BBC congratulates itself on its accuracy and impartiality

On May 21st the BBC announced its latest audience figures.

“The figures – the BBC Global Audience Measure (GAM) – reveal that the BBC’s weekly global news audience, which is measured each year, has increased by 18m people, or 7 per cent since last year, to a record-breaking 283 million. This means that one in every 16 adults around the world uses BBC News. […]

The BBC World Service’s audience has increased by 10 per cent in its first year of licence fee funding and now stands at 210m, with the biggest boost coming from new World Service TV news bulletins in languages other than English.

The biggest growth for a single service comes for BBC World Service English, which has its highest-ever weekly reach with an audience of 52m, an increase of more than 25 per cent. The countries where the audience increases for World Service English have been highest are Nigeria, USA, Pakistan and Tanzania.”

The press release also states:BBC brick wall

“Fran Unsworth, Director of the BBC World Service Group, says: “These amazing figures demonstrate the importance and impact of the BBC around the world.

“In times of crisis and in countries lacking media freedom, people around the world turn to the BBC for trusted and accurate information.” [emphasis added]

In a separate blog post Ms Unsworth added:

“The Thai news-stream also highlights one of the founding principles of the BBC World Service – to bring impartial, accurate news to countries when they lack it – although our largest market remains the US. […]

We need to make the most of these opportunities while sticking to the values which make us the most trusted news organisation in the world.

And as we increase our impact and reach around the world, we also need to focus on places where people are lacking accurate impartial news.” [emphasis added]

Those laudable sentiments and aspirations are consistent with statements made by Fran Unsworth when she took on the role of director of the BBC World Service Group. Unfortunately, they do not take into account the fact that BBC World Service content – and not least BBC World Service radio programmes – do not by any stretch of the imagination always live up to those professed standards.

That means that when a BBC presenter exploits her position to advance the inaccurate and defamatory notion of “collective punishment” by Israel or when World Service radio broadcasts unchallenged Hamas propaganda or when US audiences are given inaccurate information about a ceasefire or when a senior BBC journalist promotes claims of a ‘massacre’ that never happened, millions more people are now being misled by shoddy, inaccurate and often cringingly transparent politically motivated reporting.

With the BBC’s growing influence must come a commensurate responsibility to justify the trust of audiences around the world by making accuracy and impartiality mean more than just slogans in a self-lauding press release.

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

In addition to the context-free promotion of Jibril Rajoub’s latest sports related assault on Israel’s legitimacy recently seen on the BBC News website, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ were also treated to a dose of unhindered propaganda from the head of the Palestinian Football Association on May 21st.WHYS Rajoub tweet

The item can be heard from around the 40 minute mark in a podcast here or here from 43:48.

With no intervention from presenter Chloe Tilley, the segment opens with almost two full minutes of a diatribe from Rajoub which is replete with distortions and falsehoods, including accusations of “humiliations” and “racism”. When Tilley does finally interject, it is to ask Rajoub whether he thinks FIFA understands “those pressures on Palestinian teams, on players, on fans?” and once again Rajoub uses the opportunity to promote the inaccurate notion that the underlying issue is Israeli “racism”.

Listeners also hear a contribution from a partly identified football fan from Dubai who, in addition to promoting his own context-free, cherry picked claims, states – with no challenge from Tilley – that it is hard to be a fan or a player “in the context of the occupation and the apartheid”.WHYS Rajoub prog

Also notable is Tilley’s failure to insist on a proper answer from Rajoub concerning a point raised by the one Israeli contributor to the programme and her presentation of the issue with the use of the phrasing “naming a fencing competition after – in his words – a terrorist”.  

Towards the end of the segment listeners hear another rant from Rajoub:

“The Israelis are violating. The Israelis are bullying. The Israelis are behaving like the bully of the neighbourhood. The Israelis are humiliating.”

Throughout almost ten minutes of airtime devoted to this topic listeners did not get to hear the official Israeli view of this story and at no point did Chloe Tilley attempt to make audiences aware of the all-important context of issues concerning Palestinian football players with links to terrorist organisations.

