On June 14th we noted that BBC audiences had not seen any reporting on how Mahmoud Abbas’ May 19th unilateral declaration of an end to “all agreements” with Israel is affecting the lives of ordinary Palestinians:
“How a worsening of relations with Israel is affecting the health of Palestinians”
Marshall: “The lives of hundreds of sick Palestinians are being put at risk because of the latest downturn in relations between their leaders and Israel.”
Knell: “Mira needs an Israeli permit to leave Gaza for specialist surgery abroad but the Palestinian office in Ramallah that would normally give a financial guarantee and do the coordination is no longer working.”
Knell: “Last week a baby from Gaza died after his scheduled heart surgery in Israel was postponed because of the coordination freeze.”
Now let’s review what listeners were told with regard to why that is the case.
Marshall: “Last month the Palestinian president said his government was giving up on past peace agreements [sic] with Israel because of its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. As our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell explains, that decision stopped cooperation on many security and civil matters, including the issuing of medical travel permits.”
Knell: “But today it’s [Augusta Victoria hospital cancer centre] virtually empty, because of politics. Palestinian leaders have stopped cooperating with Israel in protest at its plans to annex land they want for a future state. And that means patients can’t get here.”
Knell: “While some sick Palestinians from the West Bank are arranging Israeli travel permits directly, those from Gaza can’t. Israel keeps tight restrictions on the Strip, which is ruled by the militant group Hamas, saying this is for its own security.”
Dina Nasser [Augusta Victoria hospital]: “Unfortunately the politics do affect access to healthcare services, be it from the Israelis or the Palestinians.”
Knell: “As the World Health Organisation and human rights groups call on all sides for a solution, there are patients waiting with their lives on the line.”
Significantly, listeners were not informed that as yet no “plans” concerning what the BBC chooses to term ‘annexation’ have been made public.
As we have noted on previous occasions, the BBC has a history of ignoring stories which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. Knell made no effort to make up for that gap in BBC audience knowledge.
Notably, Yolande Knell did not interview Mahmoud Abbas or any of the other Palestinian officials responsible for the decision to harm only their own citizens by cutting off cooperation on medical issues, ostensibly as a way of protesting an Israeli action which has not yet taken place.
Instead – despite the fact that there has been no change at all in Israel’s approach – she echoed a campaign organised by assorted political NGOs by implying that Israel is also responsible for the failure of patients to receive medical treatment.
While it is obviously beneficial to BBC audiences that the BBC has finally shown some interest in at least one consequence of the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end “all agreements” with Israel, their understanding of the story would of course have been improved had Yolande Knell spoken to those responsible for the situation rather than just helpless patients and hospital staff.