BBC News erases terrorist threats from report about US aid pier

On April 26th the BBC News website published a report by Lipika Pelham headlined “Gaza pier: US begins building floating base to boost aid”.

“The US military has started building a large floating pier off Gaza’s coast to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, the defence department has said.

Ships will deliver aid from Cyprus to the pier where it will be loaded onto trucks to transfer across Gaza.

The pier will be attached to the shore by a temporary causeway, which the trucks will use.

US officials say the pier will be operational by early May but there will be no US boots on the ground in Gaza.”

Pelham tells her readers that:

“Israel said it would provide security and logistical support during the construction work and the transfer of aid from the pier to Gaza’s population. But aid agencies have voiced concerns over how the Israeli military will handle security, and the parties are yet to reach an agreement about it. […]

The World Food Programme has agreed to lead the delivery operation, but the UN agency said Israel must ensure that aid workers are not harmed.”

Notably, despite those references to security, Pelham refrains from telling BBC audiences about an incident which took place at the pier’s location just two days before her report was published.

“Members of a terror group in the Gaza Strip launched mortars at an under-construction pier for a US-led project to bring aid into the Palestinian enclave yesterday, the military says.

The mortar attack occurred as United Nations officials were touring the site with Israeli troops on the coast of central Gaza, the IDF says in response to a query on the incident.

The IDF says the UN officials were rushed to a shelter by troops amid the attack.”

The Military Times reported that:

“The attack marks a shaky start to the construction of the pier, a project that the U.S. is spearheading to surge humanitarian aid into Gaza. A Hamas official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the militant group will resist any foreign military presence involved with the port project.” […]

“High-ranking Hamas political official Khalil al-Hayya said the group would consider Israeli forces — or forces from any other country — stationed by the pier to guard it as “an occupying force and aggression,” and that they would resist it.”

That omission is all the more relevant given that, in line with the BBC’s record to date, Pelham’s report makes no mention of Hamas’ theft of humanitarian aid beyond the following opaque sentence:

“Israel has reiterated that it would prevent any aid getting to Hamas fighters.”

Her failure to note Hamas’ record of stealing aid means that Pelham can portray alleged shortages of humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip as solely attributable to Israel:

“Israel has faced international criticism with accusations it is limiting the amount of aid that reaches by land Gaza’s civilians in dire need of food. Israel has blamed aid agencies for the hold-ups.”

The following day – April 27th – saw the appearance of another report related to the same topic. Headlined “UK forces may be deployed on the ground in Gaza to help deliver aid” and written by James Landale, that report opens with something of a non-story:

“British troops could be deployed on the ground in Gaza to help deliver aid via a new sea route, the BBC has learned.

The US has said no American forces would go ashore and an unnamed “third party” would drive trucks along a floating causeway onto the beach.

The UK is understood to be considering tasking British troops with this when the aid corridor opens next month.

Whitehall sources said no decision had been made and the issue had not yet crossed the prime minister’s desk.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Israeli army declined to comment.”

Later in the report readers are told that:

“Although a huge effort would be made to protect allied forces both off and onshore, British troops would potentially face a higher risk of attack from Hamas and other armed groups.

On Wednesday, a United Nations team had to take cover when mortars landed near the planned distribution zone.”

Landale refrains from informing BBC audiences about the explicit threat made by a Hamas official and his report has not been updated to include the news of a similar threat from the PFLP: information which may well be of interest to Landale’s “Whitehall sources”.

Some two hours after its initial publication, Landale’s report was amended to include comments from a representative of an NGO. Despite the BBC editorial guidelines concerning contributors’ affiliations, readers were told nothing about the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of ActionAid or the contributor himself.

Readers are told that:

“Ziad Issa, the head of humanitarian policy at ActionAid, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Any way to deliver aid to Gaza is welcome and will help a bit, but the problem with this way of delivering aid is it’s going to take time and there are lots of logistical uncertainties about it.”

He said it would be more efficient to allow delivery trucks into Gaza via land crossings. Trucks “loaded with tonnes of medical supplies, with food” are currently waiting to enter Gaza but are not being allowed in by Israeli forces, Mr Issa said – and aid workers are calling for Israel to permanently open a land crossing at Erez.”

Landale fails to challenge Issa’s lie that trucks “are not being allowed in by Israeli forces” and fails to inform his readers that a new entry point was opened near the Erez Crossing two weeks prior to Issa’s Radio 4 interview.

Once again we see that BBC portrayal of the topic of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip fails to provide audiences with accurate and impartial information on that topic, instead preferring to amplify baseless but politically motivated allegations made by inadequately presented contributors from assorted NGOs, while ignoring its own editorial guidelines on impartiality.

In this particular case, for example, it would have been helpful for BBC audiences to know that in 2022 the NGO ‘ActionAid’ condemned Israel’s designation of six Palestinian NGOs because of their links to one of the terrorist organisations now threatening to attack UK or any other foreign forces involved in efforts to bring humanitarian aid to residents of the Gaza Strip. 

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