What listeners did however take away from this embarrassingly superficial and uninformative item were unchallenged labels such as “racism” and “apartheid” – another brick in the wall of BBC enabled delegitimisation of Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

BBC’s ECU upholds complaint from the UK’s pro-Hamas lobby

As readers will recall, last month the BBC rejected complaints concerning Jeremy Bowen’s interview with the head of the Hamas terrorist organisation and last week the head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit finalised his dismissal of complaints concerning remarks made by Tim Willcox during an interview with a member of the Parisian Jewish community in January.Complaint pic

However, those who do not make a habit of visiting propaganda outlets such as ‘Electronic Intifada’ and the Russian state-run ‘RT’ may be unaware of the fact that complaints concerning another BBC interview conducted in March 2015 have apparently been upheld by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

Writing at her regular ‘Electronic Intifada’ slot, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem claims that:

“A BBC investigation has found that one of its senior presenters, Sarah Montague, breached the organization’s editorial standards on impartiality in a radio interview she conducted with Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon in March.

The investigation was carried out following allegations of pro-Israel bias against Montague’s interview by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and a number of concerned individuals who complained to the BBC.”

According to RT, the PSC’s complaint included the following point:

“In Montague’s interview with Ya’alon, the senior BBC journalist failed to address misleading statements by the Israeli defense minister.

According to a transcript, Ya’alon said Palestinians “enjoy already political independence. They have their own political system, government, parliament, municipalities and so forth. And we are happy with it. We don’t want to govern them whatsoever.”

The PSC has challenged Ya’alon’s statement, claiming Palestinians live under occupation and, in Gaza, under siege.”

Amena Saleem informs her readers that the same BBC employee who refused to acknowledge the antisemitic nature of Tim Willcox’s “Jewish hands” remarks in Paris came up with the following ruling.

“Last week, all complainants received an email message from Fraser Steel, the BBC’s head of editorial complaints, on behalf of the ECU.

Steel, announcing that he would be upholding the complaint, wrote: “Mr. Yaalon was allowed to make several controversial statements … without any meaningful challenge, and the program-makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.””

Yes – Fraser Steel apparently accepts that it is “controversial” to state self-evident, provable facts about the Palestinian Authority’s political system. That of course is all the more bizarre given the BBC’s frequent description of Hamas as “the democratically elected” ruling body in the Gaza Strip. 

Ironically, on numerous occasions in the past the BBC has failed to conform to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when interviewing both Amena Saleem and other members of the opaquely funded anti-Israel, pro-Hamas lobbying and campaigning group with which she is associated.

For some time now the nature of the BBC’s relationship with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been a topic of interest and the corporation’s swift capitulation to political pressure following the publication of an article last summer about Hamas-supplied casualty figures and the subsequent ‘top-down’ dictated alterations made to that article – along with additional ‘damage control’ – brought the issue further into public view.

In addition to further highlighting that subject, the upholding of this blatantly politically motivated complaint by the head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit also serves to indicate yet again the inherent flaws in the BBC’s self-regulating complaints system and the urgent need for that topic to be addressed.

Related Articles:

BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

Selective PSC outrage over BBC impartiality and integrity

BBC Breakfast’s Jenny Hill enables PSC antisemitism washing

Unhindered promotion of PSC speaker’s propaganda by BBC News

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

 

 

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

An article about the FIFA presidential election which appeared in the Sport section of the BBC News website on May 4th ended with the following paragraphs:

“The Palestinian Football Association is seeking the suspension of Israel from world football.

A proposal to that effect has been included on the agenda for Fifa’s annual congress in Zurich and would need a 75% majority to succeed.

Palestine has complained that Israel has continued to hamper its football activities through restrictions on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel cites security concerns for restrictions it imposes but says it has eased travel for Palestinian athletes between the territories.”

On May 20th another report on that topic appeared in the website’s Sport section under the title “Fifa: Israel football faces possible suspension vote” and in addition that article was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 20th and 21st.FIFA art

Neither of the reports provides BBC audiences with the all-important context of past and present cases of Palestinian football players with connections to terrorist organisations.

