BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

On the evening of April 1st an article titled “Premature to write off Middle East peace talks – Kerry” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Abbas UN bid art

The event which prompted the appearance of that article – and its title – was the live televised signing by PA president Mahmoud Abbas of applications to join assorted UN agencies.

The BBC’s description of that event is as follows:

“Hours earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would seek further UN recognition unless a prisoner release by Israel went ahead.

At a televised meeting in the West Bank, Mr Abbas signed applications by the “State of Palestine” to join several UN agencies and ratify international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Leading members of his Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) voted unanimously in support of the move, which the Israeli and the US governments have argued is deeply mistaken.”

However, at no point in the report does the BBC bother to inform readers that, as part of last July’s overtures to this latest round of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority committed itself to refraining from just such a move for the nine-month duration of the talks which does not expire until April 29th.

That above BBC description of Abbas’ move is followed immediately by the following piece of information, which is totally irrelevant to the story’s subject matter given that no building freeze was agreed upon as a condition of the current negotiations.

“Israel meanwhile reissued tenders for 708 homes in the Jewish settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem, the Israeli pressure group Peace Now said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and formally annexed the area in 1980. Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

In what has become standard BBC practice, audiences are herded towards a mistaken belief that Israel is alone in disputing that particular interpretation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – readers are not informed that any other dissenting opinions even exist, let alone of the basis for such disagreement.

The statement that “Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan” in 1967 may be technically accurate, but it is also deliberately misleading because it does not inform readers of the relevant fact that Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem was not recognized by the international community.

In keeping with its previous article on the subject of the rickety negotiations published earlier on the same day, the BBC again fails to make any mention in this report of the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s stance concerning the fourth tranche of prisoner releases includes the demand to free prisoners who are Israeli citizens. Hence, yet again, no explanation is provided to BBC audiences regarding the highly problematic aspects of that attempt by the PA to claim to represent citizens of another country and the clear interference in Israeli sovereignty that demand signifies. Neither is any attempt made to explain to readers the potential political fallout for Israel’s coalition government which could be brought about by any release of Arab-Israeli prisoners.

In fact, although it is no doubt aware of the PA demand to release 14 Arab-Israelis, the BBC presents them as “Palestinian prisoners” as can be seen below. [emphasis added]

“Mr Kerry has for weeks been trying to persuade both sides to continue the direct negotiations beyond 29 April, but his efforts have been jeopardised by a disagreement over the release of a fourth group of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Mr Abbas says they must be freed, in keeping with a promise made by Israel before the negotiations resumed in July after a three-year hiatus.

But Israeli officials say they are reluctant to proceed unless the Palestinians commit to extending the talks, and stress that the releases have always been tied to their progress.

The previous three releases were deeply unpopular with the Israeli public because many of the prisoners were convicted of murdering Israelis.”

Towards its end, the report states:

“Earlier on Tuesday, the US Secretary of State held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat amid reports that they were close to finalising an agreement that would extend the talks until 2015.

Sources cited by US and Israeli media said a deal was emerging in which the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners would be freed in return for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American who was jailed for life in 1987 for spying for Israel.”

The BBC refrains from mentioning that in addition to the above, the proposed terms of the “deal” also included the following points:

“The negotiations would continue into January 2015, during which time the Palestinians would commit themselves not to engage in diplomatic warfare against Israel by going to international organizations for recognition. […]

Israel would release an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners during the continuing negotiation period. These prisoners would be picked by Israel, include many minors and women, and not include those with “blood on their hands.”

Israel would “exercise restraint” in releasing government tenders for new homes in the West Bank, meaning that it would issue no new government tenders for housing in Judea and Samaria. This policy would not include Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.

This policy would also exclude public building projects, such as roads.”

This report is the third to appear on the BBC News website in the past week in connection with the current talks between Israel and the PLO – see here and here.

None of these articles have explained to audiences the significance of the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state with regard to ending future claims – and therefore the conflict.

Two of the three articles omit any mention of the Palestinian demand for the release of Israeli Arab prisoners and none of them explain the significance of that demand to audiences.

In this latest report, Israeli offers of concessions are downplayed whilst an irrelevant passage about the re-issuing of building tenders in a Jerusalem neighbourhood is promoted. The fact that this latest PA attempt to join UN agencies breaches agreements reached ahead of the current talks is also disappeared from audience view and no attempt whatsoever is made to place this move within its appropriate context.  

If and when these negotiations do fizzle out, BBC audiences will be ill-placed to understand why that happened due to the BBC’s selective and systematic omission of crucial parts of the story in its reporting. 




BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of an interview with Saeb Erekat on the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ which was broadcast on February 18thErekat HT

The remainder of the interview begins with presenter Stephen Sackur challenging Erekat on the subject of the ‘right of return’.

“…there are mixed messages here because not so very long ago – just a few weeks ago – your president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was telling a delegation of young Israelis that he would not – and I quote his words – drown Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees to change the nature of Israel. If he’s prepared to say that, then surely it is not much of a stretch to give the Israelis what they want; acknowledge the nation of the Jewish people and then move on to the issues that really are at the crux of this including borders, security, settlements and Jerusalem.”

