Arab media more accurate than the Guardian in story on Gaza building material

hamasIn a post on Dec. 28 we noted an erroneous claim by Harriet Sherwood regarding restrictions on construction material entering Gaza, in a story published by the Guardian on Dec. 27.

Here’s the passage in question:

“…Israel is to allow construction materials to enter Gaza from next week for the first time since 2007. Despite easing its blockade of the enclave two and a half years ago, it has continued to ban the import of almost all construction materials, such as cement and steel, saying they could be used for military purposes.”

First, note that the two sentences oddly contradict each other. The first sentence claims that Israel is going to allow construction materials for the first time since 2007. The second sentence (modifying the first) suggests that some “construction material” has indeed been allowed to pass through – at least since 2010.

As we demonstrated in our post, while even the second sentence is extraordinarily misleading  – ignoring information on the thousands of tons of construction material which has passed into Gaza, and the hundreds of building projects completed in conjunction with international sponsors in the two-year period Sherwood is referring to – the first sentence is simply false.

However, it now seems likely that Sherwood’s first sentence – about construction materials now being allowed in to Gaza for the first time since 2007 – was at least based on recent announcements on an easing of Israel’s blockade under the terms of the Egyptian brokered truce deal with Hamas.

Ynet reported the following:

Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.”

The report then quotes a Palestinian official, thus:

“This is the first time Israel will allow the import of gravel for the private sector since the blockade began in mid-2007.”

So, the change in Israeli policy will now allow, for the first time since Hamas took over Gaza in a violent coup in 2007,  private companies and individuals to import construction materials into the territory.

Moreover, what’s especially interesting about the inaccurate Guardian report on Israel’s change in policy is the fact other Arab media outlets got the story right. 

The Saudi Gazette, on Dec. 27, published a story titled ‘Israel to ease Gaza ban on construction materials‘, which included the following:

“Israel is to begin allowing materials for private construction into Gaza, easing its blockade under the terms of a truce deal, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

The decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade.

“This is the first time Israel will allow the import of gravel for the private sector since the blockade began in mid-2007”, [said Palestinian customs official Raed Fattouh].”

The Egypt Independent, on Dec. 27, in a piece titled ‘Israel eases Gaza blockade following truce deal‘, wrote the following:

“Israel is easing its blockade of Gaza to allow construction materials and other goods into the enclave under the terms of a truce deal mediated by Egypt.

The decision allows [for the first time since 2007] private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel’s blockade, AFP reported.

Here’s AlJazeera on Dec. 27, in a piece titledIsrael eases ban on Gaza building material‘:

“Israel has allowed a shipment of gravel for private construction into the Gaza Strip, easing the blockade it imposed after Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007, a Palestinian official said.”

Even the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported the story accurately.  In a PNN story on Dec. 27, titled ‘Israel to Allow Imports to Ease Gaza Blockade‘, the following was reported:

“Israel will allow 20 trucks a day loaded with construction material to enter the Gaza Strip starting next week, in an attempt to ease its blockade under the terms of a truce deal signed with an Egyptian-mediation between Hamas and Israel after the eight days escalation last month.

The new construction material will be for the Palestinian sector, and this decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted and only embarked for internationally funded building projects.”

In fact, I was unable to find another news source, other than the Guardian, which reported Israel’s easing of restrictions on building materials, that didn’t accurately distinguish between construction materials for internationally sponsored Gaza building projects, which was already allowed, and the importing of such materials for the private sector.

While any reporter can, of course, make a mistake, the frequency of inaccurate or highly misleading claims about Israel (by reporters and commentators) at the Guardian does make you wonder if their editors engage in even the most rudimentary fact-checking before publishing such stories.