“There are numerous examples of Palestinian soccer players who have been publicly acknowledged by terrorist groups to have been members of their organizations. Jabalia Youth Sports Club player Ayman Ahmad al-Kurd was a member of the Qassam Brigades (which acknowledged his martyrdom on their website) and was wearing combat gear when he died during Operation Cast Lead. PIJ admitted—to Reuters, no less—that Wajih Mushtahi, a member of the Palestinian Olympic team who also died in Cast Lead, was a fighter in their organization. Shadi Sbakhi, who played for al-Nuseirat and once earned a spot on the national team, was not just an operative in the Qassam Brigades, but a commander.

The most egregious case, though, was that of 23-year-old Omar Abu Rwayyis (also spelled Rois or Ruis), a native of the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, who in addition to being the goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team was also an employee of the Red Crescent, the local version of the Red Cross. Abu Rwayyis was arrested in April 2012, along with 12 other Amari residents, for participating in a Hamas plot to attack IDF soldiers. Abu Rwayyis, along with other Red Crescent employees, helped transport Kalashnikovs that were used to fire on IDF vehicles.”

Likewise, at no point are readers of these two articles informed of the fact that this latest politically motivated assault on Israel’s legitimacy is led by the same man who in recent years has also tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. Moreover, the second article amplifies the following disingenuous statement from Jibril Rajoub:

“This is nothing to do with politics, this is a sport issue.”

Readers are not told of Jibril Rajoub’s own terrorist past or of the numerous on record statements clarifying his use of sport for political ends.

“He also voiced strong opposition to any form of normalization with Israel, particularly in the field of sports.
The term “normalization” does not exist in the Palestinian sports dictionary, Rajoub stressed during a seminar in Ramallah.
He added that sports in the Palestinian territories was “one of the methods of resistance” against Israel. […]
“The youth sector in Palestine is the basic fuel for the liberation project,” Rajoub said. He also emphasized the youth’s role in maintaining a “permanent state of confrontation” with Israel.”

And:

“The year 2014 is the year of decision; we either go to a state or to a confrontation,” Rajoub said. “The confrontation would be on three fronts: launching and escalating resistance; boycotting and isolating Israel; and halting all forms of normalization [with Israel] on the political, academic, trade and economic levels.” […]

 “The option of armed resistance is also on the table,” he added. […]

“We are entitled to knock on all doors and seek all channels to recruit regional action in favor of our cause,” he said. “Our goal is to create elements of pressure on the international community.”

In addition to framing this story as sports related rather than the political issue it in fact is, the BBC fails to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to understand this transparent attempt to cynically exploit an organization supposedly committed to eliminating racism and discrimination from football for the purpose of delegitimisation.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison on football and politics

BBC yet again conceals terror connections of Palestinian ‘footballers’

BBC’s Donnison promotes Bethlehem Marathon as non-political event

Palestinian visitors to Tehran not newsworthy for the BBC

20% of BBC’s reporting on car attack in Jerusalem is amplification of anonymous hearsay

As has been noted here previously, despite the marked increase in the number of vehicular terror attacks against Israelis seen in recent months, the BBC refrained from reporting the incidents which took place on May 14th, April 25th and April 15th.

On May 20th yet another attack took place in Jerusalem.

“Two Border Police officers were lightly injured in Jerusalem on Wednesday when a Palestinian man veered off the road and hit them with an SUV in what police said was a deliberate attack.

The driver was shot by police and critically wounded after he tried to back up and run over the injured officers again, police said. He was administered first aid at the scene but died shortly thereafter.” [emphasis added]

Ynet reported:

“The driver had been traveling from the direction of the Augusta Victoria area, when he spotted the group of Border Police, who were conducting security checks.  He appears to have veered off the road towards the group in order to carry out the attack.

 An initial investigation shows that the driver identified the group of police officers and tried to run them over. After the attack, he tried to “confirm the kill” by reversing back over the wounded officers. He was then shot by police.” [emphasis added]

The perpetrator is apparently affiliated with Hamas.

Whilst not producing a stand-alone report on the incident, the BBC did include a couple of paragraphs right at the end of an article on another topic (which will be discussed separately).

car attack a Tur

Contrary to the inaccurate impression given in the BBC’s account of the incident the perpetrator was not shot “after he swerved his vehicle” but after he ran the police officers over. Likewise, as can be seen from the reports above and others, the police officers were not “slightly” injured, but lightly to moderately – as described by the Jerusalem Post:

“According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the attack took place shortly before 10 a.m. when Amran Abu Dhein, 41, of Jebl Mukaber in southeastern Jerusalem, rammed his car into a female and two male officers, who sustained light-to-moderate injuries to their legs and hips.”

