” [Emphasis added]
The agreements also stipulate:
“Fishing boats will not exit Zone L into the open sea and may have engines of up to a limit of 25 HP for outboard motors and up to a maximum speed of 18 knots for inboard motors.” [emphasis added]
After Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, an additional agreement was signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority which did not make any change to the above existing agreements but did make provisions for the construction of a seaport. However, the violent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 resulted in the party which signed that agreement – the PA – losing all control over the territory.
Following the Hamas coup in 2007 and the ensuing rise in terrorism from the Gaza Strip, Israel introduced maritime zones off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of efforts to reduce arms smuggling into the territory and in accordance with the provisions of the Oslo Accords outlined above. In January 2009 Israel announced a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The permitted fishing zone has varied between three and six nautical miles from the Gaza coast depending on the security situation over the years. Whilst clearly this does have an effect on the Gaza fishing industry, the underlying reason for both limitations on fishing and plans for a seaport in the Gaza Strip – Hamas terrorism and import of weapons from Iran and other sources – is completely erased from Orla Guerin’s censored account. That means that BBC audiences are once again deprived of the background information crucial to their proper understanding of this issue and that – rather than being provided with a journalist’s report on the topic – they are instead merely exposed to repetition of Hamas propaganda.
Guerin’s next topic is presented in a no less context-free manner which also actively prevents audiences from properly understanding the issue. Her account of her visit to Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, makes no mention of the fact that – like the adjacent neighbourhod of Khirbat Ahza’a which also lies just a few hundred meters from the border with Israel – it is one of Hamas’ main strongholds.
In addition to weapons and explosives stores, missile launchers and entrances (including inside a mosque) to at least three cross border attack tunnels, Israeli forces operating in the area found that many of the houses in that area had been booby-trapped. Viewers of Guerin’s presentation of the story, however, would have no idea that Hamas terrorists had ever set foot in the district: her account erases from audience view any mention of the reason Israeli forces had to enter the Gaza Strip.
“Back on dry land, no loudspeaker for the call to prayer. It was destroyed with the mosque. This is what’s left of the town of Khuza’a where many now have only faith to sustain them. Locals say at least seventy were killed in this frontline community bordering Israel.”
Guerin apparently did not enquire as to how many of the casualties were Hamas terrorists who attacked Israeli forces with sniper fire and anti-tank missiles and the question of how many of the damaged buildings she filmed were actually destroyed by explosives put in place by Hamas or due to the fact that they housed weapons clearly does not interest her. Once again unable to resist one of those trademark ‘BBC reporter standing in rubble’ shots, Guerin tells viewers:
“Well you get a real sense here of the kind of damage that has been inflicted on Gaza. This is one of the worst affected areas. It will take years to rebuild. People here are desperately hoping for a breakthrough at the talks in Cairo. They don’t want all of the death and destruction to have been in vain.”
After an interview with a local resident, Guerin closes with use of Hamas terminology:
“At Egypt’s border with Gaza there’s still very limited movement. Palestinians are hoping the talks in Cairo will at least change that. They say this would give them one route out of prison.”
So there we have it: another day and yet another BBC report with ample documentation of destruction of buildings and suffering of civilians, but once again with no attempt whatsoever made to introduce facts or context and all mention of the terrorist organization responsible for both conscientiously expunged from audience view.
If by chance we were under the impression that it is impossible to report on a conflict whilst making the party which initiated the hostilities disappear from view, the BBC has over the past few weeks given us a master class on how that is done.