Unfortunately, Sackur does not seem to appreciate that even if Abbas’ quoted statement was sincere (and there is of course ample evidence of the PA’s practice of delivering differing messages in English and in Arabic), there is little sign that it is representative of the approach taken by broader Palestinian society. Having accused Sackur of “repeating exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying”, Erekat goes on to say:

“Now let me put the record straight on what Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said about refugees. No refugee mandated me to negotiate on his behalf. In international law, the British Palestinian who lives in Britain and has British citizenship, he will make his choice. Abu Mazen said that’s the choice of every single refugee. They have…we have to establish an international mechanism and in that international mechanism, US, Europe, Arabs, UN, host countries, Israel, Palestine will go to refugees and give them the choices of whether they have the right to come to Palestine with the compensation – Israel will compensation – remaining where they are. And that’s how you end conflict and that’s how you end the claims. But if the Israelis want for me to come and through Hardtalk and say I give this up, I give this in, I give this up – what is there left to negotiation?

And I say proudly today that my president says he recognize the State of Israel right to exist on ’67. Can you tell me if there is one single Israeli minister in the cabinet – including their prime minister – who have [sic] said that he’s willing to recognize the State of Palestine on ’67? He’s willing to recognize East Jerusalem as capital? And they should stand tall and apologise for the Palestinian refugees’ suffering. They made them suffer and they should reach out to them and yes an international mechanism must be established to give them the choice.”

Avoiding informing audiences of the Arab League policies which have deliberately kept the descendants of refugees in that status for generations or any mention of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Sackur also fails to clarify the very important point being made by Erekat: that the PLO negotiators do not actually consider themselves to have a mandate to negotiate on the vital subject of refugees. Instead, he moves on to question Erekat on the subject of land swaps whilst himself also promoting the erroneous notion of a “’67 border”.

“If I may say so, your repetition of the ’67 line as a fundamental principle is well known but it is also, is it not, well known that the Americans have taken a view in the course of this Kerry negotiation that there will have to be modifications to the ’67 border and that according again to leaks in the American press, the Americans believe a line can be drawn and land swaps implemented which will leave 75 to 80 percent of Jewish settlers able to stay in their homes on occupied territory as part of the peace deal. Are you saying that is fundamentally impossible?” Hardtalk Erkat WS

Erekat replies:

“Look if you guys think about nation states swapping territories by their consent, it happened between many countries you know – Peru/Ecuador, US/Mexico, US/Canada, Jordan/Iraq, Jordan/Saudi Arabia. It happened in Africa, in many cases. Now: can I see the map of the State of Israel? Can someone in Israel… can John Kerry come to me and tell me this is the…these are the borders of Israel ’67 and we want you to have land swaps in accordance with this map? What swaps? You talking about – without me knowing – which defines Israel’s borders? They haven’t even – they’re the only nation on earth who have not recognized their borders. They don’t have borders yet. They didn’t define their borders. So the minute they recognize their borders, the minute they recognize me as a sovereign Palestinian state, I’m willing to engage in the concept of land swaps. But how can I do this now before them putting a map on the table of their borders and their map? They haven’t done this. They haven’t been willing to say ’67….”

Sackur: “What they have done…I’ll tell you what they have done and this – if I may…”

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

Sackur: “Yep. Every Israeli and international monitoring organization that looks at Jewish settlement activity says the construction continues apace. Nobody disputes that.”

In other words, Sackur gives BBC ‘authority’ to Erekat’s claim that 10,500 housing units have been “added” – which most listeners or viewers will take to mean built – in the past four months. He makes no attempt to clarify to audiences that Erekat’s numbers actually relate to building tenders and announcements – as can be seen in a document produced by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department which Erekat heads.

In fact, the statistics for the whole of 2013 – not just from the end of July when the talks resumed – show a total of 44,343 building starts in the whole of Israel, with 2,534 of those being in Judea & Samaria and 4,625 in the entire city of Jerusalem. The statistics for completed construction in 2013 show 41,972 completes in the entire country of which 1,365 were located in Judea & Samaria and 3,652 in the city of Jerusalem as a whole. Clearly both Sackur and Erekat are quoting inaccurate statistics and hence deliberately misleading BBC audiences on this subject. 

Next Sackur challenges Erekat on the practicalities of the demand for eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“I’ve been visiting your part of the world for the best part of a quarter of a century – almost as long as you’ve been a negotiator. I have seen the facts on the ground change over the years. East Jerusalem for example is now – the Arab East Jerusalem that we talk about – is encircled by a vast chain of Jewish housing from – what is it? – Pisgat Ze’ev in the north, right round through Ma’ale Adumim to Gilo and Har Homa in the south. I mean that is the reality and when you talk about East Jerusalem being the future capital of Palestine, you know as well as I do that East Jerusalem is now fundamentally disconnected from the West Bank. Isn’t it time for you to deal with realities rather than dreams?

Erekat answers:

“No actually I’m not dreaming. I’m gonna tell you something very frankly Stephen. Without East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine there is no meaning to have a Palestinian state. And I want any Israeli to look me in the eye and walk me through my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean in the year 2019. What do they see on this land? Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen. This fait accompli policies of settlements. As much as they dismantle them in Sinai and in Gaza, these are the main obstacle to peace and we’ve been saying that they have to make the choice – settlements or peace – but they can’t have both and that’s why we’re reaching this difficult situation and that’s why Netanyahu is insisting in destroying and undermining Kerry’s efforts by the continuation of the settlement activities in Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, Ma’ale Adumim and in the West Bank and in everywhere.”