No less notable than the above inaccuracies is the dubious editorial decision to use over 20% of the word count of this brief report to amplify anonymous hearsay claiming that “the driver had tried to swerve to avoid hitting pedestrians” – despite the existence of testimonies indicating that he had actually tried to run them over a second time. 

 

Remembering Professor Robert Wistrich

The news of Professor Robert S. Wistrich’s sudden death was all the more difficult to absorb given that just last Thursday, those of us participating in the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism had the pleasure of hearing him speak – as eloquently and powerfully as ever. There can be no better account of that address than Professor Wistrich’s own – published in the Jerusalem Post as he requested, but not in time for him to see.

Many tributes have already been written in honour of Professor Wistrich’s life and work and as Ben Cohen observes:

“Robert’s death is an incalculable loss on many levels. At just the time that anti-Semitism has again become socially acceptable in Europe and elsewhere, we have been robbed of one of the few individuals whose voice on this topic underlined urgency, but not hysteria. Robert, moreover, was someone who intimately understood the historical provenance of today’s anti-Semitism, particularly in its insidious “anti-Zionist” guise.”

As readers may recall, Professor Wistrich gave the keynote address at CAMERA’s event examining the effects of UK media coverage of Israel on European antisemitism earlier this year.

May his memory be a blessing.

Related Articles:

In memoriam: Professor Robert S. Wistrich  UK Media Watch

BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ exploits Pope’s canonizations for promotion of propaganda

BBC coverage of the Pope’s recent canonization of four nineteenth century nuns has focused exclusively on the two who were born in places which were at the time part of the Ottoman Empire: Jerusalem in the Mutassariflik of Jerusalem and Ibillin in the Acco (Acre) Sanjak. The Ottomans of course did not recognize ‘Palestine’ as a separate entity but divided the Levant into provinces, governorates and districts.

On May 17th the BBC devoted two written articles and two items in radio broadcasts to the story.

Vatican boost for Christians in Holy Land” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website

Pope Francis canonises two Palestinian nuns” – BBC News website

‘Newshour’ – “Palestinian nuns become saints” – Julian Marshall, BBC World Service radio (from 00:32)

Sunday‘ – Edward Stourton with Fr David Neuhaus, BBC Radio 4 (from 00:57)

All those items include an element of politicization of the topic by means of promotion of two women who would have been extremely unlikely to self-define as Palestinians as “Palestinian nuns”.

An idea of the aims of such politicization of what is, after all, an event of religious significance can be gleaned from an article published by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

“Rifaat Kassis, a prominent political community activist and coordinator of Kairos, a local Christian group, says the canonization is significant on many levels, notwithstanding the recognition that Palestinians under Ottoman rule were part of a diverse, productive society, contrary to the mainstream sidelining of Palestinians from the region’s history.

“This puts Palestine on the map, among not only the catholic world, but the whole world, and I think this will also help people to understand Palestine and the occupation,” he told Ma’an.” [emphasis added]Newshour nuns

Not content with the geographical politicization of the topic, the ‘Newshour’ item went even further and a report supposedly about the canonization of two nuns quickly became a platform for the promotion of political propaganda when presenter Julian Marshall brought into the conversation Oliver McTernan of the Hamas-supporting ‘Forward Thinking’ and a Palestinian Christian from Beit Sahour named only as Ghassan Bannoura who appears to have worked variously for Oxfam GB, and the IMEMC media arm of the ISM-linked Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People.

McTernan: “I think to the broader Palestinian public it’s the rebuilding of Gaza, the unity of Palestine: terribly important.”

Bannoura: “Well of course living under occupation, the war-torn Gaza strip needs rebuilding of course – that is very important and we should, you know, be focusing on rebuilding Gaza, ending the occupation in the West Bank, stopping the settlements that eating our resources in the West Bank, make it impossible to build any kind of future state in the Holy Land.”

Bannoura: “We can’t get to Jerusalem not because of the Palestinian Authority – our own government and our own police. We can’t get to Jerusalem because of the Israeli occupation and the wall that surrounds the city.”

