Biggest BBC blunders & bungles of 2012

With 2012 having not been one of its finest years, the BBC is probably rather relieved to see the back of it. But before we round off the year and ring in 2013, here’s an open thread for readers to tell us what they think were the BBC’s biggest blunders and bungles of 2012. 

Up near the top of my list – if only for the sheer arrogance of it – would have to be the conjuring trick which enabled the BBC Sports section to disappear an entire capital city on its Olympics web page, whilst simultaneously creating another. 

Commentator BBC Olympics

The BBC’s subsequent ‘correction’ was highly unsatisfactory too, despite it having received official notification from the Israeli government as to where the country’s capital is located.

Tell us in the comments below what you consider to be the ‘lowlight’ of BBC coverage of Israel and the Middle East in 2012.

Happy New Year!

 

BBC confuses armistice lines with borders yet again

Kibbutz Ein Gev, circa 1937

In the BBC’s profile of the Golan Heights which appears in the Middle East section of the BBC News website we find that once more 1949 Armistice Lines are mistakenly presented as borders. Addressing the subject of past talks between Israel and Syria, the profile states:

“But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee [sic] and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.”

That “pre-1967 border” is actually the 1949 Armistice Line which was specifically defined as not being a border. Article V of the agreement states:

“1. It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.

2. In pursuance of the spirit of the Security Council resolution of 16 November 1948, the Armistice Demarcation Line and the demilitarized Zone have been defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of the two Parties in such manner as to minimize the possibility of friction and incident, while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the Demilitarized Zone, without prejudice to the ultimate settlement.”

Prior to 1949, the most recent recognized border in the area was the one agreed between the mandatory powers Britain and France in 1923 after several alterations had been made in 1922 to the original territory assigned to the Jewish national home. 

1920 map

1922 map

1922 2 map

The 1923 Franco-British Boundary Agreement came about after the British High Commissioner at the time, Herbert Samuel, demanded and got full control of the Sea of Galilee and the Upper Jordan River. The border was set 100 meters to the east of the Jordan River, with a ten meter-wide strip at the north-eastern side of the lake and a broader strip at its south-eastern side included in the territory of the Mandate for Palestine. 

Syrian - Israel frontier

In 1948, the two year-old Syrian state took part in the attack against the nascent State of Israel, with that conflict ending in the 1949 Armistice Agreement which established an Armistice line and a series of demilitarized zones which did not constitute an international border. 

The BBC’s claim that a return to a “pre-1967 border” would “give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee” is therefore inaccurate as the only border in existence prior to 1967 was the one agreed upon in 1923 by France and Britain which left access to the lake within the borders of Mandate Palestine. 

BBC profile of Hizballah omits relevant information

As we have mentioned here before, the BBC’s profile of Hizballah is not only a wooly, anodyne portrait, but it has also not been updated in two and  a half years and therefore does not include any information on Hizballah’s role in the Assad regime’s brutal violence against the Syrian people or its involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri. 

A recent article in the Ynet magazine serves as a reminder that Hizballah’s extensive involvement in drug trafficking also remains unmentioned in its BBC profile, as well as in the BBC’s Q&A section on Mexican drug cartels, despite the fact that some articles on the BBC News website have touched on the subject. 

In the name of accuracy, perhaps the BBC News website editors could add the updating of that profile of Hizballah to their list of New Year’s resolutions. 

BBC gives air time to ‘Stop the War Coalition’

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme of December 29th featured a short discussion between the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, Lindsey German of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and guest editor Ann Lesley on the subject of anti-Americanism in the UK. The relevant section of the broadcast can be heard here under the heading 7:51 and its synopsis reads: 

“Do we hold America to a higher moral standard than other countries? Our guest editor Ann Leslie thinks Britain is anti-American, we say nothing when Arabs kill other Arabs, but we heap criticism on the United States if it is responsible for any deaths. She suggests it is a form of racism. Jonathan Freedland writes for the Guardian and New York Times and has written about our mismatched attitudes. Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and co-author of A People’s History of London.”

