“All those reports made references to the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt without providing a proper explanation of why it was put in place. BBC audiences were not informed that the Gaza Strip has been controlled by a terrorist organisation for the past 13 years following a violent coup or that during that time, thousands of terror attacks have been launched against Israeli civilians from the territory.”
Listeners to the August 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report from Yolande Knell (from 35:05 here) on the same topic which recycled some of the content and themes that appeared in her earlier report for BBC Radio 4. The portrayal of the blockade promoted in the second sentence of the introduction by presenter James Coomarasamy was no more satisfactory. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Coomarasamy: “The Gaza Strip remains in lockdown following the first major outbreak of the Coronavirus there, with tests being carried out to find out how many people are affected. Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt over what they argue are security concerns.”
As in her previous report, Knell implied linkage between the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt and the state of the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip.
Knell: “Gaza’s hospitals are already overburdened and short on supplies and medical equipment. Since the start of the pandemic, health experts have warned that a big outbreak of Covid 19 here would be a real reason for concern. The Strip’s been under a tight blockade since the militant group Hamas took over more than a decade ago.”
Once again listeners were not informed that the restrictions imposed by Israel on the entry of goods and materials to the Gaza Strip are confined to dual-use items – i.e. those which can be used for the purpose of terrorism – and once again they heard nothing whatsoever about how infighting between Hamas and Fatah – along with Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over civilian welfare – has affected services such as water, power and healthcare in the Gaza Strip.
In addition to the accounts from an anonymous medic and a “mum” introduced with only her first name which were recycled from Knell’s earlier Radio 4 report, listeners heard “the local head of emergencies for the World Health Organisation” – Ayadil Saparbekov – refer to “occupation” of the territory from which Israel fully disengaged a decade and a half ago.
Saparbekov: “The fragile health system that experienced years of occupation, blockade and neglect may not be able to cope with the challenges of Covid 19. Gaza, for example, has only 97 ventilators to treat critical Covid 19 patients and two-thirds of them are already occupied by the patients. 40% of essential drugs are critically short. Today Gaza has only 4 hours of electricity a day and the fuel that is required to run generators [is] in short supply.”
Once again Knell misled listeners by claiming that “the new infections” came at the same time as rising “tensions with Israel” rather than three weeks after Hamas decided to renew attacks against Israeli civilians using rockets, incendiary balloons and airborne explosive devices.
Knell: “The new infections come just as tensions with Israel are rising again. Palestinian militants have been launching rockets and have sent helium balloons carrying incendiary devices to start fires in Israeli areas next to Gaza. And almost every night for two weeks now, Israeli war planes and tanks have struck Hamas military targets in Gaza. Israel’s also closed the commercial crossing to all but humanitarian supplies and stopped fuel imports to the power station. As mediators from the UN, Egypt and Qatar try to calm the situation, the rising number of cases of Covid 19 add to the sense of urgency.”
Knell made no effort to inform audiences of the scale of the damage caused by those rockets and “helium balloons” – meaning that Israel’s responses could not be placed in their correct context. She also of course refrained from clarifying that the “Palestinian militants” carrying out that campaign of terror attacks do so with the approval of the same terrorist organisation which has neglected healthcare and other services in the Gaza Strip for the past thirteen years.