Clearly the editorial consideration behind the running of this item was not only to inform listeners worldwide of the life and times of the Catholic Church’s new saints. 

Update on the BBC’s handling of the Tim Willcox case

As readers no doubt recall, back in February the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints, Fraser Steel, announced the provisional outcome of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s consideration of the collective points made in the many complaints concerning remarks made by Tim Willcox during BBC coverage of the rally in Paris on January 11th 2015.Presentation Willcox b pic 1

Members of the public have now informed us of the receipt of a further communication from Fraser Steel following the presentation of comments on the provisional finding.

“Having had the opportunity of considering comments on the provisional finding, I’m now finalising it on the basis set out in my previous letter, apart from one modification.

It’s clear from a number of the comments I received that I understood the first of the summarised points of complaint (“That the question put by Tim Willcox to an interviewee was misleading in that it linked the Paris killings in a kosher supermarket with events in the Middle East”) in a different sense from some who complained.

What I had in mind was a direct causal relationship between particular recent events in the Middle East and the Paris killings, and it was on that basis that I wrote “Nothing in the day’s coverage of events in Paris suggested a direct link between events in the Middle East and those killings, and I can’t see that such a suggestion can readily be derived from what Mr Willcox said”.

It has been put to me, and I have accepted, that Mr Willcox’s words suggested a broader link between perceptions of Palestinian suffering and the incidence of anti-Semitic incidents.

However, that doesn’t alter the outcome because I don’t think suggesting a link of that kind can be viewed as a breach of editorial standards (or even as particularly controversial, considering the correlation between anti-Semitic incidents and Israeli actions with an adverse impact on Palestinians which has been noted by organisations such as the Community Security Trust).”

As was noted here at the time, Steel’s misunderstanding of the essence of the complaints on that topic was plain to see. Unfortunately, he obviously still does not (or will not) comprehend the issue properly.

Willcox was not making some academic comment on the ‘epidemiology’ of antisemitic incidents. What he did – whilst interrupting a woman talking about the need for recognition of the targeting of European Jews – was to insert a false equivalence (evident in his use of the words “as well”) in the form of ‘Palestinian suffering’ which he attributed to “Jewish hands”. In other words, Willcox falsely implied that – like Jews in France – Palestinians are targets because of their religion and/or ethnicity and that European Jews can be held collectively responsible for the perceived actions of Israel.

The bottom line of this latest communication from Fraser Steel is that he stands by his earlier proposal to reject en masse the large number of complaints received about Willcox’s remarks. Complainants still have the possibility of appeal to the BBC Trust at their disposal for a limited period of time, but as Steel points out in this letter, “the Trust does not consider every appeal brought to it”.

Four months (and goodness knows how many publicly funded man-hours) on, the BBC has not budged an inch from its original classification of Willcox’s remarks as “poorly phrased”. As Steel wrote in his provisional findings which have now been deemed ‘finalised':

“I share Mr Willcox’s view that his comments were poorly phrased, but I think they were no worse than that.”

One cannot but recall the words of Nick Cohen at the time:

“…Willcox is not some isolated and aberrant racist; his views are the standard opinions of the European left middle class. I meet them every day in my political neighbourhood. They are the result of ignorance rather than malice. (Although I find that in time a dark alchemy can transform ignorance into malice.)

Willcox like so many others does not understand that anti-Semitism is not a rational, if regrettably bloody, critique of Israeli foreign policy but an insane conspiracy theory that has captured the minds of millions of fanatics, moved whole nations and led to uncountable deaths.

I wonder how many more bombs it will take to blow these people out of their folly. In my bleaker moments, I suspect they will take it to their graves.”

The BBC’s handling of this case has from the very beginning been characterized by a complete disregard for its social responsibilities as the publicly funded national broadcaster of a country in which less than a year ago antisemitic hate incidents reached record levels. As we noted here in January:

“Precisely because of the fact there are people in the UK who make threats to British ten year-olds whilst invoking a fabricated connection between them and a conflict thousands of miles away, the BBC still needs to issue a prominent on-air statement clarifying that Willcox’s statement was not merely “poorly phrased”, but that the linkage he promoted based on the premise that Jews anywhere in the world hold collective responsibility for the perceived actions of the State of Israel is both false and antisemitic.”