At 02:00 in the clip, German says: [emphasis added] 

“I think it beggars belief really that eleven years after the war on terror began when we’ve seen wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya, there are threats now to intervene in Syria and in Iran, that Israel is backed up to the tune of $3 billion a year by the US and all these things I think lead to a great deal of criticism in this country and around the world.”

Lindsey German – being Lindsey German – has of course nothing to say about Iranian funding for terror organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah. Neither, apparently, does she appear to think that what Americans chose to do with their own money is their business or to comprehend that – as stated in November 2011 by the Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs:

“In sum, while our commitment to Israel’s security is rooted in our shared values and outlook, we don’t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security.”

At 04:54, German goes on to say:

“Most of the refugees, if you look in the world, are from Afghanistan, Iraq – as a result of the wars – and from Palestine.”

Statistics provided by the UNHCR at the end of 2010 put the total number of refugees in the world at 15.4 million – of those, 4.82 million Palestinians. Of the 10.58 non-Palestinian refugees, 3.05 million are from Afghanistan and 1.7 million from Iraq.

However, the UNHCR does not include in its refugee figures Internally Displaced Persons, and in that category it placed a further 27 million people in 2010 – mostly from Libya, the Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Sudan. UNRWA, of course, does not count Palestinian refugees living under Palestinian rule in the Gaza Strip (1,167,572 in January 2012) or the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories (727,471 in January 2012) as repatriated refugees or IDPs. 

Uniquely, those Palestinians remain refugees because unlike the UNHCR, which constantly strives to reduce the number of refugees and DIPs and which in 2010 repatriated 197,600 refugees to their countries of origin and resettled 98,800 more in other countries, UNRWA has not made any effort since its establishment to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees either by resettlement or by ending the hereditary status of refugees of Palestinian origin. And of course like the Arab dictatorships which Lindsey German and her fringe organization support, she has nothing to say against the manipulation and exploitation of Palestinian refugees for political purposes. 

Whilst the BBC is committed according to its Editorial Guidelines on impartiality to making sure that “no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented”, the question which must be asked is do unchallenged, context-free sound bites put out by a member of an extremist, fringe organization such as the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ indeed represent anything approaching a “significant” opinion?

After the 2005 terror attacks in London, at a rally which included Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi among its speakers, Lindsey German said:

“We are here to stand up for the truth about the terrible bombings. The establishment says that they were nothing to with Iraq and the war on terror — it is to do with evil ideology.

“But the government would say that. The government is saying that the Muslim community should put their house in order, but we have to ask the government to put its own house in order.

“The government and Tony Blair is in denial about what has happened. Today we are standing together. We are not going to be divided by witch-hunts and racism.

“The only way to end the bombings is to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. When we have justice around the world we will have peace as well.”

German’s organization collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship. Here is Lindsey German in London in 2012, speaking to the 200 or so people her organization managed to muster in support of the Assad regime whilst her fellow travelers harass Iranian democracy activists: 

The question is why does the BBC appear to believe that the pro-dictatorship, anti-Israel, anti-American views of a minuscule sect of opinion within the British public represent a “significant strand of thought” worth amplifying. 

 

BBC fails to report on UN resolution to subject more minorities to violence in Syria

Almost two years ago, in January 2011, the veteran former BBC news-reader Peter Sissons wrote an article in the Daily Mail about what he termed the BBC ‘mindset’. In it, he stated:

“At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN.”

Such an attitude perhaps goes some way toward explaining the BBC UN correspondent’s resounding silence on the fact that during the past year the UN General Assembly has passed twenty two resolutions singling out Israel for criticism – and only four on the rest of the world combined. 

Notably ignored by the BBC is the fact that on December 18th – when no fewer than nine anti-Israel resolutions were passed in one day – one of those resolutions called for the Golan Heights to be returned “forthwith” to Syrian control. 

