An ABC interview
with the Australian organisers behind the building of a park in Gaza took a
bizarre and embarrassing turn last month, when an outlandish and demonstrably
false claim made during the interview was later employed to promote the
interview on the ABC website.
During the June 7
interview, pro-Palestinian humanitarian aid advocate Moira Kelly,
one of the founders of the "Global Gardens of Peace", told ABC News Breakfast hosts
Michael Rowland and Beverly O'Connor that "there are no birds in
Gaza" - a claim so shocking on face value that O'Connor repeated it back
to her, yet she did not actually question its authenticity.
might have been tempted to simply let such a nonsensical claim go, yet this
became more difficult after ABC decided to draw further attention to it when
it posted the interview their website under the heading "Peace garden to
bring birds back to Gaza" along with the following description:
new garden dubbed 'The Garden of Hope' is set to bring a sense of peace and
serenity to the war torn Gaza Strip. It's said that no birds inhabit the region
but it's hoped the garden will provide a habitat for them to return.
is hard to imagine how ABC news staff could have not caught Kelly's
blatant exaggeration and even felt free to put the ABC's imprimatur on
the claim by including it in the story summary. Yet even the most cursory
investigation would have confirmed that the Gaza Strip, like its neighbour
Israel, is literally teeming with avian life.
"birds in Gaza Strip" into Google and the very second response you
get, in terms of relevance (the first being a Wikipedia article) is a bird
checklist by the World Bird Database which lists 171
species of birds in the Gaza Strip.
third most relevant response is a scholarly paper from
2011 by Dr. Abdel Fattah N. Abd Rabou from the Department of Biology at the
Islamic University of Gaza.
paper, "Notes on Some Palestinian Bird Fauna Existing in the Zoological
Gardens of the Gaza Strip" focuses mainly on birds in captivity in the
Strip. However, the paper also includes a survey of the natural bird life in
Dr. Abd Rabou:
Gaza Strip, which is located at the southern portion of the Palestine coast
along the Mediterranean Sea, is blessed with a considerable number of bird
fauna including terrestrial and aquatic forms. Dense concentration of birds
occurs over the Gaza Strip during spring and autumn migration seasons [5, 6].
It is worth mentioning that wetlands, including the wetland ecosystem of Wadi
Gaza, are considered as very productive ecosystems, having rich bird fauna.
They provide bird fauna with all necessary requirements such as shelter,
protection, food and breeding, resting and roosting places ... etc [7-13].
should be noted that, in spite of the abundance of bird life in the Strip, the
biologist does identify threats to the bird population. It's worth mentioning
here that none of them have anything to do with the conflict with Israel, but
rather suggest an indictment of internal Palestinian mismanagement of
autumn, scores of fine nets are erected each year along the Gaza coastline to
illegally catch migratory birds such as the Common Quail Coturnix coturnix [1,
9, 10]. In addition to poaching and hunting, urbanization and residential
creeping, ecosystem alteration and destruction, environmental pollution and the
extensive and intensive use of pesticides impose real threats on birdlife in
the Gaza Strip.
about visual evidence to support the existence of a healthy bird population in
Gaza? There is tons. Take, just for one example, this photo essay by
Palestinian photographer Abed Rahim Khatib from April 2012. Flocks of birds
literally fill his lens.
birds in the spring season also come from all over the world and pass in the
skies of the Gaza Strip.
the abundance of evidence to be found regarding the proliferation of birds in
Gaza, there is no need to belabour the point.
up, this blog post should not be construed as some sort of objection to the
building of a park in Gaza. On the contrary, one should only hope that Gazan
children of the future should enjoy a plethora of wholesome recreational
pursuits in parks rather than the Hamas paramilitary
"summer camps" and hateful indoctrination and
incitement against Jews and Israel they are currently exposed to.
there is no disputing that any trees in a new park will provide additional
perches for birds traversing the area and this is undoubtedly a positive
(although from the pictures of the park site, it seems that the land that was
given to Kelly for the park is not actually situated in a densely populated
the same time, though, one can only wonder why Rowland and O'Connor failed to
ask Kelly why Hamas, which rules Gaza, chooses to pour its money into building
offensive weapon capabilities against Israel instead of building and supporting
its own parks.
more importantly, ABC goofed by giving Kelly a license to
exaggerate claims about conditions in Gaza as a fundraising and propaganda
tool. Even before the construction of this park, Gaza most certainly did, and
continues to have, trees, bird life as well as green spaces (even some lavish
ones, like the Dolphin Water
Park and Resort which opened in April, compensating for another
one which Hamas destroyed
and the ABC effectively conspired to distort the reality
on the ground in the interests of manufacturing sympathy for a doubtlessly
worthwhile project. But when Australia's public broadcaster uncritically
promotes such storytelling, it is acting counter to the principles of ethical
journalism, and its own charter.
this incident is, of course, peripheral to the more substantive issues of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for ABC's journalists and editors to "parrot"
the bizarre notion that Gaza is devoid of birdlife without anyone along the way
bothering to exercise the most basic level of fact-checking is indeed
raises the question of what other fact-checking, if any, is employed by the ABC regarding
news items originating in Palestinian controlled areas on more important