On March 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article about the Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision concerning the government’s natural gas policy which was handed down on the same day.
Titled “Israel’s Mediterranean gas deal struck down by top court“, the report tells the specific story in an accurate manner – although those unfamiliar with its wider background may have had trouble understanding the court’s objections. Despite its usual interest in internal Israeli affairs, the topic of public objections and political wrangling surrounding the gas policy has not been covered by the BBC in recent months.
It was hence not very surprising to see that the article offered as additional reading on the topic both at the bottom of the report and on the main Middle East page is nearly three years old.
Unfortunately, that May 2013 article by Yolande Knell – titled “Gas finds in east Mediterranean may change strategic balance” – includes inaccuracies which the BBC has still not corrected.
“Further south down the coastline of the Levant Basin, the Gaza Marine field, 30km off the coast of the Palestinian territory, has long been known about. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority awarded the exploration licence to British Gas.
However the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has prevented further development of the field. The situation became more complicated when the Islamist group, Hamas, took over by force in 2007, ousting its rivals from the Fatah faction. Israel then tightened its border and naval blockade of Gaza.”
As was noted here at the time:
“The violent Hamas take-over of Gaza took place between June 5th and 15th 2007 and the Palestinian Authority – the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people – was forcefully ejected from power. Following that event, both Egypt and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory.
Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’. […]
However, Knell’s suggestion that the “naval blockade of Gaza” was “tightened” immediately after the 2007 Hamas coup (as any reasonable reader would understand her phrasing) is incorrect because the naval blockade was not put in place until January 2009. “
“Is Knell’s wider claim that “the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has prevented further development of the [gas] field” an accurate representation of the situation? Well obviously, had the Palestinians chosen to develop the economy of Gaza Strip after Israel’s 2005 disengagement and had a terrorist organization not overrun the territory, turned it into a terrorist enclave which necessitated the implementation of maritime zones and later the naval blockade and had it not ousted the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people authorized with signing agreements on their behalf, there may have been more opportunity for exploitation of offshore gas resources.”
Remarkably, despite having failed to make the necessary corrections to the factual inaccuracies in Knell’s report even after all that time, the BBC has now elected to promote it further.