Sea of Darkness

Supplying Gaza with fuel is a complex matter. Various political complications have arisen, and electricity blackouts in Gaza are imminent.
Egypt Independent has:

”The Gaza Strip’s sole electricity station has become inoperative because Egypt has begun to crack down on fuel smuggling activities through their shared border, a Palestinian energy official in Gaza said Tuesday.”

From Palestinian News Agency Ma’an:

“Meanwhile, the director of Gaza’s only power plant Walid Saad Sayil said Wednesday that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s delay in payments for fuel contributed to the crisis, as well as failures by the energy authority and company in Gaza.”

Gaza Energy Authority official Ahmed Abul Amreen held a press conference during which he made various statements about the cause of this crisis, adding, apparently with no particular reason, that “he holds Israel responsible.” Jon Donnison picked that up.

Normally Israel supplies Gaza with 120 megawatts per day, some comes from Gaza’s small power plant and some is brought unofficially from Egypt using underground tunnels.
According to EOZ

Israel is providing exactly the same amount of electricity to Gaza it always has.[…] “Palestinians” instructed the Israelis not to provide the Strip with heavy-duty diesel because they could get the fuel – reportedly cheaper – from Egypt.”

Jon Donnison’s report is unclear and muddled. It is framed as though Israel’s blockade has brought about a crisis in which “The strip would soon be “swimming in a sea of darkness”.

The Egyptian and the Palestinian news agencies appear to be more realistic about the situation than Donnison, who sees everything through a haze of Israelophobia

Since writing this piece I have had more time to look at it.
I’ve been comparing Jon Donnison’s report with other reporting of the imminent power shortage in Gaza to see whether Donnison’s is significantly more slanted against Israel than the others.

From the plethora of reports on this topic I decided to confine my comparison to aunews, ABC News, Yahoo and France 24 because I thought it reasonable to assume BBC editors had read the contents, since they were the news organisations in web links provided by the BBC.

Three of these contain sections copied and pasted from each other’s material, (this is normal practice, and I think the original copy probably comes from A/P or reuters.)

For example ABC News,, and France 24 start with the paragraph beginning: “Gaza’s sole power plant has ground to a halt” Quoting Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official from Gaza’s energy authority. They expand thus:

“The Gaza power plant has completely stopped working because of the shortage of fuel entering the Gaza Strip, and the depletion of diesel it needs to work,” said Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official from Gaza’s energy authority.

He called on Egypt “to assume its historical responsibility in supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people by ensuring they had all the necessary fuel to operate the plant”.

According to the UN agency for humanitarian affairs, OCHA, (UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs) the amount of fuel being transported through the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza has dropped by half over the last fortnight, reportedly due to increased restrictions on the movement of fuel by the Egyptian police.

“Only half of the amount of fuel that entered in the previous weeks has been coming into Gaza for the past two weeks,” OCHA said in its weekly report.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that the reason for this sharp decline is an increase in fuel prices triggered by movement restrictions imposed by the Egyptian police on fuel cargoes travelling to Rafah.”

They continue with identical quotes from Ismail Haniya, calling on Cairo to
immediately intervene and meet all the electricity needs of Gaza in a permanent way” (See? even the Hamas leader isn’t blaming Israel here) All three continue with heart-rending descriptions of the suffering the shortages will cause.

Towards the end France 24 and AU News insert the obligatory:

“Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 following the capture of one of its soldiers in June of that year.
The blockade was tightened a year later following Hamas’s forcible takeover of the territory, and Israel began restricting the amounts of fuel allowed through the crossings.”

But they add this ‘mitigating’ paragraph:

“To cope with the situation, Palestinians gradually developed tunnel infrastructure allowing the transfer of large quantities of fuel into Gaza, at a cheaper price, which resulted in an almost complete halt in the purchase from Israel,” OCHA said.
Gaza’s main power plant has closed down on several occasions in the past because of fuel shortages.”

Yahoo hasn’t used so much ‘cut and paste,’ but its report contains roughly the same information, with an additional relevant paragraph.

“Abu Al-Amrain said Israel bore overall responsibility for the ongoing crisis, but Mustafa Ibrahim, a human rights researcher and writer, said Hamas’s administration had failed to provide the territory with an energy safety net.
“(The Energy Authority) made everything depend on fuel smuggled through the tunnels, without having any guarantees that this flow could continue. The current severe crisis is evidence that this was the wrong approach,” he said.

And Yahoo’s heart-rending paragraph:

The sound of generators roared in Gazan streets as businesses tried to keep the lights on, but the PCHR warned that the power cuts could have serious consequences. “The current crisis may impact access … to vital services,
including the supply of drinking water,” it said in a statement.

Yahoo continues:

Gaza’s precarious energy supply is bad at the best of times, with a rickety infrastructure system badly degraded during fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past five years.

