BBC News again misleads audiences regarding Gaza naval blockade

On December 18th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel and Turkey reach ‘understanding’ on restoring ties“.

Changes made to that report after its initial publication appropriately (and in line with a previous correction) included the removal of two descriptions of the 2010 flotilla which included the ‘Mavi Marmara’ as an “aid” flotilla that were originally seen in the caption to the illustrating image and in the final paragraph.

Turkey art caption aid flotilla

Turkey art 2 aid flotilla

However, the paragraph inserted to replace the previous version now provides BBC audiences (not for the first time) with a misleading statement concerning the naval blockade.

Turkey art replacement para

As has been noted here before:

“Under the terms of the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people –Gaza’s coastal waters remained under Israeli responsibility. The agreements divide those waters 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]

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the November 15th 2005 agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Agreed documents on movement and access from and to Gaza) made no change to the above provisions. 

After the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007, Israel did introduce maritime zones off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of efforts to reduce arms smuggling into the territory – for example see the Notice to Mariners No. 6/2008 of August 13th 2008 – but that is not the same thing as a naval blockade (which has a specific legal definition)…”

Not only does this report fail to properly clarify to readers why Israel had to tighten “maritime restrictions” after the violent Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 but seeing as the article’s subject matter relates to a flotilla intended to breach the naval blockade and that was only put in place in 2009, the reference to the year 2007 is obviously misleading.   

Six months ago both the BBC News website and BBC Arabic also misled audiences with regard to the date of implementation of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. The English language report was subsequently amended but as we see, the correction has not prevented a similar inaccuracy from being promoted yet again.


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