Indy story on Gaza student “denied” visa to study in UK riddled with distortions

A Sept. 27th article in the Independent by Bethan McKernan claims that a 28-year-old Palestinian student named Mohammed Awad was due to begin a masters programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, but may have to forfeit his place because of an “Israeli delay in approving his travel papers”.

Awad, from Jabalia, north of Gaza City, is quoted by the Indy expressing his frustration at the “red tape and lengthy delays” at COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) in processing his application. 

However, we contacted COGAT to inquire about travel visa, and they responded by emphatically denying the Indy’s version of what occurred. A spokesperson told us that his application was approved for travel on Nov. 14th, the exact date requested by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee.  Though the article was updated (at some point after it was first published) to note a response by COGAT confirming that Awad’s application had been “submitted” for travel on Nov. 14th, McKernan failed to make clear that it was in fact “approved”.

The headline accompanying McKernan’s article is even more misleading.  It not only fails to reflect the reply from COGAT, but actually claims Awad’s application was “denied”, despite the fact that the article doesn’t make this claim.


Additionally, the Indy piece asserts that Awad had previously “missed the chance to study in France in 2014 because of a delayed COGAT decision, as well as a professional development course in the West Bank last year.” But, this too was denied by COGAT in an email to UK Media Watch.  According to a spokesperson, this was his first such request.

Near the end of the article, McKernan includes a quote from an ‘expert’ named Garry Spedding:

In a letter to MPs urging them to intervene in Mr Awad’s case, Gary Spedding, a cross-party consultant on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, said he could not “stress enough” “the value of bringing Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly that of the Gaza Strip, over to the United Kingdom for studies.”

McKernan obfuscates the fact that Garry Spedding is hardly an objective “consultant”. He’s a well-known pro-Palestinian activist who founded a group called Palestine Solidarity Society at Queen’s University in Belfast.  Spedding was deported from Israel in 2014 due to his reported involvement in organising a protest at Queen’s in which an Israeli official was attacked.

Further down in the article, the Indy contextualises COGAT’s  putative delay of Awad’s travel request by alleging that “permission to leave Gaza is notoriously difficult to obtain for the enclave’s two million residents”, an Israeli process characterized by McKernan as “Kafkaesque”. 

However, the statistics (provided to us by COGAT) tell a completely different story.

  • In 2014, 65,539 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In 2015, 103,784 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In 2016, 99,864 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, 39,219 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
Somehow, since 2014, more than 300,000 Palestinians have managed to navigate this “Kafkaesque” process.
Finally, in a perfect example of the advocacy journalism that routinely compromises the media’s objectivity in covering the conflict, here’s how McKernan ended her “news article”:
We’ve lodged an official complaint with Indy editors over the misleading and false claims in the article. 
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22 replies »

  1. Glad you covered this. The story stank.

    I would like to know two things:

    (a) the time between the Independent contacting COGAT and the time of publication, and

    (b) why the Independent haven’t printed COGAT’s response.

  2. We see once again the refusal of a UK paper to do the most basic fact checking when they are about to print an article about Israel.

    Moreover, the name Bethan McKernan, revealed over and over to be a compulsive and serial liar about Israel, should be enough to get anything she writes spiked by the paper’s editors even without starting a fact check on the story she writes.

  3. This is the paper of Robert Fisk-who thinks he is the journalists equivalent to “Lawrence of Arabia” . And Yasim Alia Browne.
    So what do you expect.

  4. Liar and fantasist extraordinaire. Her twitter name is of course @mck_beth, stealing validation that she cannot supply from within herself

    • An Islamofascist colonist occupying or wanting to occupy Israeli lands and murder the indigenous people there

    • It was a decent fist of an article and the Independent should be more careful.However you are trying to cause mischief. You will never manage to wipe them out either physically or from literary history. You are not helping Adam in fact you are making the comments seem extreme and uncritical.

        • You know fine what a Palestinian is , you are suggesting, as I have seen a hundred times,that the term is manufactured ,or a figment of the western antisemite’s imagination. It will be simpler to live with them and to share your land rather than deny them their name and their history They wont give up. The Jews didnt . Why would the Palestinians?

          • A Palestinian is a manufactured nationality since there has never been a Palestinian state in all history.

            Paul. Do you support Kurdish independence?? You know. Like ‘a piece’ of Syria, ‘a piece’ of Turkey, ‘a piece’ of Iran, (I just love Iran. The Mad Mullahs hate America almost as much as you do). And a piece of Iraq.

          • “It will be simpler to live with them and to share your land rather than deny them their name and their history. ” How simplistic. . Would that not be rather more relevant if you apply it to the Palestinians ? UNESCO did not rob them of their ancestral tombs , denying thousands of years of their history. Israeli school books do not erase the PA controlled areas from their maps as PA books do with Israel, ” from the Jordan to the Sea ” Then there are the numerous times peace was refused by the Palestinians, beginning with UN Resolution 181, when Jews accepted the fragment of land given them from the original British Mandate promise, and 5 Arab states declared war. Camp David, followed by Arafat’s 2nd Intifada. 2008 when Olmert offered land for peace, to name but a few. They have one aim and one aim only. Palestine will eliminate the State of Israel, enthusiastically assisted by BDS, the UN and its agencies and naïve folk who would sooner believe in ideological fairies than face facts about the conflict.

          • Paul Berchmans,
            You are making a lot of extremely unfair assumptions. You really need to apologize.
            Instead of exploding into a rage of virtue signaling why don’t you just answer my question?
            There is a problem with you telling me what I am suggesting, because you have so little evidence to back it up.
            So instead of you telling me I know what a Palestinian is, why don’t you just tell me what you think it is?

            As far as your suggestion, “It will be simpler to live with them and to share your land rather than deny them their name and their history,” I would only say you should offer them that advice, and BTW, what is their history? That goes to my original question.

  5. The idea that Mr. Awad needs to go to the UK for a first rate education in antisemitism when he can get the same thing at home in Gaza is racist.

  6. ” in which an Israeli official was attacked.”

    Have had time to look into this. Even the Israel press noted no injury except to one of the demonstrators. Was this part ” fair and accurate ” ? When I was a kid not telling all the truth was considered a lie.

      • Paul, I find your comment hilarious. The whole Independent article under discussion, is riddled with falsehood, by commission and omission, yet you pick one little detail to mount a defence. btw “attack ” can also be defined as “fierce opposition or criticism ” ( not always leading to hospitalisation ). So if ” not telling all the truth is a lie “, what do you say about Bethan McKernan’s morality as demonstrated in the article ?

    • Well, Paul, times have changed. Observe Saeb Erekat, the Palestine National Movement, BDS, and the other big “truth tellers.”