Unfortunately for both the credibility of the BBC complaints system and the broader reputation of the corporation as a whole – those words still stand. 

 

BBC News misleads on ‘Arab world’ saints, hides significance of Vatican-PA treaty

On May 13th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a report titled “Vatican to recognise Palestinian state in treaty“. The main image selected to illustrate that article dates from May 2014 when the Pope visited the Middle East and chose to pray beside a section of the anti-terrorist fence covered in graffiti which included a spurious comparison between Bethlehem and the Warsaw Ghetto.Vatican treaty art

The closing paragraphs of the report state:

“This weekend President Abbas will have talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and on Sunday he will be attend [sic] a canonisation ceremony during which two Palestinian nuns who lived in the 19th Century – when Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire – will be declared saints.

They will be the first new saints from the Arab world to be named since the early days of Christianity.”

As our colleagues at CAMERA have pointed out, that latter statement is not accurate. In 1977 a Lebanese Maronite Christian was canonized and at least two other saints of Lebanese origin alone have been canonized since then.

As was also the case with many other media outlets, the BBC’s report focuses audience attentions on the political aspects of the story.

“The Vatican is to formally recognise Palestinian statehood in a treaty that will be signed shortly, officials say. […]

The Vatican’s announcement comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood. Over the last year the European Parliament as well as the UK, Republic of Ireland, Spain and France have all passed non-binding motions in favour.

Sweden has gone further, officially recognising Palestine as a state.”

Readers also came across the following opaque generalised statements:

“The Vatican is eager that property and civil rights of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian state is protected, correspondents say.

According to the New York Times, it has strong religious interests in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that include Christian holy sites.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says that Pope Francis is making every effort to strengthen the Christian presence in the Middle East at a time when when [sic] hundreds of thousands of Arab Christians are fleeing Islamic violence. […]

The agreement on Wednesday will define Catholic Church activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Holy See said on Wednesday.”

A clue to the context behind those vague statements and insight into a no less significant aspect of the treaty between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority is provided by the Catholic News Service:

“Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states and head of the Vatican delegation at the negotiations, said the Vatican wanted the agreement to “promote the life and activity of the Catholic Church and its recognition on a juridical level.” […]
The chapter on “freedom of religion and conscience,” he said, is “very elaborate and detailed.”
Other chapters deal with “various aspects of the life and activity of the church in the Palestinian territories: its freedom of action, its personnel and jurisdiction, its personal status, houses of worship, social and charitable activity (and) means of social communication. Finally, a chapter is dedicated to financial and property questions.

Asked if the agreement could be a model for agreements with other Muslim-majority countries, Msgr. Camilleri said every bilateral treaty deals with the specific situation of the countries involved.
“In this case, because it deals with the presence of the church in the land where Christianity was born, the agreement has a unique value and significance,” he said.
At the same time, though, he said the agreement’s recognition of the church and of religious freedom “could be followed by other countries, including those with a Muslim majority, and demonstrate that such recognition is not incompatible with the fact that the majority of the country’s population belongs to another religion.””

La Stampa’s Vatican Insider adds:

“But the debate over the recognition of the State of Palestine must not overshadow other passages in the agreement which promise to be of significance. They have not been made public yet but they were summarised by the Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Antoine Camilleri, who is head of the Vatican delegation at the negotiations.

Having announced that the preamble will express the Holy See’s hope for a two-State solution (entailing the Palestinian side’s full recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel), the prelate explained that the agreement contains a “very elaborate and detailed” chapter on the “freedom of religion and conscience”. The legal agreement then sets out a number of fundamental elements regarding religious freedom and the freedom of conscience for all those living and working in the Palestinian Territories. Guarantees, such as respect for places of worship, the freedom of action of the Church, the protection of its social and charitable activities and the right to promote means of communication, are put down in black and white.”

Given that the BBC’s interest in the topic of Middle East Christians has increased of late due to prevailing events on the ground, one might have thought that news of a treaty aimed at protecting their religious freedom in one part of the region would have prompted the self-styled ‘standard-setter for international journalism‘ to break away from the media pack and provide its audiences with informative coverage of the background story of why the rights of Christians need to be protected in an agreement between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority.