CiF Watch prompts correction to Guardian claim on Gaza construction imports

corrections

In a CiF Watch post published on Dec. 28, ‘Harriet Sherwood falsely claims that “almost no” construction materials have entered Gaza’, we noted this extremely misleading, and quite confusing, passage in a Dec. 27 report by Sherwood:

“Meanwhile, 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.”

We explained that the first sentence was completely untrue, while the passage (seemingly contradicting the first) highlighted in the second sentence was, at best, extraordinarily misleading.

As we noted, despite restrictions (which have recently been eased) on dual-use materials entering Gaza (items which could be used for military purposes) thousands of trucks carrying construction materials have entered Gaza, since 2010, via COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories).  COGAT has coordinated such shipments in conjunction with international sponsors (US Aid, the World Bank, the UN, etc.) who can guarantee that the materials are used for their original civilian intent.  

Further, during the same two-year period Sherwood is referring to, out of 268 submitted construction proposals by the PA (in conjunction with international sponsors) 235 were approved.

The new easing of restrictions by Israel – implemented as part of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which was brokered by Egypt – now allows building materials into Gaza for use by the private sector for the first time since 2007.

After communicating with Guardian editors, demonstrating the construction import figures, and noting that other media outlets who made similar errors had (due largely to the diligence of our friends at CAMERA), corrected their mistakes, the Guardian has corrected the original text in Sherwood’s report.

Here’s their notice, at the end of Sherwood’s piece, noting the change:

• This article was amended on 7 January 2013. The original said that “Israel is to allow construction materials to enter Gaza from next week for the first time since 2007. To clarify: limited quantities of building materials, for UN sponsored projects, were allowed to enter Gaza during that time, as was made clear in the next sentence.

A sincere thanks goes out to our followers who assisted us in contacting Guardian editors to request the correction. 

 

Guardian publishes letter by David Martin, MEP, advancing fiction that Israel limits medicine to Gaza

The Guardian published two letters today; The EU, Israel and occupied territories, July 25th, which responded to a July 23rd report by Phoebe Greenwood on the EU’s upgrade of diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.  

The new areas of co-operation include a European trade advantage known as  ACAA. 

ACAA refers to the ‘Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance’ of industrial products, which promotes the “elimination of technical barriers to trade”, thereby “increasing the accessibility of outside markets [such as Israel] to products from the EU and vice versa”.

As I noted in a post on Greenwood’s report, enhanced bilateral relations between the EU and Israel will necessarily come as sad news for BDS advocates and other anti-Zionists.

Sure enough, both letters published by the Guardian were extremely critical of the EU upgrade: one written by William Bell, Policy and advocacy officer at Christian Aid and the other by David Martin MEP Labour, Scotland.

Here is an excerpt from Martin’s letter:

“While many parliamentary groupings considered this a “technical upgrade”, it is not; it is a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel and incompatible with international law and recent European parliament declarations denouncing the abuse of human rights in the occupied territories. It would be especially galling to allow easier access to the EU market for Israeli pharmaceutical products when Palestinians struggle for medical supplies under the Israeli-imposed blockade.”

However, the suggestion – similarly echoed in a July 11th Guardian video report entitled “Gaza’s healthcare system in crisis which was replete with scenes of sick Palestinian children and doctors complaining about shortages of medical supplies – that Israel’s legal blockade is preventing medical supplies into Gaza is a complete fiction.

Israel facilitates the transfer of tons of medical supplies to Gaza each week via international aid organizations and – though nothing requires Israel to admit Palestinians into its territory to receive medical care –  nonetheless consistently provides Palestinians in Gaza with access to Israeli hospitals.

According to COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) citing a report by the WHO (World Health Organization), in 2011, 91.5% of all applications by Gazans to receive medical care in Israel were approved.

According to the latest figures from COGAT , during 2011 over 18,000 Gazans crossed into Israel for medical reasons. 

The claim that there is a shortage of supplies due to Israeli restrictions is an unsupportable allegation, as Israeli imposes absolutely no restrictions on the transfer of medical supplies to the strip.  Indeed, according to Major Moshe Levy (former Head of the PR Branch of the Coordination and Liaison Administration of the Gaza Strip) “The transfer of drugs has priority over all other commodities. 100% of the Palestinian demands are met by the Israeli Ministry of Health.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor noted that “There are no restrictions on medical equipment or medical supplies, nor have there ever been restrictions.”

According to Israeli policy since June 2010, the only goods that are restricted from entering Gaza are arms, weapons, war material, and specific items which have military as well as civilian applications. 

During any given week, up to a dozen truckloads of medicine and medical equipment are transferred into Gaza.

Such unimpeded humanitarian assistance is especially remarkable in that such transfers are not halted by the IDF even when Palestinian terrorists fire rockets into Israeli villages, towns and cities. (So far this year, at least 431 such rockets have been launched from Gaza.)

Another dynamic which the Martin chose not to explore is the fact that Hamas steals medical supplies donated to Palestinians in Gaza by the international community; theft which goes back many years and has been reported in the Arabic media and confirmed by UNRWA.

Finally, it appears that Martin’s letter was a scaled down version of a nearly identical essay he published at his personal blog.  Most interesting was this passage, which was omitted from his Guardian letter:

“How can this upgrade go on when nothing on the ground has improved? In fact matters have gotten worse. Binyamin Netanyahu has recently announced his decision to go ahead with an additional 800 settlements in Israeli occupied territory.”

800 new settlements? Outrageous, isn’t it?!

Well, you may recall that the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood made the exact same claim in her original report (referenced above) on the EU Upgrade which Martin’s letter responded to.  Greenwood’s report claimed that “Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu [decided] to build an additional 800 settlements in occupied territory.”

However, as we noted, the number Greenwood used represented a huge mistake – as there are only roughly 132 “settlements” in all of the disputed territories.  What she was evidently referring to instead, was 800 new homes which are to be built in the existing Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.

The Guardian, later than day, corrected that passage and acknowledged Greenwood’s error.

Moreover, in addition to the fact that both Greenwood and Martin made the same error regarding Israeli settlements, most of the criticism directed at the EU agreement with Israel, cited by Greenwood, stemmed from someone she characterized as an “anonymous EU diplomat”.  And, interestingly, one quote by this “anonymous” diplomat is quite similar to the text in Martin’s blog post.

For instance: Greenwood writes:

“The Brussels-based bureaucrat points out that Europe‘s 500 million consumers constitute almost 60% of Israel’s trade.”

Martin, in his blog post on the same day, writes:

“Europe’s 500 million plus consumers constitute almost 60% of Israel’s trade.”

Martin’s blog post appeared 9 hours after Greenwood’s report.

So, it’s certainly possible that Martin copied and pasted slightly from Greenwood’s story.

However, another explanation is that Mr. Martin is the Guardian reporter’s proverbial “deep throat”.