With no questioning of Erekat’s bizarre ‘conversion’ statements and no challenge to Erekat’s chimera of ‘settlements’ – including Neve Ya’akov which was established in 1924 on Jewish-owned land – as the main obstacle to an agreement, Sackur goes on to ask his interviewee to name “one significant, fundamental concession” made by the Palestinian negotiating team.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as he uses the inaccurate term himself, Sackur fails to correct the reference to “1967 borders” when Erekat answers:

“We have recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the 1967 borders. That is 78% of the British Mandate and historic Palestine. And we have accepted to establish our Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. That’s 22% of the land. That’s number one. Number two: we have accepted to entertain – once Israel defines its borders of ’67 and accepts the State of Palestine on ’67 – to entertain the idea of swapping land. Number three: we have accepted to be a country with limited arms and invited a third party to be in the State of Palestine – from America, from Europe, from the UN, from all over – and to come and make sure that we will comply with the agreement. We have accepted, you know, to have East Jerusalem capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem capital of Israel, but we said then we can have an open city for peace, where Christians, Muslims and Jews can come to their places of worship and for worship without any impediment, without anybody preventing them like they do to Christians and Muslims today…to come to Jerusalem and pray..”

Sackur makes absolutely no attempt to challenge Erekat on his blatantly false representation of the situation regarding freedom of worship in Jerusalem at present and neither does he raise the issue of lack of satisfactory access – in breach of the Oslo Accords – to Jewish holy sites already under PA control. Instead, he continues by asking Erekat to confirm the PA’s agreement to the placing of some sort of international force in the Jordan Valley, which Erekat does but with the caveat that “this force will not be a combating force”.

Ignoring the issue of the existing precedents of multiple failures of international ‘peacekeeping’ forces to actually keep the peace in the region, Sackur goes on to challenge the practicalities of that idea, rightly pointing out that there is no chance of it being accepted by Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian factions.

The next subject brought up by Sackur is that of what will happen if the current talks fail.

“…let’s run through the constant question when we’re talking about negotiations: who really holds the cards? Who has the power? Isn’t the truth that while you talk about your plan B option which is, you say, going back to the UN, strengthening the Palestinian case there, going perhaps to the International Criminal Court – the fact is you don’t hold the cards, you don’t have the power because if these talks collapse the Palestinian economy will collapse and you’ve said yourself that the Palestinian Authority itself may collapse as well.”

With regard to the feasibility of the PA “going perhaps to the International Criminal Court”, it is worth reading Professor Eugene Kontorovich’s paper from 2013 on the subject.

Erekat’s response consists largely of yet another attempt to persuade viewers that the success – or lack of it – of the current talks depends entirely upon the prime minister of Israel.

“Well I said the following Stephen – and please employ your hearing skills. Number one: if Netanyahu foils the Kerry attempts, yes – we will sign on all instruments of accessions to UN agency protocols and conventions including the Rome Statute and the ICC and those who worry from international courts and tribunals, they should stop committing crimes. Number two: I think the PA cannot sustain itself in the current form so Netanyahu will be the occupying power from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and when I say that failure is not an option, I may be exaggerating because failure is an option, but I’m saying failure is not an option because of the nightmare scenarios the day after. I hope and pray that Netanyahu and his government will stand tall and extend an immediate recognition for the State of Palestine on the 1967 lines. I hope that Netanyahu and his government will define their borders on ’67 and they work with Kerry in order to achieve a successful end to his efforts, made an two-state solution – the State of Palestine living side by side the State of Israel on the 1967 borders and a solution to all the issues that we’re talking about is doable and we can do it. But if Netanyahu chooses the path of continuing dictations and settlements, incursions and siege and closure, he’s doomed and we’re doomed and the region’s gonna be doomed.”

To finish the interview, Sackur asks Erekat for his personal reflections on two decades of negotiations, but notably avoids bringing up the subject of the PA’s decision to scupper the peace process by instigating the second Intifada.

“As we end then; a personal reflection. You’ve been deeply negative about Netanyahu and his negotiating position throughout this interview. I just wonder – if you are honest with yourself and you look at what you personally have achieved as a peace negotiator over more than 20 years, do you feel that you’ve been played for a fool? You’ve been suckered into a process which over 20 years frankly appears to have delivered nothing according to your own terms and which – during which – the facts on the ground have worked against the Palestinian people. Do you regret the process that you’ve played such a big part in?”

That avoidance of any mention of the Oslo Accords permits Erekat to mislead BBC audiences further by erasing the fact that his “home town” was occupied by Jordan even before Erekat was born and by omitting any mention of the fact that Jericho has already been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for twenty years – since 1994.

“No Stephen. No I’m proud. I’m proud of I’m doing. I’m not doing a job. I’m doing the greater favour for myself, my grandchildren, my children and the Palestinian people. I’m trying to make peace. I’m trying to change the abnormality of the situation. I was 12 years old when the occupation came to my home town Jericho. I’m sick and tired of somebody managing my life, directing my life, oppressing me and oppressing my children. I’m sick and tired of not knowing whether my children will come home every day or not. I want my children to be like your children Stephen. If this is a crime, if this is being fooled – yes, I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I was born to bring Palestine back to the map.” 

