Written in Cement

Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?
Let me count the ways

How many BBC foreign correspondents does it take to change a light-bulb?

None. The light-bulb is only broken if their favoured sources tell them that it is.

Five Minutes for Israel hasn’t awarded a red clown nose† for quite some time but the BBC’s Yolande Knell totally deserves this one. If she had two noses I would award her a red nose for each of them.

In her BBC dispatch, Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?, BBC NEWS, 8 July 2015, on the pace of rebuilding in Gaza she totally ignores eight good reasons that don’t scapegoat Israel’s dual use policy.

red-nose-yolande-knellAt what point does omitting crucial information become lies by omission? If you accept Knell’s dispatch Israel’s policy towards so-called dual use material is the sole reason why not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt. Not one?

We accept that Israel doing what it needs to protect itself may be part of the problem but not all of it and quite possibly not the largest part. Consider the following because the BBC doesn’t.

Eight reasons ignored by Knell

  1. Hamas commandeers a significant part of construction material for itself and has been reported to have begun to reconstruct fortifications1;
  2. The Gaza black market distributes most of the remainder to the highest bidder2;
  3. Egypt also has a border but doesn’t allow import of building materials. The Rafah crossibng is for people (when it is open) not goods3;
  4. Disputes between Hamas and the P.A. have meant that finance for purchasing materials doesn’t always arrive4;
  5. Only a fraction of money pledged by the ‘international community’ (notably the Arab world) has materialised5;
  6. Hamas may be deliberately keeping parts of Gaza unreconstructed for propaganda purposes — exactly as Knell’s report6;
  7. Palestinian attacks on the transfer of material slows things down. Israel transferred the entrance point for trucks to Keren Shalom from the much larger and better equipped Karni crossing because of Palestinian attacks on Karni – which left several Israeli soldiers dead – several years ago7;
  8. This week Israel closed Keren Shalom crossing, until further notice, in response to attacks which killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. This isn’t the cause for anything that has happened previously but it’s odd Knell doesn’t mention it, even as a things will get worse throw-away ending8.

The figures Knell uses are also dubious. I have added graphs from Gisha, an NGO not noted for sympathy for Israel. In June an average of 673 trucks arrived in Gaza each day. Not all contained construction material but 171,650 (units presumably tons) of gravel, 2770 of steel and 18822 of cement arrived in Gaza that same month.

trucksEntrance of Construction Materials to Gaza

If no destroyed homes were rebuilt the real question that Knell dodges is what was done with the material that did arrive? … and why doesn’t Knell think it relevant to ask? … and why does Knell think a Norwegian NGO‡ has accurate figures? … and why doesn’t a spokesman for Israel (even with the requisite BBC “Israel says” disclaimer) get to make a response?

On a more conceptual level. Hamas (and allies) started a war with Israel; fought it in such a way that increased civilian injury and property damage and lost. Technically, the war is not over. There is a ceasefire in place. Why must Israel have moral responsibility for rebuilding and not Hamas?

When December comes around we will nominate her for Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow? for the The 2015 Dishonest Reporting Awards.

About the 5-in-a-star

Side boob protection? Not so much.

Side boob protection? Not so much.

You can’t miss the International press contingent with their oh-so-sexy covert navy blue protective vests and helmets with PRESS in large white letters. They convey to the viewer just how dangerous the location in which they report and by extension how brave the journalist, just by being there. Credibility visually achieved.

Occasionally the camera pulls back and we see that the IDF officers are not wearing their vests, which should mean the situation is not so perilous after all. Or that there is no Israeli presence. The danger, apparently is that the ‘journalist’ might be trampled by the other journalists.

The vest and helmet has become a uniform for the press contingent.  Like a Hell’s Angel’s leather jacket or a Goth chick’s dark eye-shadow and white make-up.

What I find difficult to understand is the preferred dark blue colour. If I thought I might be misidentified as a combatant and accidentally shot, my vest would fluorescent orange and black, like the safety vest in my car, only more obvious. Explanation anyone?


† Five Minutes for Israel has developed a tradition of photoshopping clown noses on people whose arrogance, bias or ignorance on the subject of Israel makes a degree of personal ridicule justified.
‡ The BBC is obliged to identify the bias of sources who may not be neutral. Needless to say it does not in this case. The Norwegian Refugee Council is usually involved in lawfare to “try every possible legal measure to disrupt the Israeli judicial system… as many cases as possible are registered and that as many cases as possible are appealed to increase the workload of the courts and the Supreme Court to such an extent that there will be a blockage”.

  1. Cement for rebuilding Gaza diverted to terror tunnels’Times of Israel staff. TIMES OF ISRAEL, 19 December 2014
  2. Cement Intended for Gaza Reconstruction Ends Up on Black Market, The Algemeiner, 3 December 2014
    Qatar donors admit most Gaza cement goes to black market (=Hamas), Elder of Ziyon, 17 March 2015
    Corruption hampers effort to rebuild Gaza after summer conflictPeter Beaumont, The Guardian, 25 December 2014
  3. Egypt extends opening of Rafah crossing into Gaza for two daysAhmed Aboulenein, Reuters, 15 June 2015
  4. New Hamas-Fatah feud imperils joint Gaza plan, Fares Akram, TIMES OF ISRAEL, 15 March 2015
    Hamas: We didn’t approve UN’s Gaza reconstruction plan, MEMO Middle East Monitor, 3 November 2014
  5. Only five percent of pledged aid reaches GazaAnnie Slemrod, Middle East Eye, 18 February 2015
  6. We don’t actually have an outside source for this but it seems a very reasonable assumption given that nothing is done in the most devastated areas. Some materials do reach civilians hands – those who pay. After all what would be the point of a black market without buyers?
  7. Terror attack at Karni CrossingIsrael Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 January 2005
  8. Israel closes crossings with Egypt, Gaza, following ISIS Sinai terror attacks, JPOST.com staff, REUTERS, Jerusalem Post. 1 July 2015

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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