Israel maintains a blockade by land, air and sea on Gaza to prevent weapons and material with potential military use from reaching Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish state.

The editor is given credit: ” (Editing by Crispian Balmer)” Hats off to you Crispian!

One does wonder if Donnison is lazy stupid or disingenuous.

As far as I can tell, Jon Donnison’s report owes more to earlier BBC reports than to the aforementioned group.
For example, in January 2008 “Gaza City plunged into Darkness”

“Cars were still driving along Gaza City’s darkened streets
The only power plant in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has shut down because of a lack of fuel, Palestinian officials say, blaming Israeli restrictions.”

At that time they turned to John Ging, notorious for disseminating anti-Israel propaganda whenever the slightest opportunity presented itself, for their heart-rending plea.

In November 2008 they were at it again. Gaza power cut blamed on blockade.
This time the shortage was blamed on Israel’s blockade because they couldn’t receive parts for the power plant, despite Israel supplying 60% of Gaza’s fuel, and the power plant providing 32% at the time as per the BBC.

“Israel closed the crossings after a rocket was fired at Israel late on Monday.
In the past, Israeli officials have accused Hamas of cynically exaggerating the impact of border closures to garner sympathy, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Jerusalem. But the United Nations relief agency in Gaza (Unrwa) has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis unless the crossings are opened.”

(Probably John Ging again)

In March 2010 the BBC website boasted a slideshow of 10 images of various people in Gaza with generators and various people in Gaza who need generators, photographs kindly supplied by Karl Schrembi of Oxfam.

Jon Donnison’s article reads like a series of disconnected and emotive sentences. He could have copied and pasted from non BBC material and still been lazy, but he would have looked less stupid and less disingenuous if he had at least tried to appear less biased.

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16 Responses to Sea of Darkness

  1. RGH says:

    Some further background to that power station…and why the ‘blockade’ is the standard red-herring which Donnison dutifully reports as being the cause is so misleading.

    One wonders if he is just lazy, stupid or disingenuous.

    “Enron built the power plant, which is now owned by Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), owned by Lebanon’s Khoury family, and the Palestine Investment Fund and Padico Ltd. The power plant is only partly operating using diesel that the Palestinian Authority buys from Paz Oil Company Ltd’s (TASE:PZOL) Paz Ashdod Refinery.
    Conversion of the Gaza power plant to natural gas would require construction of a pipeline, which would take three years.
    Although Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, it is not officially involved in the production of electricity or its supply to the population. Until a year ago, (2010) the EU paid for the diesel bought from Paz, but the Palestinian Authority now bears the full cost.
    The Palestinian Authority has not been able to collect debts on the electricity it supplies to Gaza’s residents from the power station, which means that the cost of fuel to operate it causes financial losses. For their part, Gaza residents suffer from prolonged outages because the plant is only partly operational.
    The Gaza power plant is the only plant owned by the Palestinian Authority. However, Palestinian entrepreneurs want to build a 600-megawatt plant near Jenin, in the northern West Bank. IEC (Israel Electricity) currently supplies all of the West Bank’s electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is IEC’s largest customer, responsible for 7% of total sale, amounting to over NIS 1 billion a year. Construction of the Jenin power plant would save IEC the need to build a new NIS 1 billion power plant of its own.”

    There, Jon, with a bit of sleuthing (and local knowledge) and reading BiasedBBC,  you could come up with a story which is both informative and breaks out of lazy stereotypes.

    Those power cuts have more to do with the PA and Hamas than with blockades.

    PS Jon should ask Black or Harrabin about how much nasty pollution from an unscrubbed diesel power plant goes up in comparison with a natural gas powered plant .

    Doesn’t solve the PAs debt problem with its Gazan customers, though.


    • John Anderson says:


      You have filleted Jon Donnison.

      But still we are forced to pay for liars or imbeciles like him


  2. Corran Horn says:

    “he holds Israel responsible.”

    Isn’t this the BBC and Palestinians default position no matter the situation? 

    No electric = Israel responsible.

    No water = Israel responsible.

    No gas = Israel responsible.

    It’s raining = Israel responsible.

    Ed balls economic plans are wrong = Israel responsible.

    See how easy it is.


    • Biodegradable says:

      “…if the telephone is busy, if your bathtub springs a leak,
       if receipts don’t tally up right, if your lager tastes too weak
       if the cake runs out on sunday, if the Prince of Wales is gay
       If the bedstead creeks at nightime, if your poodle’s stool is grey
       chorus: The Jews are all to blame for it!
       To blame, to blame , to blame for it!
       Why so, why are the jews to blame?
       My child, don’t ask, they’re just to blame…”
      from German cabaret song 1931
       (to be sung to Habanera from Carmen if you fancy giving it a go.)