As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted:

 “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.” 

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the 20,000 or so Druze residents of the Golan Heights privately express great concern for the fate of their family members in Syria, with applications for Israeli citizenship (to which they have been entitled since Israel annexed the Golan in 1981) reaching an all-time high in recent months. 

“I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade resident who holds Israeli citizenship told the paper. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.”

“In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear — in Israel and not Syria.”

The 2,000 or so Alawite residents of Ghajar, which also came under Israeli control in 1967, already have Israeli citizenship and they are certainly no strangers to arbitrary UN declarations made thousands of miles away with absolutely no relevance to the situation on the ground. As members of the minority sect to which the Assad family also belongs, one can only guess their fate were their village to be returned to Syrian control “forthwith”. 

None of these aspects of that UN GA resolution and others were reported by the BBC’s UN correspondent. She did – however- manage to put out the following Tweet:

Plett tweet 19 12

A BBC which avoids engaging in critical thinking regarding the anti-Israel obsession of the UN and hence promotes a trite, one-dimensional view of the Middle East cannot but fail in its task to increase its audiences’ understanding of the region and the complexities of the issues its residents face. 

The BBC’s unhealthy reliance on information from medics in Gaza

A BBC Watch reader recently wrote to us concerning a reply he had received from the BBC to a complaint made several months ago. Among the issues he had raised was this:

“The referenced article states “Two Palestinian children have been injured by Israeli air strikes”. Can you confirm if this is based on information from Hamas, or was this independently substantiated by the BBC?”

The response he received was as follows:

“Our story clearly attributes the information to “Palestinian medics”. These are usually doctors, ambulance workers or paramedics. When Hamas officials provide information, we say so.”

That response suggests that the BBC considers “Palestinian medics” of all descriptions to be an impartial source of information on the subject of casualties and the causes of their injuries.

But is that in fact the case?

The Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip is of course run by Hamas, with the present Minister being Mufeed Mukhallalati – former dean of the college of medicine at the Islamic University. The Ministry runs a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip (additional facilities are managed by NGOs or private organisations) with the most well-known being Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

Health care facilities Gaza Strip

According to a WHO report produced after the November 2012 hostilities, the vast majority of injuries were dealt with in Ministry of Health (i.e. Hamas-run) hospitals and the Ministry’s command and control centre was situated in Shifa Hospital, which was of course the main hide-out for Hamas leaders during Operation Cast Lead – turning staff and patients into human shields. 

As of January 2012, the Ministry of Health operated 56 ambulances and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society operated 40 ambulances in the Gaza Strip. In other words, over half the ambulance workers and paramedics from whom the BBC may get casualty figures or details of circumstances of injuries are Hamas employees. 

During Operation Cast Lead and throughout the second Intifada, PRCS ambulances were used to transport terror operatives and weapons.  

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr Ashraf al Qidwa, has been known to claim that terrorists were civilian casualties and ‘Palestinian medical sources’ are not averse to contorting stories for the sake of anti-Israel propaganda.  

One representative of the Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Gaza Strip is named Adham Abu Silmaya (aka Adham Abu Salima). Abu Silmaya has quite a history of feeding bogus stories to journalists, including an incident in March 2012 in which he claimed that a 15 year-old youth named Nayif Qarmout had been killed by an Israeli air-strike when no such strike had taken place. 

“A drone strike hit a group of students who were walking by empty land on their way to school,” said spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya, describing an incident which occurred at around 9:30am (0730 GMT).

In June 2012 Abu Silmaya was the source of a claim that a toddler named Hadeel Haddad had been killed by an Israeli air-strike. Although the little girl had in fact died as a result of a mis-fired terrorist rocket, the false story gained considerable exposure – not least because it had been Tweeted by the trusted BBC and a later retraction was largely ignored. 

