On August 24th the BBC News website published a relatively short report titled “US to cut $200m aid to Gaza and West Bank” on its Middle East page.
Readers were told that:
“US President Donald Trump has ordered more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid which was to be allocated to Gaza and the West Bank be redirected elsewhere.
A State Department official said the decision was made after a review “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests”. […]
…the US official said the decision took into account “the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation”.”
Referring to another story from January of this year, the article also reminded readers that:
“It [the US] has already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians.”
As readers may recall, that story received very generous BBC coverage at the time.
The background to the latest announcement from the US State Department was presented as follows:
“Relations between the Palestinians and the US have been difficult since Mr Trump took power.
They hit a low point after the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. As a result, the Palestinians said the US was unable to continue its mediation role in the peace process and suspended contact.”
“US President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to review aid to the Palestinians and to the international bodies that sustain them, weighing a significant cut if Palestinian leadership refuses to enter serious peace talks with Israel, a senior administration official said on Thursday.”
The BBC article goes on:
“The US administration, meanwhile, suspended aid to the Palestinians pending a review in the light of the Taylor Force Act back in June.
The act aimed to force the Palestinian Authority to cease paying stipends to families of individuals convicted of terrorism against Israel.”
The BBC News website did not report on the Taylor Force Act when it was passed in March (rather than June) and so readers would be unlikely to be aware of the fact that it relates exclusively to funding that comes from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) which just one of three categories of US aid to Palestinians. Last month visitors to the BBC News website found the first reference to that legislation and were told that:
“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”
However, BBC audiences have not seen any meaningful coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to stop paying salaries to terrorists even in light of that policy’s negative effect on its finances and aid donations to Palestinians.
Significantly, visitors to the BBC News website also did not see any reporting on the transfer of an estimated $42 million of US aid to the Palestinian Authority when it emerged at the beginning of this month.
“The Trump administration recently released millions of dollars of frozen aid money to the Palestinian Authority, but only for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, The Times of Israel learned on Thursday.
While Washington says it will continue to review its assistance to the Palestinians, it chose to allocate specific funds for the current fiscal year to specific PA programs that ostensibly serve American interests, including terrorist prevention measures in the territories, an official said. […]
“This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions,” the official added. “This decision does not in any way prejudge the outcome of our review of other funding streams and programs. It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing.””
While readers of this BBC report are told that the US is now redirecting “more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid” that had previously been allocated for use by the end of September and that the US “already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians”, they were not provided with the broader context available on a US State Department interactive webpage: the fact that in 2018 the US has donated well over $92 million to projects in PA and Hamas controlled areas.