Let’s take a look at how the UK Home Secretary’s proposal to proscribe Hamas as a whole was portrayed to the BBC’s domestic funding public.
The November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ – presented by Edward Stourton – included an item in a news bulletin on that topic (from 02:55 here) which – as in the BBC’s written coverage of the same story – promoted what terrorism expert Matthew Levitt has dubbed “the myth of disparate wings”.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Newsreader: “The Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced plans to designate the whole of Hamas as a terrorist organization. Miss Patel said the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza had significant terrorist capability. Here’s our diplomatic correspondent James Landale.”
Landale: “The military wing of Hamas was already banned in Britain but now the government will proscribe the organisation in its entirety, including its political wing. That means it will become illegal to support the Palestinian group in the UK. The change will bring Britain into line with both the United States and the European Union. Priti Patel said Hamas had significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry. In a speech she’s expected to accuse the group of rabid antisemitism and say it is no longer possible to disaggregate its military and political sides. Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the decision. His foreign ministry claimed it was the result of their diplomacy. Hamas condemned the change, which it said showed Britain’s continuing aggression towards the Palestinian people.”
The relevant MFA statement can be found here.
Later on – from 35:14 – listeners heard another item on the same topic which likewise promoted the notion of different ‘wings’ to Hamas.
Stourton: “The Palestinian group Hamas is being proscribed as a terrorist organisation here. Till now the United Kingdom only banned its military wing but the new regulations will cover any form of support including flying its flag or arranging to meet its members. Breaking the rules could mean a significant prison sentence. Peter Ricketts is a former head of the foreign office and national security advisor. Lord Ricketts, what difference in practice will this make?”
Ricketts: “ […] I think this will largely make a difference domestically, in that support for Hamas of any kind will become illegal, whereas before protest support was not illegal. In terms of international policy and dealing with…ehm…Gazans and helping them on the ground, it won’t make much difference because although the UK has only proscribed the military wing up to now, we’ve had a no contact policy with the political wing – it’s always been frankly difficult to distinguish the two – and we deal with Gaza through the international organisations like the UN to do the crucial humanitarian and development work. So I think this is mainly going to have an impact in the UK and it brings us into line with the situation that’s been true in the EU and the US for some time.”
Stourton failed to pick up on that highlighted admittance but went on to give the cue for some framing that is worthy of note.
Stourton: “But Hamas does run Gaza and this means that they are squeezed out of any possibility of contact at all with the British government, doesn’t it?”
Ricketts: “That’s the bigger point. And…ahm…from what I’ve seen, the Home Secretary is really just addressing the domestic aspects of this. The foreign policy aspects are those exactly. At some point, if we’re going to have a negotiated peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, bringing peace and security to both sides, it will be necessary to find a way of involving Hamas. Hamas are the people who control Gaza, who can fire the rockets at Israel. And so it won’t be any good just negotiating with the other wing of the Palestinians – Fatah, based in the West Bank – because Hamas will need to be part of any settlement. That’s not just an issue for the UK; it’s an issue for the whole international community. But outlawing Hamas while it continues to control Gaza…ahm…seems to me to put off even further the day of a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Neither Stourton nor his interviewee bothered to clarify that Hamas is not interested in a “negotiated peace settlement” with Israel because it does not accept its existence and its aim is to wipe that country off the map. The relevant issue of the long-standing and ongoing rift between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority was also not discussed and the question of why no “peace settlement” was achieved during the twenty years that the UK only designated part of the Hamas terrorist organisation was not raised.
Stourton: “What does it tell you about the way Whitehall works, because the concerns you’ve just outlined are ones – foreign policy concerns – err…err…the area the foreign office deals with but this clearly was taken by the Home Office, this decision.”
Ricketts: “Well I assume it was a decision that was coordinated across Whitehall. It’s been announced by the Home Secretary in Washington. One can see the political advantage for her of that. The Americans will welcome it. It draws an interesting line in British politics which no doubt we will hear about in the House of Commons next week. But I’m not hearing about the foreign policy implications in the way this is being described, maybe because in the short term it will not make all that much difference to what has been happening. But I think it does have these longer-term implications and you’re right; it is being presented mainly as a domestic policy issue, yes.”
That framing was repromoted in the same day’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ programme on the same domestic radio station. In an item (from 16:50 here) which also featured James Landale, listeners were told at 18:32 that:
Landale: “The change will have most impact in the UK but there may also be diplomatic consequences. Lord Ricketts, the former national security advisor, said outlawing Hamas might delay a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians in the future.”
Recording Ricketts: “Hamas are the people who control Gaza, who fire the rockets at Israel. And so it won’t be any good just negotiating with the other wing of the Palestinians – Fatah, based in the West Bank – because Hamas will need to be part of any settlement.”
As we see, the framing of this story promoted by the BBC to its domestic audiences advances the concept of negotiations with terrorists as necessary while claiming that the Home Secretary’s proposal will have “diplomatic consequences” in relation to a theoretical “peace settlement” of the kind that the relevant terrorist organisation has repeatedly rejected in the past.
The question, of course, is why did the BBC choose to promote that red herring to its funding public in the UK?