  3. ian says:

    In theory Donnison and other beeb hacks could be extradited to Israel and prosecuted for incitement to terrorism. There’s no torture in Israel so human rights issues wouldn’t stop them being tried there. In practice it won’t happen because the ConDem coalition is just Labour minus the union donations.


    • My Site (click to edit) says:

      ‘There’s no torture in Israel so human rights issues wouldn’t stop them being tried there.’

      Odd, therefore, that as far as the EU is concerned Israel is almost always guilty and/or to be vilified in matters ME, yet the surrounding states the EU (and hence BBC) support in all things are the ones to which UK-based ‘radicals’ cannot be repatriated on account of their human rights abuses.

      Go figger.


    • deegee says:

      Unlikely, there are too many Israeli ratbags in the queue before him.  :'(


  4. deegee says:

    The Donnison story recycles an old theme, that of Gaza is deprived of light by Israel. I have attached a famous picture of the Gaza legislature sitting in the dark and conducting business by candlelight. Unfortunately the photographer didn’t notice (or hopefully did) the bright sunlight behind the drawn curtains.

    If you run a Google search for Gaza + candlelight it is amazing how many examples you will find.


  5. cjhartnett says:

    “Supplying Gaza with fuel is a complex matter”
    Doubtless it is, and therefore we can no longer hold the BBC culpable for its sneers, smears and embellishments….it pleads diminished responsibilty these days.
    I refer m`learned friend(thats you Sue!) to the BBCs opt-out of of FoI demands with respect to its Dreyfus letter…sorry Balen report.
    It doesn`t have to release it, because art and fiction are exempt…and if bundled up in a journalism context(i.e wrapped up in a sheet of the Guardian)…then it does`nt have to tell any of us about its endemic, systemic bias and prejudices in regard to Israel and its people, friends and supporters.
    It is indeed a complex matter Sue…which is why I come here to read what YOU report about Israel and now what the BBCs fiction factories churn out at the Salford Sluices.
    Now what % of the licence fee should we be sending to you as opposed to Bowen and his Celtic/Canadian harem of miseries.They seem to have been taking Gordon Browns happy pills for way too long now!


  6. George R says:

    Under guise of ‘free speech’, INBBC censors on Israel, as we pay legal fees.  
    “Court rejects BBC Israel bias report appeal”  


  7. cjhartnett says:

    What about if we slip under Mrs Qatadas burkha and claim the Supremes Court(Lady Ross presiding!) is no place for such weighty issues. These are not issues for novices, nor for a nation in Special Needs,pleading diminished responsibilty for anything since Thatcher left!
    Let`s take it to Strasbourg…bagsy Hannons settee, as long as Farage isn`t offering to fly us there!


  8. TooTrue says:

    Donnison bleated during the Mavi Marmara affair that “The activists were defending themselves against the Israelis with sticks” and the World Service repeatedly broadcast the report, even after the video was circulating on the Internet of the “activists” beating the Israelis to the deck with iron bars.

    Thta’s Donnison and the BBC. Though the subsequent Panorama programme went some way to correct the bias.


  9. sue says:

    I’ve just added a rather lengthy update. (Yesterday I was too busy.)


  10. Istrue says:

    Great post, according to the PCHR Gaza, the EU now give money to the PNA so they can pay for the fuel themselves

    I also wrote about this earlier today .

    It’s also interesting that the fuel coming in from Egypt is smuggled in – the press don’t seem to consider that this in itself is strange – why aren’t they questioning why it isn’t coming in legally?


  11. Biodegradable says:

    The saga continues, and still no update from the BBC. They’ve already spun their anti-Israel narrative so their work is done.

    Hamas rejects Egypt fuel offer as Gaza energy crisis deepens

    Hamas leaders rejected an offer by Egypt to deliver gas to the Gaza Strip power station on Saturday, four days into a major energy crisis that has taken a hold of the coastal territory.
    According to Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, a representative from the Gaza energy authority, the proposal was rejected due to Hamas’ previous experience with the “Zionist occupation” and the way in which Israel controls the flow of goods into Gaza.

    Earlier on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority rejected an Israeli proposal to buy fuel directly from Israel and transport it to Gaza, as it had done so over a year ago.
    The crisis emerged over the past week after Egypt stopped the smuggling of gas through underground tunnels to Gaza. Over the past year, Gaza has received its fuel to produce energy through the tunnels at an extremely low price – nearly NIS 2.5 per liter.
    Egypt’s decision, which was made due to of an economic crisis and an overall lack of fuel in the country, forced the Gaza power plant to stop working. The plant provides nearly 60% of the strips energy.
    The Palestinian Ministry of Health claims that the fuel reserves intended for hospitals is due to disappear on Sunday.