Does the BBC employ a 'Hamas man'?
Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review
20 November 2005
BBC Governance Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street
London, W1U 4AA
By Air Mail and e-mail
To: Sir Quentin Thomas, Chairman
and the select Panel for the BBC Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review
Sub: Take-A-Pen's Submission III:
Does the BBC employ a 'Hamas man'?
We, Take-A-Pen, are a volunteer international and multilingual organisation, or rather an internet network, founded in 2000. Our purpose and that of our readers around the world is to counter with truth the widespread inaccuracies, misinformation and anti-Israel propaganda about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This submission deals with a massive offense to impartiality; with the seemingly well-based allegations that Mr Fayed Abu Shamala, the BBC's Gaza correspondent since 1994(?) and until today November 2005, has had active ties to the Hamas; a terrorist organisation according to the British government. We'll document it that Abu Shamala was considered by Hamas as 'one of their own'. No wonder all his journalistic output, accordingly, has had a strong anti-Israel bias - we'll show an example of November 22, 2005.
This is mostly the abstract of our full web article on the subject, appended at the end of this letter. What is told here - is fully documented there.
Abu Shammala became first famous in 2001 when, speaking at a Hamas gathering on May 6 (all data are in the article) he said that 'journalists and media organizations in Gaza', the BBC of course included, 'are waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people'. This demonstrates his total lack of journalistic ethics and infringes the BBC's own Charter as well. It does not speak well of his superiors either. One should have asked what justification can be for a BBC journalist to give speeches in a terrorist gathering?
Shamala's direct association with a terror organization was, as reported in December 2004, revealed by the leading Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz (see data in the web article) which acquired the exceptionally rare hard evidence; a tape recording where Mr Fayed Abu Shamala was called ''one of our own'' and ''Hamas man'' by the senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Fathi Hamad. It took place in an intimate Hamas forum.
I offered this information to BBC Chairman of the Board of Governors Mr Michael Grade in May this year. When this point (not my whole letters) remained unanswered until July, we put our article on the BBC's 'Hamas man' on our website http://www.take-a-pen.org/ . I'll quote full details below as it appears on our website.
In August I submitted this information to Ms Helen Boaden, BBC's News Director and to Mr Malcolm Balen, BBC's complaints official. What I received in response was a flat denial, legal threats and a demand to remove my whole web article about the 'Hamas man'. The BBC litigation people (their 7 letters I received did not show any name) based all on Shamala's denial. No reference was made to the evidence of my proof. Their letter said (quote): '"We have talked to Fayed and he strongly denies the allegation" (unquote).
I trust your select Review Panel will weigh this denial by the suspect - against my independent sources quoting hard evidence; such as the tape recording.
Ms Boaden and the BBC lawyers never called Hamas a 'terror organisation', and, as it turned out, not by chance. Ms Boaden defended the BBC's non-usage of the 'terrorist' term by saying that (quote): "it is important that the BBC does not adopt other people's language as its own." If it were not so sad it would be funny: the UK Parliament which condemned Hamas as a terror organisation falls into the category of "other people" according the News Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
As previously mentioned I did not find any argument in the BBC answers justifying changes in our web article. So I maintained our suspicion about Abu Shamala. However I updated our web article to quote, for fairness' sake, the BBC responses.
Our web article did not address the impartiality of the reporting work of Abu Shamala in detail. One does not have to closely examine the everyday work of a policeman who turns out to have ties to the underworld - there is sufficient reason to fire him. But if we want to look into impartiality briefly; every BBC report on Gaza in Arabic is strongly anti-Israel biased, as our Israeli Arab friend has been telling us. Even the usually softened English versions look more like cunning propaganda pieces than responsible journalism. As an example let us look at the BBC News 'report' from Gaza on 19 May, 2004 with the title "Israelis fire on crowds in Gaza", hinting at a massacre. Only when you dig deep into the article you may understand that the title is the unproven Palestinian version of what happened. Had your reporter followed through and studied what actually happened that day in Gaza, your viewers would have learned a few days later that all the victims - around ten - were killed by badly handled Palestinian explosives. The false, defamatory and libellous title is on the BBC website up till this day, November 22, 2005, courtesy of the BBC's 'Hamas man' and his superiors who permit this travesty.
This Conclusion would be best to read after reading the full web article below.
1. Mr Fayed Abu Shamala, senior Gaza correspondent of the BBC has been suspected for many years to be connected with the Hamas terror organisation. The hardest available piece of evidence is the tape recording of the Hamas leader who called him 'one of our own', or a 'Hamas man', as reported on December 15, 2005.
2. We believe that any personal association to a terror organisation is sufficient reason for a person to be removed from the BBC's service immediately. This is what, for example, The Guardian did in a similar case.
3. It may be none of our business but it is difficult to understand how the BBC can, after the Twin Towers and after the London underground, employ and promote today such managers who ignore suspicions of ties to terror and disregard government qualifications of a terror organisation such as Hamas.
4. But it is our 'business' that we do not wish to further suffer the cunningly veiled hostile propaganda work and libels of a Hamas connected man in the BBC. Neither want we look for and argue about tiny details of his constant anti-Israel bias and hatred. We think it appropriate that he and perhaps others similarly inclined be removed from the BBC's service immediately.
5. I trust the select Panel will find out how a terror organisation associate suspect could remain in the BBC in a senior position so long, undisturbed. I hope it will make the procedural and personal changes required in order to ensure that something like this never happens again.