In conclusion, this interview is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Sackur did go some way towards seeking to clarify Erekat’s position on internal Palestinian opposition to an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Rift Valley, on the subject of the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, on the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, on land swaps and on eastern Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Sackur allowed BBC audiences to go away with damaging inaccurate impressions regarding, among other things, freedom of worship in Jerusalem, 1967 “borders”, the “occupation” of Jericho and Israeli building. He made no attempt whatsoever to challenge Erekat’s conspiracy theory concerning US foreign policy or his ridiculous “son of the Canaanites” narrative and he failed to question Erekat’s promotion of Israeli housing as the main obstacle to peace and his repeated claim that the success or failure of the talks is entirely dependent upon the will of Israel’s prime minister, whilst simultaneously excluding all mention of issues such as the rise in Palestinian terrorism since the beginning of the talks or incitement and the glorification of terrorism on the part of the PA.

In short, much of the opportunity provided by this interview to inform BBC audiences of the real difficulties facing negotiators in the current talks was wasted on providing a platform for the promotion of Saeb Erekat’s blatant propaganda and historically inept “narrative”.

The UK taxpayer continues to contribute not insignificant sums of money to keep Erekat’s PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD) afloat – and has done for the last two decades. One of several “risk descriptions” cited in a risk assessment compiled by DfID ahead of a particular funding initiative which is still ongoing is “NAD outputs contain inaccurate information, vilification or incitement” and that risk is supposed to be monitored by the UK government.  Those same UK taxpayers – many if not most of whom are also BBC licence fee payers – might hence have expected a more robust performance from their national broadcaster (which is still, in part, government-funded) in challenging Erekat’s promotion of inaccurate information and incitement in the form of warped historical “narratives”. 

Had that been the case however, a link to Erekat’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview might perhaps not be currently featured on the NAD website. 

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one


BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

The February 18th edition of the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured presenter Stephen Sackur once again interviewing the programme’s frequent flyer Saeb Erekat. The programme is available in the UK on BBC iPlayer and an audio version was also available from the BBC World Service for a limited period of time, along with a BBC World Service podcast. In addition, the first part of the interview was uploaded by the BBC to YouTube and featured on the BBC News website, as well as on the Hardtalk webpageErekat HT

Notably, Sackur made no attempt to challenge Erekat’s opening thinly veiled conspiracy theory-style accusation of Israeli influence over American foreign policy.

“And I really hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and not in the direction of what’s possible. What’s possible in American foreign policy means what the prime minister of Israel can do and what he cannot do and that’s why we always reach dead-end in this [sic] attempts in the past. I hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and put on the table what’s needed for a two-state solution on 1967.”

But Sackur’s failure to challenge Erekat’s serial falsehoods becomes even more apparent in the rest of the interview; the parts not as enthusiastically distributed and promoted by the BBC. Sackur asks Erekat if the PLO will be prepared to continue talks after the end of April.

SS: “They’re [the Americans] suggesting, yes, they will put some ideas out there, but there will be a lot of talking that will have to happen after the end of April. What’s your position? Are you saying it’s the end of April or bust?”

Erekat: “If the Israeli government succeeds in foiling Kerry’s efforts, then why would you extend the negotiations after 29th of April? That’s the big question. As you said, the deal was, is that we enter these negotiations for 9 months, covers all permanent status issues, no interim agreements…err.. and then the Israeli behaviour since that time – since the beginning of the negotiations – I think they introduce 10,500 housing units, killed 41 Palestinians, demolished 219 homes, escalated their attacks on Palestinians and they haven’t been preparing their people for what it takes to have John Kerry succeed.”

Sackur refrains from asking Erekat how many of those “10,500 housing units” exist only on paper, or how many of the Palestinians killed between the end of July 2013 and the present were involved in terrorist activity or how many of the demolished structures were built illegally. He of course fails to offer audiences any balancing information on the subject of how many Israelis were killed in the same period or how many terror attacks and missile attacks took place or to question Erekat on the subjects of PA sponsored incitement and glorification of terror and how the PA leaders are “preparing their people” for peace. Erekat continues: Hardtalk Erekat on ME pge

“I haven’t heard any Israeli official – Prime Minister Netanyahu or any of his ministers – speak about two-state solution on 1967 lines. As a matter of fact I haven’t heard any of their government officials say that we need two states on the 1967 lines – one 1967. I haven’t heard this. So if they want to continue this line of dictations and settlements rather than peace and negotiations, why should we extend it for one minute after the 29th of April?”

Sackur fails to clarify to audiences what a “two-state solution on 1967 lines” actually means and why Israeli policy is not in line with that Palestinian demand. He then goes on to ask Erekat if the PLO is prepared to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, to which Erekat replies:

“Well, Stephen, the name of the State of Israel is the State of Israel. As much as you have a birth certificate of your own, Israel has a birth certificate of its own and the name registered at the UN is the State of Israel. And no – I will tell you very frankly – I will not change my narrative. I will not change my history. I will not change my religion. I’m the son of Jericho…”

Sackur does robustly challenge those statements.

“But you’re going to have to change your narrative because your narrative at the moment is one of diplomatic failure, conflict, hatred and a running sore which leaves the Palestinian people without a state, without economic development. You need to change the narrative and if that requires you to recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people and therefore, of course, a fundamental compromise on your part in terms of the right of return of those Palestinians and ancestors of those who lost their homes in 1948, so be it. It’s time to do it, isn’t it?”

Erekat’s notably personalised response is delivered in near-hysterical tones.

“What else? Now you want Israel as Jewish state? You want me to give up on East Jerusalem as my capital as Netanyahu says? He wants me to give up on my independence and sovereignty because he wants to stay instead of Palestine and his army for years to come. Well if that’s what he has in mind, he can make peace with himself and dictate on the – this will not happen. My narrative here is that, as you said, I’ve been trying to make peace and save lives of Israelis and Palestinians and change the status quo towards the two-state solution, towards [unintelligible] between Palestinians and Israelis for the last 20 years. And those who failed me are those who continued with the settlement activities and dictations and the fait accompli policies. That’s number one.

Number two: my narrative is I’m the son of Jericho. I’m the proud son of Jericho. My home town this year is 10,000 years old. The Natufians built this town. I’m their ancestor. I’m their grandchild. I’m this grandchild of the Canaanites. It’s my narrative, it’s my story, it’s my religion. I was here thousands of years before Yoshua Bin Nun came and burnt my home town Jericho. So why should I say that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people? I recognise the State of Israel right to exist…” 

At that point Erekat is interrupted by Sackur, but the latter makes no attempt whatsoever to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impressions created by Erekat’s “narrative”. Of course this is not the first time that the PLO’s chief negotiator has fabricated history: he promoted the same myth at the Munich security conference just a couple of weeks before this Hardtalk interview. According to a BBC profile of Erekat, he was born in Jerusalem (specifically the Abu Dis neighbourhood) but Sackur does not challenge his self-made redefinition as a “son of Jericho” or question him as to the fluidity of his “narrative” which allows him to also claim to be “a Bedouin, an Arab and a Jordanian” when interviewed by an Arab media outlet.  

Erekat’s casual relationship with facts is of course notorious: he was after all the man who played a big part in persuading the Western media – including the BBC – that a ‘massacre’ had taken place in Jenin in 2002. But there is much more to Erekat’s ‘Canaanite’ claims than just historical incompetence; the negation of Jewish history and the promotion of a supposedly equally relevant narrative is part and parcel of the PA’s policy and tactics – and one which should have been exposed to BBC audiences if the corporation is to meet its obligation to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

The remainder of the interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two



Palestinian visitors to Tehran not newsworthy for the BBC

One does not have to be a Middle East expert to appreciate that one spin-off effect of the reduction of sanctions on the Iranian regime as part of the P5+1 brokered interim deal is the freeing-up of assets which will potentially allow Iran to pursue and expand its support and sponsorship for assorted terrorist organisations and allies around the Middle East.

Even when the sanctions were biting and ordinary Iranians battled with inflation and food shortages, Tehran still found the resources to fund Hizballah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as to provide practical support for the Assad regime in Syria.

So keeping an eye on the traffic on the road to Tehran should make for interesting observations for Middle East correspondents at this particular time – except those from the BBC, apparently. 

Palestinian Authority-related items on the BBC News website during January 2014 were limited to two reports on the explosion and subsequent discovery of a weapons cache at the PA mission in Prague, one report on the return of the remains of dead terrorists and one on the subject of  mass weddings held in Jericho and Gaza with PA funding.

But when a member of Fatah’s Central Committee - the faction dominating both the PA and the PLO which is currently conducting peace talks with Israel – paid a rare visit to Tehran at the end of January, the BBC apparently did not find that newsworthy.

“The Palestinians have an interest in Tehran playing an increased role in the region, Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official, said on Thursday.

He announced that Fatah has not abandoned the option of “armed resistance” if the peace talks with Israel fail.

“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.”

With Rajoub’s ink in Zarif’s guest book barely dry, February 5th saw additional Palestinian visitors in Tehran – this time from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The PIJ delegation arrived in Tehran on Wednesday to hold high-level meetings with leading Iranian lawmakers, as well as with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who also is leading nuclear negotiations with the West, according to regional reports and photographs.” […]

” “The resistance will undoubtedly succeed in defending the rights of Palestinians,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run PressTV following a meeting with PIJ’s deputy secretary general Ziyad al Nakhalah.” […]

” “Resistance and campaign against the Zionist regime is the only way to liberate Palestine and securing the rights of its oppressed people,” Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying during a meeting with PIJ leaders.

PIJ member Ramazan Abdullah responded by saying that “Iran has always been the main supporter of the Palestinian nation’s cause and goals,” according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.” […]

“PIJ’s Abdullah noted during his meeting with Iranian leaders that “the only way for Palestinians to move forward is to follow the path of resistance,” according to PressTV.”

That visit was not reported by the BBC either. But then again, BBC journalists were awfully busy on that particular day informing audiences of years-old building tenders irrelevant to the prospects of progress in the current Israel/PLO talks. 

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BBC silent on ‘Fatah Day’ celebrations

BBC predictably silent on Fatah incitement

BBC’s Knell promotes already debunked claims in ‘Jewish state’ article

On February 2nd an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the somewhat bizarre heading “How Jewish is Israel?”.

Knell how Jewish is Israel

The link leads to a piece titled “Row over demand for Palestinians to recognise Israel as ‘Jewish state’” in which – at long last – Knell steps a little way out of the frame of the BBC’s hitherto rigid definitions of “core issues” in the Israel/PLO talks and its long touted “obstacles to peace” by addressing the important subject of the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Or does she?

If readers can get past Knell’s romanticized descriptions of Jaffa fishermen and her uncritical repetition of unfounded hearsay according to which “there will be a transfer of the Arab population, we will be sent into exile”, they will find that she actually does little to explain to readers why the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by the Palestinians is important. Knell How Jewish is Israel art

Knell’s sole reference to the subject of ending future claims comes in the form of a quote from a recent speech given by Israel’s prime minister.

“Mr Netanyahu presented recognition of a Jewish state as an elementary component of true peace.[…]

He suggested that recognition would “end the conflict” as it would mean cancelling the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and further territorial claims.”

However, she fails to expand on the subject and to explain to audiences exactly what that statement means and its significance as regards securing an agreement which would bring a conclusion to the conflict by ending claims of Israel as ‘Arab’ or ‘Palestinian’ land.

Most notably, throughout the entire article Knell frames the demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a relatively new one, implying both in her own words and in her choice of quotations that it has been presented by the current Israeli government. 

“However there is a clear division when they are pressed for an opinion on the Israeli prime minister’s demand for recognition of the country as a “Jewish” state.”

“Palestinian officials say that the demand for recognition has increasingly been made in recent years and months as an Israeli ploy to make a peace deal harder to reach.”

“Speaking to foreign journalists in Ramallah recently, former negotiator Nabil Shaath complained that the issue was preoccupying Mr Kerry even though it was not included in past talks or any signed documents or agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.”

On that issue, however, Nabil Shaath is mistaken, as shown in an interesting article by Yair Rosenberg from January 21st.

“A new report in Haaretz by Amira Hass–in which she speaks with former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath, who says Netanyahu invented the controversial demand out of whole cloth in 2010–would seem to bolster this claim. The only problem is, it doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny.” […]

“Hass recounts Shaath’s claim uncritically, leaving readers with the impression that it accords with the historical record. But it does not. In fact, according to the Palestine Papers –a massive trove of leaked documents published by Al Jazeera, which record a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations–the demand was broached by none other than Tzipi Livni…in 2007.” [….]

“Now, Shaath was not in the room for this 2007 negotiating session, so it’s possible he never heard about this incident. (Or the fact that “references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” was one of Israel’s official reservations appended to the 2003 Bush Road Map.) But the Palestine Papers are in the public domain, and available to any reporters seeking to fact-check whether Netanyahu was the first to ask that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, just as Israel will recognize Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people.”

Clearly either Yolande Knell’s fact checking is in the same league as that of Ha’aretz’s Amira Hass or – with over a third of the word-count of her article devoted to presentation of claims by Mahmoud Abbas and Nabil Shaath and no substantial analysis offered to readers on the relationship between recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of future claims – she deliberately sought to leave readers with a warped impression that, coincidentally or not, dovetails with the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing campaign (which apparently includes a 28-page briefing for journalists) seeking to frame this issue as an attempt by the current Israeli government to scupper talks.

Either way, the repetition of claims by Shaath which were shown to be inaccurate nearly two weeks before Knell’s article was published means that this ‘analysis’ clearly does not meet the professed BBC standards of accuracy and impartiality.

This issue is one which it is important for BBC audiences to understand if they are to be able to reach informed opinions on the subject of the current talks between Israel and the PLO and on the broader issue of the peace process in general. It is therefore disappointing to see that Knell’s short excursion beyond the usual BBC framing of those subjects has been largely squandered on the repetition and amplification of already debunked politically motivated claims. 

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid essential ‘core issues’ of Middle East talks

BBC Q&A backgrounder on ME talks includes inaccurate information

As readers may have already noticed, many of the Israel-related articles appearing on the BBC News website in recent months have carried an appendage of links to past articles under the heading “Mid-East crisis”, usually at the side of the report fairly near the top and again below it. Here are just a few recent examples:

ME crisis

Curiously, that set of links appears to be a default appendage even in the cases of reports pertaining to the Gaza Strip, which is of course ruled by a regime not taking part in the current talks between Israel and the PLO as Hamas is not a member of the latter body and rejects any negotiations outright.

The first of the links appearing under that “Mid-East crisis” heading is titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks” and it leads to a backgrounder from August 2013. There, BBC audiences are informed that:

“In Jerusalem, the Palestinians will be represented by senior negotiator Saeb Erekat and senior Fatah official Muhammed Shtayyeh. Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and prime ministerial aide Isaac Molcho will represent the Israeli side.”

Q&A art

Other recent articles (such as this one dated January 15th and this one from January 14th) have included the following side-box which also includes a link to that Q&A article from August 2013:

I P talks sidebox

However, according to numerous sources in the Israeli, Palestinian and international media, Muhammed Shtayyeh resigned from his role on the PLO negotiating team in early November 2013 and his resignation was accepted by Mahmoud Abbas on November 21st.  

Clearly, over two months on, that out of date and now inaccurate information should not be part of current articles and needs to be removed from backgrounders still being promoted to BBC audiences. 

BBC silent on ‘Fatah Day’ celebrations

Last year the BBC gave wide – albeit meticulously airbrushed – coverage to the ‘Fatah Day’ rally held in the Gaza Strip. This year, however, the annual events marking the anniversary of Fatah’s first terror attack against Israel have so far been ignored.

In addition to controlling the Palestinian Authority, Fatah is also of course the largest faction in the PLO which is currently conducting talks with Israel, supposedly with the aim of bringing the Arab-Israeli conflict to a peaceful resolution. 