Hadeel Haddad

Just recently, Rushdi  Abualouf from the BBC’s Gaza office relied on information from anonymous “doctors” when he Tweeted the following:

tweet Rushdi

However, there is another version to the story:

“Two Palestinian men were wounded by Israeli fire in the central Gaza Strip late Sunday, a Gaza health official said.

The Israel Defense Forces reports it is unaware of any Palestinians wounded from IDF fire. However it confirms shots were fired at the Gaza border around 9:00 p.m. Sunday, after Palestinians approached the fence, but reported the shots were fired in the air.

Health official Ashraf al-Kidra, said Israeli forces fired at the men east of Deir al-Balah late Sunday. Their identities were unclear.

The official initially said the men had been killed, but he said that the two were found to be seriously wounded.”

In other words, clearly an announcement had been put out before ‘medical sources’ had even examined the wounded men. 

It is unacceptable that a complaint from a BBC audience member should be dismissed on the grounds that the information provided came from “Palestinian medics” when members of that group – often employed by Hamas – have been known to exploit deaths and injuries for the sake of propaganda.

The BBC needs to acknowledge the fact that information from such sources cannot automatically be classed as reliable and that independent verification is imperative for the health of the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial source. 

BBC bizarre punctuation mystery solved?

We have written previously about the BBC’s sometimes bizarre use of punctuation, including the recent headlines “Israel-Gaza crisis: ‘Bomb blast’ on bus in Tel Aviv” and “Palestinian ‘with axe’ killed by Israeli forces in West Bank”

On a less serious note, but still on the same subject, this Tweet recently caught our eye:

IC1

The accompanying picture speaks for itself. (Lynne Truss: if you’re reading, turn away now!)

IC 2

Where did Jeremy Bowen learn the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

In May 2008 – at the time of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations – the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen produced a documentary entitled “The Birth of Israel” which was broadcast on BBC 2. Anyone who watched that programme then will surely not have forgotten its numerous instances of playing fast and loose with carefully selected nuggets of history – as was pointed out at the time by Honest Reporting  and others

Below is the first part of that documentary (the other parts can be seen here). 

At 05:55 Bowen says:

“In 1897 the Zionist movement in Europe met and declared that it wanted to found a state for Jews in Palestine. Two years later the Arab mayor of Jerusalem begged them to leave Palestine alone and warned there’d be an Arab uprising if they didn’t. After the meeting in 1897, two Rabbis were sent to Palestine to see what the country was like. They reported back – the bride is beautiful, but she’s married to another man”. 

Bowen’s two Rabbis are nameless and he provides no factual evidence for his tale – which is designed to show that the early Zionists knowingly ran roughshod over an existing indigenous Arab population and thus to ‘prove’ the ‘original sin’ of the founding of Israel. 

So where did Bowen get that story from? Here is a passage from the introduction to Avi Shlaim’s 2001 book entitled “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World”. 

Shlaim

So possibly Bowen had been reading the new historian anti-Israel polemicist Shlaim – the man famous for declaring that “the job of the historian is to judge”. Or perhaps his reading matter came from one-stater Ghada Karmi, who also used the same theme in her 2007 book entitled “Married to Another Man“.

Karmi

What is Karmi’s source for story? Earlier this year some light was shed on that question by Shai Afsai, writing in the journal ‘Shofar‘. Dr. Ghada Karmi3.JPG

“Where did Karmi get this story from? For some time, she did not respond to e-mails requesting information on her source, but in 2010 she furnished this reply: “The story’s origins has caused me problems. I got the citation from Avi Shlaim at Oxford, who gave me a reference for it, which turned out not to be correct. I then searched hard for the source and have come up with a blank. I fear it might be apocryphal, much as I had not wanted that. Sorry!” She later added that Shlaim told her “the story had appeared in a book by Muhammad Hassanein Heikal. But it was not there.” “

So Karmi’s source is Shlaim, but she cannot verify the quote attributed to the two nameless Rabbis. And what of Shlaim’s source? 

“As with Karmi and Pagden, Shlaim provides no source for the “married to another man” story he tells, despite there being twenty-one pages of notes at the back of The Iron Wall. Responding to a question about his source, Shlaim wrote in a 2009 e-mail that it was Mohamed Heikal’s Secret Channels (1996). This book is listed in Shlaim’s bibliography, along with two other works by Heikal, a prominent Egyptian journalist, author, and commentator, who was the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram for many years, as well as an adviser to (and mouthpiece of) Egypt’s President Nasser. In Secret Channels, Heikal writes:

‘Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress, which brought together Jewish representatives from many countries. It was held in Basel, Switzerland on 23 August 1897 and is regarded by Jews as a landmark in the creation of the state of Israel. The World Zionist Congress was created with the aim of establishing “a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” After the Basel conference the rabbis of Vienna decided to see for themselves what Herzl was talking about, and sent two representatives to Palestine. A cable sent by the two rabbis during their visit became famous: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.” It was a message Zionists did not wish to hear, and the inconvenient husband was never acknowledged.’

As with Karmi, Pagden, and Shlaim’s accounts, no source for the Viennese expedition and its “famous” cable is provided in Heikal’s Secret Channels. In fact, the book has no endnotes at all, nor does it contain a bibliography, which raises the question of how Shlaim could consider Secret Channels an adequate source for the veracity of the “married to another man” story.”

Regardless of whether Bowen’s source was Karmi, Shlaim or anyone else, the bottom line is that he either elected to repeat this myth to millions of BBC viewers without checking the veracity of the quote or that he knew that it did not come from a reliable source, but chose to use it anyway.  

But at least we now have some idea of the sort of ‘history books’ upon which Bowen’s Middle East expertise is based. 

BBC’s UN correspondent misses item about Israel

On December 21st 2012 a session at the United Nations General Assembly dealt with recommended draft resolutions on the subject of sustainable development.  

“As it took action on 36 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions presented by the Committee, the Assembly adopted 34 of those texts without a vote and 5 by recorded vote.  Of great significance to delegations was the adoption of a draft resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development.”

One of the resolutions – on “Entrepreneurship for Development” – was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said:

“Make no mistake. The stakes before us are high. The people we empower today will become the next Einstein, the next Picasso, the next Mother Theresa of tomorrow”.

As Daniel Carmon, head of Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation wrote in the National Post:

“This groundbreaking resolution highlights the value of entrepreneurship for creating jobs in the developing world, opening up economic opportunities, and fostering responsibility in both local entrepreneurs and donor countries.” 

As the protocol of the session records:

“Turning to the draft resolution titled “Entrepreneurship for development”, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly emphasized the important role of partnerships with the private sector in promoting entrepreneurship, generating employment and investment, increasing revenue potential, developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers.”

Obviously, members of the developing world would welcome such an initiative…wouldn’t they? Well, not some it seems – if it is proposed by Israel. 

Annex II

Against:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

“The representative of Israel said he had hoped for consensus on the text, stressing that States in the Arab world especially could benefit from entrepreneurship.  Their people were demanding better lives, better economies and better governance, and did not wish to live with rampant corruption, discrimination against women and economic stagnation.  By voting against the resolution, Arab delegations were turning their backs on their own people and trying to turn back the clock on the important work of the United Nations.  It was now time to take the words of the resolution off the page and breathe life into them on the ground, he stressed, adding that the stakes were high.”

“Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described that statement as “truly strange”, given the criticism that Israel had received over human rights violations and denial of economic opportunities to people living under occupation.  Saudi Arabia’s representative defended his country’s record as a peace-loving nation, and his counterpart from Sudan said her country had not turned its back on its people, as the Israeli representative had said, but had instead turned its face towards those living under Israeli occupation.”

Strangely, I can’t seem to find a report on any of this from the BBC’s UN correspondent

Opportunity knocks for BBC’s Donnison in Bethlehem

The BBC’s Jon Donnison was to be found in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and – as may be expected – coverage of the Christmas celebrations there could not pass without a degree of political opportunism. 

In the Middle East section of the BBC News website appears a report entitled “Christmas celebrated around the world” which has undergone numerous changes since it first appeared. The report states that:

“The patriarch, who was born in Jordan, led a symbolic procession from Jerusalem’s Old City to the West Bank city, passing through the separation barrier and checkpoint built by the Israelis.”

As usual, no context is provided as to the reasons for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence or the continued need for checkpoints. 

In the short film footage which accompanies the report (also available here and broadcast on BBC TV), Jon Donnison states:

“We understand around 70,000 people will have visited Bethlehem by the end of the day – those numbers actually down on last year, we think, by around 40,000 or so. So some concerns about the economy and tourism here…” 

In some of his other reports for domestic British television, Donnison expanded on that theme, with the following being one of the milder examples: 

“Jon Donnison: Few places do Christmas better than Bethlehem. Palestinian marching bands were up early to start the celebrations. Santa, very much at home here, with no shortage of helpers and all on hand to welcome thousands of Christian pilgrims.

 Tourist: I come from London – Elephant and Castle – and have come to Bethlehem to experience the birth of Jesus Christ all over again.

JD: And Christmas is also big business here – or it should be. But this year not everyone is buying. The Palestinian economy is struggling.

Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem: Actually Bethlehem is not doing well economically. It suffers from a high rate of unemployment, suffers from the occupation.”

Of course Bethlehem has not been ‘occupied’ for a full seventeen years as it came under the control of the Palestinian Authority on Christmas Eve 1995 as a result of the Oslo Accords, but no correction to that effect is offered by the BBC.

Neither does Donnison bother to point out that one of the immediate effects of last month’s decision by Hamas to fire long-range missiles at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was a wave of cancellations from tourists planning to visit the region, with some cancelling reservations made for as far ahead as next spring. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Christmas tourism sector should be affected too, although we are unlikely to hear the Mayor of Bethlehem discussing Hamas’ part in reducing tourism to her town.

Neither will Ms. Baboun – or Jon Donnison – elaborate on the fact that incidents such as the one which took place on December 18th in which locals in Hebron attacked a tourist bus with rocks, as well as the recent rise in the number of attacks with stones and Molotov cocktails on drivers in Judea & Samaria in general and the presence of terror cells in the region, are hardly conducive to a thriving tourist industry.  

Rather than doing any real investigative journalism into the ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ attitude of the Palestinian Authority towards its tourism industry, it is much easier to just to tap into existing stereotypes and blame a non-existent ‘occupation’ instead. 

Interestingly though, a recent article in The Independent (of all places!) painted a somewhat less monotone picture of Bethlehem’s economy. 

“After years of financial depression amid violent confrontation with Israel, the West Bank city of Bethlehem is celebrating the beginnings of an economic revival.

The ancient city, built around the Church of the Nativity on Manger Square that marks the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born, has recently been re-energised by a combination of overseas investment, micro-finance initiatives and a record-breaking tourism rush.”

The phenomenon of Western reporters suddenly flocking to Bethlehem around Christmas time is nothing new. Neither is their repeated use of the ‘season of goodwill’ to paint trite, one-dimensional pictures of Israeli ‘oppression’ of a wonderful multi-culti Palestinian society anything other than tediously predictable, with those messages of course enabled and cultivated by Palestinian Authority PR operations. Such reporting too often puts new meaning into the words of the familiar Christmas carol about the little town of Bethlehem: “How (come) still we see thee lie”. 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see the BBC adhere to its remit of increasing its audiences’ knowledge and understanding of the world by just sticking to the subject matter of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem rather than succumbing to the temptation to broadcast opportunistic political propaganda?