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Middle East Issues





CNN's Michael Holmes Praises UNRWA Man's Gaza Lies


In a July 9 interview, UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna blatantly lied about conditions in Gaza -- claiming there is no water or electricity, and that no one may leave -- and CNN's Michael Holmes' praises him: "you raise incredibly important points."
 
First, Abu Hasna falsely states, and Mr. Holmes does not challenge him: "No one can -- has the ability to get out in the Gaza Strip."
 
The World Health Organization provides monthly reports about Gaza patients who receive approval to enter Israel for medical treatment. In May 2014, 85.76 percent of those patients who applied for permits to Israel for treatment were accepted; in April, 78 percent were accepted, in March the figure was 85.99 percent, in February, 86.8 percent were approved; and in January of this year, it was 87.78 percent.
 
Gaza residents also leave for other reasons besides medical treatment in Israel. For instance, this past May, 436 Muslim pilgrims left Gaza for Mecca, and 500 Christian residents were given permits to visit Bethlehem over Christmas.
 
Even in the tense days immediately preceding the July 9 interview with Abu Hasna, thousands of Gaza residents were able to leave. According to the July 1-7 Protection of Civilians Weekly Report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
The Erez Crossing has remained closed since 13 June, allowing only pre-authorized urgent humanitarian cases and foreign nationals to leave and enter Gaza.
 
On 2 July, the Egyptian authorities re-closed the Rafah crossing after opening it for three days during which around 3,300 people, mainly pilgrims
and prioritized cases, crossed in both directions.
According to Israel's Ministry of Defense, 1,689 people left the Gaza Strip via the Erez Crossing into Israel from June 29 through July 5. 
 
In additional falsehoods which Mr. Holmes failed to contradict, Abu Hasna alleges that in Gaza, "There's no electricity. It means there's no water. And you don't -- they don't have anything."
 
According to the OCHA report from the first week of July, the Gaza Power Plant is running, although at half capacity:
The Gaza Power Plant is currently running on half capacity following a commitment from the Palestinian Energy Authority to provide fuel throughout the month of Ramadan. However, fuel reserves are sufficient to operate the GPP for at the current capacity for less than 1.5 days and
it is reported that due to the increased electricity demand combined with the lack of fuel, domestic power cuts have increased as electricity is prioritized for essential facilities such as hospitals or water facilities. Power cuts continue to disrupt the routine delivery of basic services 
While Gaza's power station has periodically shut down briefly for lack of fuel, most recently due to disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, it is a blatant lie to claim that "there's no electricity." Incidentally, that service was disrupted for some 70,000 Gazans yesterday thanks to a Hamas rocket which hit a power line.
 
Even during this current crisis, Israel continues to provide Gaza with fuel to keep the strip's power station running. COGAT, the Israeli authority responsible for the coordination of humanitarian affairs with Gaza, reports that on Wednesday, July 9, the day of Holmes' error-filled broadcast, Israel transferred 214,086 liters of diesel fuel for the Gaza power plant into the coastal territory. The previous day, July 8, Israel transferred 472,050 liters of diesel fuel into Gaza, and on July 7 that number was 472,000 liters. Similar figures continue to this day.
 
Besides the power produced at the Gaza power plant, the coastal territory receives an additional 120 MW directly from Israel, as well as 22 MW. These figures are available in the UN's report on whether Gaza will be livable in 2020, a document which Abu Hasna himself mentions.
 
Abu Hasna also grossly distorts when he claims "there's no water." According to an OCHA report covering July 7-9, there are disruptions in water service, but there is water. The report states:
The main water carrier line to the Beach Refugee Camp, serving 70,000 people, which has been destroyed. Gaza Municipality is supplying water to the Camp from an alternative source, at the expense of a reduction in the supply to other areas.
 
One water well serving 15,000 people in Alnasser neighborhood of Gaza City has been hit and significantly damaged. Estimated losses stand at US$ 100-150,000. Residents are forced to purchase water from private vendors.
Not only does Mr. Holmes fail in his responsibility to inform his viewers that his interviewee is providing false information, he too gets the facts wrong. He states: "And again, before all of this started, when it comes to Israel's blockade of Gaza, they control the borders; they control the airspace. They control the seaspace." But the clear implication here that Israel controls all of Gaza's borders is an error which has been corrected by multiple other media outlets. Egypt controls its border with the Gaza Strip, and imposes a blockade on the Hamas-run territory. 
 
The Washington Post commendably corrected on Dec. 7, 2011: "Text on a map with a Dec. 4 Page One article about Israel's use of drone aircraft incorrectly said that Israel controls all border crossings with Gaza. It controls the crossings between Gaza and Israel but not the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt."
 
Holmes' and Abu Hasna's shared obsession with the purported Israeli blockade -- an anomaly in the history of international blockades given that nearly now virtually everything is permitted aside from weapons and building materials for the private sector -- coexists with a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.
 
Thus, the two persist:
Abu Hasna: I think that the main actor in what is going in Gaza is the blockade - - they must lift the blockade. We are telling the Israelis all the time, give the Gazans something to lose.

Holmes: Give the Gazans something to lose, I mean, that's a really powerful point. And again, before all of this started, when it comes to Israel's blockade of Gaza, they control the borders; they control the airspace. They control the seaspace.

What sorts of things are not getting in that really should be getting in?

You're talking about basic stuff. You're not talking about weapon making equipment.

Hasna: The building materials are not allowed to get to the private sector. And the whole economy, nearly 70 percent of Gaza economy depends on building, on building materials. And there is a very important point.

When Holmes asks Abu Hasna what is not permitted in, the UNRWA official insists: "you're talking about basic stuff." But when it comes to specifics regarding "this basic stuff," all that he can name are building materials for the private sector. Indeed, this is because that is the only non-weapon item that is prohibited. (The import of concrete, steel and cement for the private sector and international aid groups were suspended following the October 2013 discovery of a vast concrete Hamas-built tunnel which emerged into Israeli territory, and was intended for carrying out terror attacks. Shipments for aid groups resumed this past May.)
 
It is beyond dishonest that UNRWA spokesman ignores the significant amounts of construction material that do pass from Israel into Gaza through international organizations, UNRWA among them. Thus, during the week of June 29 to July 5, 162 truckloads of building material, including aggregates, cement, iron, glass and aluminum, arrived in the Gaza Strip from Israel.
 
UNRWA's Abu Hasna has created a completely false picture in which Gazans completely lack of water, electricity, construction materials, and exit passage, leaving them with nothing to lose, as he puts it. Rather than correct and clarify, according to his journalistic responsibility, Holmes effuses: "Give the Gazans something to lose, I mean, that's a really powerful point."
 
Clearly delighted with his guest's performance, Holmes closes with a big thank you: "Adnan Abu Hasna of UNWRA, you raise incredibly important points in all of this about the ordinary civilians there, uninvolved in the politics of all of this. Thank you so much for joining us on the line from Gaza."
 
Meanwhile, over at Time Warner's guidelines on journalistic integrity, we read:
At CNN, integrity and accuracy are of the utmost importance to the brand, and systems are in place to maintain them. For example, stories are thoroughly reviewed by producers and particularly sensitive stories are reviewed further by a team of senior editors, standards and practices specialists, and lawyers before they are broadcast.
That itself is a really powerful point. And if it's also true, then senior CNN editors and standards and practice specialists owes its viewers retractions. As Abu Hasna would say: "you're talking about basic stuff."

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