BBC News amplifies anonymous ‘collective punishment’ claim

On the afternoon of July 19th a report by David Gritten headlined ‘Israel condemns EU envoy’s Gaza paragliding flight’ was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Gritten’s portrayal of Israel’s reaction to that deliberately provocative publicity stunt – about which Israel was intentionally not informed in advance – reads as follows:

“Israel has condemned the EU’s outgoing envoy to the Palestinians after he paraglided over Gaza’s coast to draw attention to the blockade of the strip. […]

Israel’s foreign ministry said it was a “provocative action” that served as propaganda for militant groups in Gaza.

“The European diplomat forgot a long time ago that he represents the European Union and its member states,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“[He] continues to represent the Palestinian narrative and to be a propaganda tool in the hands of the terrorist organisations that control Gaza.””

Readers are not provided with any information concerning the record of the already highly controversial EU ‘diplomat’ which would contribute to their understanding of that foreign ministry statement and no mention is made of the fact that Palestinian terrorists have used hang gliders in the past.

The latter part of Gritten’s report is given over to the provision of context concerning the blockade to which the EU envoy sought to draw attention with his stunt.

“About 2.1 million people live in Gaza, which is only 40km (25 miles) long and up to 11km wide.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas – designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the EU and other powers – took full control of the territory in 2007. It ousted Palestinian Authority security forces in days of bloody fighting, a year after it won the Palestinians’ last parliamentary election.”

So far, so good, although the question of why the EU sends an envoy to a territory controlled for the past 16 years by a terrorist organisation it designates apparently did not occur to Gritten. However he then goes on to erase from the picture the terrorism – including rocket attacks – which prompted Israel to declare the Gaza Strip hostile territory three months after that violent Hamas coup.

“Following the takeover, Israel and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, restricting the movement of goods and people. The two countries say the blockade is for self-defence.”

Gritten’s failure to clarify that restrictions on the import of goods to the Gaza Strip applies only to those which fall under the category of dual-use goods that can be used for the purpose of terrorism allows him to promote the claim that the counter-terrorism measures alone are the reason for economic problems in the Gaza Strip, with no mention of the fact that Israel facilitates exports from the territory and issues work permits to thousands of its residents.

“However, the blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy and living conditions are dire.”

Gritten closes his report with amplification of claims from “human rights groups” which he fails to identify, meaning that readers cannot put any possible political motivations behind those claims into their appropriate perspective.

“Human rights groups say it constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

In short, David Gritten was able to promote unevidenced allegations from anonymous NGOs but not to inform his readers about the Palestinian terrorism that has indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians for over two decades (as well as killing civilians in the Gaza Strip) but which obviously concerns the EU’s outgoing envoy far less than the blockade that it made necessary.

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