The BBC News website offers its visitors several profiles of Fatah. In both this one from 2009 and this one from 2011, readers are informed that:

“With international pressure mounting, Fatah – though notably not the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

So let’s take a quick look at how an organisation committed – according to the BBC – to “peace and co-existence” with its Israeli neighbours celebrated ‘Fatah Day’ this year, as the US Secretary of State arrived in the region once more and talks continue. 

These two photographs were taken at a Fatah rally held on January 1st in Deheishe near Bethlehem by Channel 10′s Roy Sharon.

Roi Sharon Tweet 1

Roi Sharon Tweet 2

The image below appeared on Fatah’s Facebook page, together with the logo also pictured.

Ofir Gendelman tweet

Fatah logo

Notably, that “peace and co-existence” touted by the BBC is reflected neither in the stylised map which erases Israel completely or the gun barrel (for more information on Fatah logos, see here). Rifles also featured in an image chosen by PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat for his Facebook page on December 29th 2013.

Erekat Facebook

And during his speech given at the official ‘Fatah Day’ event in Ramallah, PA president and head of Fatah Mahmoud Abbas took a leaf out of Ahmadinejad’s handbook, calling Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem neighbourhoods “cancer”. 

BBC audiences aspiring to “build a global understanding of international issues” such as the ongoing talks and the Middle East peace process in general would no doubt find the information above very useful. The BBC, however, is staying silent. 

BBC’s Connolly exploits Mandela’s death for political campaigning

On December 5th, as news of Nelson Mandela’s death became public, Ben Cohen opened an article which is well worth reading in full with the following words:

“In the coming days, there will be much reflection on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, following the former South African president’s passing on Dec. 5. And in the coming weeks, we can anticipate a febrile exchange over his true views on Israel and the Middle East.”

With remarkable alacrity, one of the first out of the stalls was the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly, with an article titled “Mandela’s mixed legacy for the Middle East” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page early on the morning of December 6th.  

Connolly Mandela article

Frankly, it is difficult to imagine a more cynical and opportunistic exploitation of Mandela’s death in order to promote an unrelated political agenda than that which is on display in Connolly’s article. And yet, that screed must have presumably passed the ‘safety nets’ of editors and Connolly’s bureau chief before publication.

Colebourn Connolly artic tweet

Connolly’s overall message to BBC audiences is distilled into one of the sentences he writes:

“The Palestinians have the easiest case to make in claiming Mr Mandela’s blessing for their cause.”

Euphemistically filing a terror organization responsible for the deaths of civilians – including many children – under the fuzzy heading “liberation movement”, Connolly writes:

“During his long years in jail as an ANC prisoner he [Mandela] was embraced by the PLO leadership as a fellow-fighter in a kind of global family of liberation movements.”

Having conferred legitimacy by association on terrorist leader Yasser Arafat by repeating anecdotes concerning alleged “genuine personal warmth between Arafat and Mandela that underlined the political link between them”, Connolly moves on to Israel.

Again, audiences are left in no doubt as to the direction in which Connolly seeks to herd them:

“At a moment when anyone with a claim to a share in the Mandela legacy is proud to make that connection, Israel has a painfully difficult case to make.”

However, Connolly’s ‘supporting evidence’ for that statement is largely based upon cherry-picked information and a speculative non-story promoted by the Guardian in 2010.

“It [Israel] was a close, if secretive, ally and arms supplier apartheid South Africa and there is a good case to be made that Israeli support helped the all-white regime in Pretoria to last longer than it otherwise might have.

There have been stories – which are difficult to substantiate definitively – that the co-operation extended into Israel sharing nuclear weapons technology.”

Connolly’s claim that “Israeli support helped the all-white regime in Pretoria to last longer than it otherwise might have” appears to have been resurrected from a Guardian article by Gary Younge dating from 2010 in which it was written:

“Throughout the 70s and 80s Israel had a deep, intimate and lucrative relationship with South Africa,” explains Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa. “Israel’s arms supplies helped to prolong the apartheid regime’s rule and to survive international sanctions.” 

As was noted by Cif Watch at the time:

“Anyone with the slightest knowledge of South African armaments knows that most of its weapons came from Britain, France and Belgium and were in service at the time of these discussions – for example, the South African Airforce at the time used English Electric Canberra bombers (Period of Service: 1963 – 1991), British Hawker Sidderley Buccaneers (Period of Service: 1965 – 1991) and French Dassault-Breguet Mirage fighters (Period of Service: 1965 – 1986) and the army used Belgian FN rifles and machine guns and British-made Alvis Saracen “88″ Prototype used extensively to suppress riots in the townships – yet neither Younge nor the Guardian claims that these massive amounts of weaponry, dwarfing anything Israel may have provided, imply that Britain, France and Belgium are or were apartheid states.”

Likewise, Kevin Connolly revealingly refrains from making the accusation that Britain, France and Belgium “helped to prolong the apartheid regime’s rule”:  BBC audiences are led to believe that only Israel belongs in that category. 

Connolly’s suggestion that “the co-operation extended into Israel sharing nuclear weapons technology” is also apparently based on the Guardian’s speculative accusations dating back to 2010. Readers can learn more about the flimsy nature of that paper’s insinuations from work done on the subject by CiF Watch here and here and further information (including  the BBC’s own questioning of the Guardian story at the time) is available here.

