Based on Israel's influential leftwing newspaper, Haaretz, on an article distributed by veteran freelance journalist Tom Gross (17 Dec 2004) and on Honestreporting's "Dishonest Reporting Award 2002" (16 Dec 2002), this article presents some amazing news on BBC-Palestinian and BBC-Hamas co-operation. Ha'aretz has highlighted that Fayed Abu Shamala, senior correspondent of BBC News from Gaza since 1996, has close ties with Hamas and is considered by Hamas as "one of our own". One should bear in mind that Hamas is qualified as a terror organization by the US, the UK and by the EU. Ha'aretz discloses also a very rare and hard-to-get formal proof (a tape recording of a closed Hamas meeting). The bizarre case illustrates what everyone who cares knows; that BBC News correspondents on the Middle East are systematically biased for Muslims and against Israel.
Ha'aretz's article "Leading Hamas preacher warns of clash with Islamic Jihad," by Arnon Regular, December 15, 2004) gives an amazing insight into the relationship of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations to the Arab and international media, based on that tape recording the Hamas meeting. In this meeting Fathi Hamad, a high-ranking Hamas functionary responsible for the organization's communications systems in Gaza talked to a few dozen Hamas activists working in the organization's Communications Councils, whose job is to promote Hamas in the Palestinian, Arab and international press. Hamad believed that he was speaking in a private closed forum, but the session was filmed and then distributed - a copy of which was obtained by Ha'aretz.
In most of his speech Hamad complained bitterly on the fact that despite the Hamas' hegemony in the street, the Shiite and therefore 'heretic' Islamic Jihad had managed to take over "the agenda" and the media attention "by putting its people in key jobs in the press". After a name-by-name survey of several Palestinian journalists working for different other organizations,
"Hamad says on tape that Hamas man Faiz Abu Smala works for the BBC, 'and that way he writes the story in favor of the Islam and (true) Muslims.' "
The essence of the denial the BBC's litigation people sent me on this matter is this: "The BBC's Gaza reporter Fayed Abu Shammala"(another English transcript of his name – E.M.) "has worked for the BBC for more than 10 years and his reports have always met the highest standards of balance and accuracy required by the BBC." … "We have talked to Fayed and he strongly denies the allegation attributed to Fathi Hamad and printed in Haaretz on 15.12.04. Fayed Abu Shammala is not, and never has been, a member of Hamas."…"There is no credible evidence to consider in this case"
The reader can weigh the above denial of the suspect - the BBC familiarly calls 'Fayed'- as against our independent sources quoting hard evidence; a fully documented statement of Hamas leader Fathi Hamad calling Abu Shamala a 'Hamas man'. (He did not say: 'Hamas member' – E.M.)
Neither do the two BBC letters accept my criticism on that that the BBC do never call terrorists like Hamas as 'terrorists' in case they operate against Israeli civilians. BBC News head Helen Boaden answers this:" it is important that the BBC does not adopt other people's language as its own.". It is sad but also funny; the UK government which condemned Hamas as a terror organization, fall into the category of "other people" with Ms Boaden.
Fayed Abu Shamala made headlines already in 2001 when, speaking at a Hamas gathering May 6, 2001 (attended by the then Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin), he said that 'journalists and media organizations in Gaza', including the BBC, 'are waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people' (as Douglas Davis reports in the Jerusalem Post, 24May2001). That is why Tom Gross has questioned several times in the past the appropriateness of the BBC employing Fayed Abu Shamala as a senior reporter in Gaza, for example in the article: "The Euro media and the Intifada" (The National Review, 2001), repeated on several websites. The BBC declined to remove Abu Shamala as one of their main Gaza correspondents. The best the BBC could do in response to these remarks at the time was to issue a statement saying, 'Fayyad's remarks were made in a private capacity.' Now the BBC writes to me simply that "Fayed Abu Shammala did not use the words attributed to him".
Another by now famous story of BBC's blunt partiality made the headlines on the prestigious Honestreporting website. One of the 'Dishonest Reporting Award' winners for 2002 was Barbara Plett of BBC. When Yassir Arafat's health failed in November, BBC's West Bank reporter Plett openly wept real tears for the Great Godfather of Modern Terror. Plett's weeping revealed an unprofessional (and, some would say, bizarre) identification with one side of the conflict that she had been employed to cover in an objective fashion. The question arises, how could it happen that both she and her editors were incautious enough to publish this shameful fact? The answer I am afraid is that even such an obvious bias did not stand out of the BBC News' de facto standards for impartiality.
Paradoxically, this admiration of the BBC News to Arafat which has until now radiated through many BBC's reports, is in very sharp contrast to the real feelings of the Palestinians, people and leaders alike. People in the Palestinian street dared to say to Jerusalem Post reporters already in the last days of Arafat sentences like: "Are you a journalist? Then I tell you I shall cry for him. But if you are not a journalist I tell you I won't cry". Another man said: "Whatever comes after Arafat can be only better than the nightmare of the rule of his armed thugs", A visible fact was that Abu Ala and Abu Mazen were cleaning the stables fast from any reminder to the arch-corrupt Arafat, throwing out all six ministers who had been close to the past leader. But the most telling facts and figures about the real feelings of Palestinians to Arafat are that 800 Palestinians only were present at his funeral. A miniscule figure, particularly if you consider that in such regimes most people came not to mourn but to be seen.
Back to the Fayed story, one may notice that BBC's own sentence above, originally intended to clear him ("Fayed Abu Shammala's… reports have always met the highest standards of balance and accuracy required by the BBC", may have two opposite meanings: Either: 'Abu Shamala's reports have the highest standards of balance and accuracy, as required by the BBC ', or: 'Abu Shamala's 'standard of balance', as low as one can expect from a 'Hamas man', is sufficient to meet the de facto low standard of the BBC News' usually unbalanced and partial reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict'.
Think the facts over and make your own choice of the two versions.
* Endre Mozes is founder and chairman of Take-A-Pen Multilingual www.take-a-pen.org