Our whole web article follows here:
BBC - the "Biased Broadcasting Corporation" employs 'Hamas Man'
By Endre Mozes*
- Ha'aretz and Tom Gross report on BBC/Hamas co-operation: Hamas admits BBC Gaza correspondent is "One of our own"
- While Palestinians are in fact released by Arafat's permanent disappearance, BBC's "unbiased" reporter cries real tears for 'the great leader'
** On the present review: Following a complaint we submitted to the Director of BBC News Ms Helen Boaden on certain BBC malpractices, we received the BBC's first response - signed by the BBC's Litigation Department. It demanded, amidst legal threats, the removal of this article from our website. Notwithstanding our dislike of this peculiar way the BBC (Big Brother Corporation?) handled our complaint, we decided to triple-check now their arguments against our sources and facts - which we double-checked at the time we wrote the original article. Having done this we've found absolutely nothing in the new BBC letters - beyond threats - which should change the serious suspicions we published here. However, in this review we'll publish the BBC denial; let our readers be able to verify that the denial has no substance against the hard evidences supporting the case.
Based on Israel's influential leftwing newspaper, Haaretz, on an article distributed by veteran freelance journalist Tom Gross (17 Dec 2004) and on Honestreporting's "Dishonest Reporting Award 2002" (16 Dec 2002), this article presents some amazing news on BBC-Palestinian and BBC-Hamas co-operation. Ha'aretz has highlighted that Fayed Abu Shamala, senior correspondent of BBC News from Gaza since 1996, has close ties with Hamas and is considered by Hamas as "one of our own". One should bear in mind that Hamas is qualified as a terror organization by the US, the UK and by the EU. Ha'aretz discloses also a very rare and hard-to-get formal proof (a tape recording of a closed Hamas meeting). The bizarre case illustrates what everyone who cares knows; that BBC News correspondents on the Middle East are systematically biased for Muslims and against Israel.
Ha'aretz's article "Leading Hamas preacher warns of clash with Islamic Jihad," by Arnon Regular, December 15, 2004) gives an amazing insight into the relationship of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations to the Arab and international media, based on that tape recording the Hamas meeting. In this meeting Fathi Hamad, a high-ranking Hamas functionary responsible for the organization's communications systems in Gaza talked to a few dozen Hamas activists working in the organization's Communications Councils, whose job is to promote Hamas in the Palestinian, Arab and international press. Hamad believed that he was speaking in a private closed forum, but the session was filmed and then distributed - a copy of which was obtained by Ha'aretz.
In most of his speech Hamad complained bitterly on the fact that despite the Hamas' hegemony in the street, the Shiite and therefore 'heretic' Islamic Jihad had managed to take over "the agenda" and the media attention "by putting its people in key jobs in the press". After a name-by-name survey of several Palestinian journalists working for different other organizations,
"Hamad says on tape that Hamas man Faiz Abu Smala works for the BBC, 'and that way he writes the story in favor of the Islam and (true) Muslims.' "
The essence of the denial the BBC's litigation people sent me on this matter is this: "The BBC's Gaza reporter Fayed Abu Shammala" (another English transcript of his name - E.M.) "has worked for the BBC for more than 10 years and his reports have always met the highest standards of balance and accuracy required by the BBC." ... "We have talked to Fayed and he strongly denies the allegation attributed to Fathi Hamad and printed in Haaretz on 15.12.04. Fayed Abu Shammala is not, and never has been, a member of Hamas."..."There is no credible evidence to consider in this case"
The reader can weigh the above denial of the suspect - the BBC familiarly calls 'Fayed'- as against our independent sources quoting hard evidence; a fully documented statement of Hamas leader Fathi Hamad calling Abu Shamala a 'Hamas man'. (He did not say: 'Hamas member' - E.M.)
Neither do the two BBC letters accept my criticism on that that the BBC do never call terrorists like Hamas as 'terrorists' in case they operate against Israeli civilians. BBC News head Helen Boaden answers this:" it is important that the BBC does not adopt other people's language as its own.". It is sad but also funny; the UK government which condemned Hamas as a terror organization, fall into the category of "other people" with Ms Boaden.
Fayed Abu Shamala made headlines already in 2001 when, speaking at a Hamas gathering May 6, 2001 (attended by the then Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin), he said that 'journalists and media organizations in Gaza', including the BBC, 'are waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people' (as Douglas Davis reports in the Jerusalem Post, 24May2001). That is why Tom Gross has questioned several times in the past the appropriateness of the BBC employing Fayed Abu Shamala as a senior reporter in Gaza, for example in the article: "The Euro media and the Intifada" (The National Review, 2001), repeated on several websites. The BBC declined to remove Abu Shamala as one of their main Gaza correspondents. The best the BBC could do in response to these remarks at the time was to issue a statement saying, 'Fayyad's remarks were made in a private capacity.' Now the BBC writes to me simply that "Fayed Abu Shammala did not use the words attributed to him".
Another by now famous story of BBC's blunt partiality ...(we leave out most of this part of the article, dealing not with Abu Shamala but with Barbara Plett) ... the real feelings of Palestinians to Arafat are that 800 Palestinians only were present at his funeral. A miniscule figure, particularly if you consider that in such regimes most people came not to mourn but to be seen.
Back to the Fayed story, one may notice that BBC's own sentence above, originally intended to clear him ("Fayed Abu Shammala's...reports have always met the highest standards of balance and accuracy required by the BBC", may have two opposite meanings: Either: 'Abu Shamala's reports have the highest standards of balance and accuracy, as required by the BBC', or: 'Abu Shamala's 'standard of balance', as low as one can expect from a 'Hamas man', is sufficient to meet the de facto low standard of the BBC News' usually unbalanced and partial reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict'.
Think the facts over and make your own choice of the two versions.
We suggest to return now, after reading the web article, to our 'Conclusions'.
Thank you for your attention.