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Media Analyses





In Hani Almadhoun's Gaza Piece, Huffington Post Suspends Fact-Checking


 
Writing in the Huffington Post, Hami Almadhoun, director of donor development for American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), bandies about demonstrably falsely statistics about the Gaza Strip. In his article yesterday ("Scenes From the Tragic and Painful Fall of Gaza"), he is off by a factor of 35 when he states: 
According to one report, there are 75 percent fewer trucks bringing food and other supplies into Gaza. That's 2,000 truckloads this year versus 8,000 in the same period of the previous year.
In fact, as demonstrated by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the first six months of this year, 69,286 trucks crossed into Gaza, not including those trucks carrying fuel. June saw the fewest number of trucks crossing the first half of this year – and there were 7,226 trucks that month, or nearly four times the amount that Almadhoun claimed crossed for all of 2017.
 
Graphic from OCHA's "Gaza Crossings' Operations Status: Monthly Update - July 2017"
 
Almadoun, a repeat contributor to the Huffington Post, is even more off target regarding the supposed decrease in the number of truck crossings this year compared to last. In the first half of 2016, 69,704 trucks crossed into Gaza. With just 418 fewer trucks this year, the decrease is 0.6 percent — not 75 percent.
 
Graphic from OCHA's "Gaza Crossings Operations Status: Monthly Update - July 2016"
 
Almadoun's source for his wildly inaccurate figures about the number of trucks is an interview in Al Watan, an independent media outlet in Gaza, with Maher Al-Tabaa, who Almadoun identifies as an economic source.
 
Poverty Doubled
 
Relying on another incorrect figure cited in Al Watan, this time an article featuring Palestinian legislator Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Almadoun doubles Gaza's poverty figure, writing: "Here are some dark numbers for you: 80 percent of Gaza residents live under the poverty line."
 
In fact, according to the United Nations, in the past few years, Gaza's "poverty has stabilized at around 40%." The latest figure cited by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (Palestine in Figures 2016, March 2017), for 2011, is 38.8 percent.
 
Graphic from United Nations report "Gaza Ten Years Later"
 
 
Passing Off Outdated Reconstruction Figures as Current
 
With predictable results, Almadhoun relies on a secondary source and outdated source for a figure on the reconstruction of Gaza homes destroyed in 2014 war. Citing an 19-month old article by the factually challenged Ben Norton of Salon, the ANERA fundraiser writes: "If that does not worry you, how about the fact that as of this year, 74 percent of homes destroyed in the 2014 war have not been rebuilt and are still in ruins."
 
Almadhoun links to Norton's piece, which links to a United Nations OCHA report from January 2016, not from this year. The January 2016 OCHA report stated: "Reconstruction or repair of the homes of 74 percent of families displaced during the 2014 Gaza hostilities is yet to start."
 
The most current OCHA report to address the number of destroyed homes rebuilt is from April of this year. It states:
Despite significant progress in reconstruction, 7,700 Palestinian families, or about 40,000 people whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged during the 2014 hostilities, were still displaced in February 2017, down from over 16,000 families at the start of 2015. The greatest concern is for approximately 4,000 of these families who have not been allocated any funding for reconstruction and see no end in sight to their displacement.
In other words, as of five months ago, 54 percent of the 17,800 homes destroyed or severely damaged in 2014 have been rebuilt. In addition, the reconstruction of another 14 percent of the 17,800 homes was in progress, as of five months ago.
 

Graphic from "Funding gaps increase uncertainty and hardship for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gaza," OCHA, April, 13, 2017
 
Given that the United Nations funds ANERA, the agency Almadhoun directs, the complete misuse of and disregard of the international body's information is particularly puzzling.
 
Permits Denied or Delayed?
 
Citing the World Health Organization while linking to Iran's government-controlled Press TV, Almadhoun claims: "The World Health Organization reports that half of those who seek vital medical treatment have been denied permission to exit Gaza." In fact, the WHO report in question does not say that Israel denied permits to half of Gazan's seeking to leave for vital medical treatment ("Health Access for Referral Patients from the Gaza Strip," June 2017). It says that one percent were denied permits, while 49.4 percent "were delayed with no response by the time of the patient's hospital appointment."
 
Does the U.N. Call Gaza 'Uninhabitable'?
 
Almadhoun does not bother to provide a link, not even from a secondary source controlled by a repressive regime, for his claim that "the UN calls Gaza 'uninhabitable.'" While the United Nations issued a report in 2012 predicting that the territory would become "unliveable" by 2020, it has not currently deemed the Gaza Strip to be uninhabitable. The July 2017 UN report, "Gaza Ten Years Later," which follows up on the 2012 report, also does not call the Gaza Strip "uninhabitable" or "unliveable." Instead, it warns that the trends the UN identified in 2012 had worsened:
Reviewing the indicators which in 2012 led the UN to question whether Gaza would become ‘unliveable’ by 2020, it is clear that very little progress has been made to change the basic trajectory identified in 2012. The population has actually grown slightly faster than projected and neither the economy nor basic infrastructure and services have been able – even remotely – to keep pace. The findings of this report indicate that most of the projections for 2020 have in fact deteriorated even further and faster than anticipated.
In a foreword to the report, Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, wrote:
For most of us, with electricity only 2 hours a day as was the case recently, and youth unemployment at 60%, the "unliveability" threshold has already been passed. Yet, somehow, families in Gaza find ways to ‘make do’…
The heading of the report's conclusion ("Gaza 2020: Three Years Until the Unliveable?") makes clear that the U.N. has not deemed the territory to be currently unliveable.
 
The Only Recreation?
 
In an indication that neither Almadhoun nor the powers that be at the Huffington Post bothered with any fact-checking, the ANERA development director again fabricates when referring to a polluted beach "as the only recreation bestowed on the Palestinians inside the territory." In addition to the polluted beach, Gazans can enjoy themselves at the cinema, swimming pools, an archeology museum, equestrian competitions, amusement parks, restaurants, and more. Even those without money left over for recreation can enjoy parkour, baseball, backgammon, break-dancing, more traditional dancing, karate, music, and crafts, among a wide variety of additional leisure activities.
 
Perhaps exaggerations and egregious inaccuracies play well with some ANERA donors. (The organization's sources of funding include foundations, organizations, and private individuals, along with the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, the Kuwaiti government, Intel Corporation, Saudi Aramco, and more.)
 
ANERA enjoys a special relationship with the Huffington Post, a closeness which jeopardizes the Huffington Post's journalistic integrity. But if the Huffington Post hopes to distinguish itself from the rabidly anti-Israel, conspiracy-prone Mondoweiss, which has also extended Almadhoun a platform, and which was reportedly engaged in a fundraising hoax of its own, the media outlet would be well-served to give serious thought to the relationship.  
 
Given the sheer quantity of factual problems in Almadhoun's Gaza article, CAMERA calls on the Huffington Post to retract it entirely.

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