Connolly’s ‘disclaimer’ in the form of the words “which are difficult to substantiate definitively” does nothing to mitigate the fact that he is knowingly recycling a story discredited over four years ago in order to promote a specific agenda which has its roots in the delegitimisation of Israel for political purposes.

The gravity of such blatant breaches of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on both accuracy and impartiality (which should render Connolly’s position as a Jerusalem Bureau correspondent untenable – but most likely won’t) is shadowed only by the gross bad taste of Connolly’s cynical exploitation of the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death as a hook upon which he hangs his opportunistic political campaigning.



BBC silent on intimidation of voters in Jerusalem

On October 22nd Israelis will go to the polls to vote in municipal elections which will determine the make-up of their local councils for the coming five years. In addition to Israeli citizens, permanent residents of Israel who do not hold citizenship are eligible to vote in these elections and that of course includes residents of Jerusalem who have chosen not to take advantage of their right to apply for Israeli citizenship. 

Naturally, these local elections will be of little interest to BBC audiences on the whole and so ostensibly there is no reason for the BBC to cover them. But one aspect of the municipal elections in Jerusalem should be made known to BBC audiences if the corporation is to comply with its remit to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” by providing them with a balanced and impartial picture of which this story is part.

In the BBC article titled “Obstacles to Arab-Israeli peace: Jerusalem” which is being promoted on the BBC News website as additional reading on the broader subject of Middle East peace talks, the author Martin Asser claims that Arab residents of Jerusalem “say discrimination overshadows their lives: restrictions on building or renovation; disregard by the municipality even though they pay taxes…”.

What he does not tell BBC audiences is that those residents have consistently declined to take part in the democratic process which would afford them representation on the city council and thus pave the way to eliminating those perceived grievances. And of course he also does not inform BBC audiences of why that is the case

As veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh recently wrote:

“The Arabs make up 25-30% of the city’s eligible voters, which means that they could have 7-8 representatives in the 31-seat municipal council.”

So why aren’t there seven or eight Arab representatives on the Jerusalem municipal council?

“In the past few days, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Hamas and several other Palestinian organizations have called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem to stay away from the ballot boxes.” [...]

“A few Arabs who in the past dared to challenge the boycott have faced death threats. One of them was newspaper publisher Hanna Siniora, who back in 1987 announced his intention to run in the municipal election. Siniora’s car was torched by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a move that forced him to retract his candidacy.

Eleven years later, another Arab, Mussa Alayan, defied the boycott by running at the head of an independent list. He received fewer than 3,000 votes and did not make it to the city council. Alayan could have probably become the first Arab council member had he and his supporters not faced a brutal and violent campaign by Palestinian activists.”

This story of long-time and current intimidation of potential candidates and voters in a democratic process is going on right under the noses of the BBC staff located in its Jerusalem Bureau and yet not one line has been written on the subject or one minute of film broadcast. 

BBC backgrounder claims Palestinian leadership renounced terror twenty five years ago

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords, a BBC audience member conducting an internet search for information on that subject would, among other items, come across a backgrounder dating from May 2008 titled “1993 Oslo agreement” which forms part of the BBC’s “History of Israel: Key Events“.  

Key Events Oslo

The article states:

“The Palestinian National Council (a government-in-exile) had in 1988 accepted the two-state solution, as envisaged by the UN resolution 181 in 1947. It renounced terrorism and started to seek a negotiated settlement based on Resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from territory captured in the 1967 war, and Resolution 338.”

Rather than a “government in exile”, the Palestinian National Council was at the time in fact the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO – designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel until 1991) when, on November 15th 1988 in Algiers, it unilaterally declared Palestinian independence. Upon the reading of the declaration, PLO chair Yasser Arafat assumed the title ‘President of Palestine’. 

The BBC article makes no effort to clarify to readers the fact that neither Arafat nor the PLO held any democratically elected mandate to represent the Palestinian people: its status as their representative had in fact been parachuted upon them in 1974 by the same Arab League which had created the organization a decade previously (and three years prior to the Six Day War) in order to achieve the “liberation of Palestine through armed struggle”.

What of the BBC’s claim that the PNC “accepted the two-state solution” in that 1988 document? Well, the document itself carefully avoids any specific definition of territory.

“Whereas the Palestinian people reaffirms most definitively its inalienable rights in the land of its patrimony: Now by virtue of natural, historical and legal rights, and the sacrifices of successive generations who gave of themselves in defense of the freedom and independence of their homeland; In pursuance of Resolutions adopted by Arab Summit Conferences and relying on the authority bestowed by international legitimacy as embodied in the Resolutions of the United Nations Organisation since 1947; And in exercise by the Palestinian Arab people of its rights to self-determination, political independence and sovereignty over its territory, The Palestine National Council, in the name of God, and in the name of the Palestinian Arab people, hereby proclaims the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif).” [emphasis added]

In the official political communique published as an appendix to the declaration, the PNC stated:

“This session culminated in the announcement of the rise of the Palestinian state in our Palestinian land, the natural climax of a daring and tenacious popular struggle that started more than seventy years ago and was baptised in the immense sacrifices offered by our people in our homeland, along its borders, and in the camps and other sites of our diaspora.”

Far from accepting a two-state solution – which of course depends upon recognition of Israel – the communique goes on to state:

“The crimes of the occupation and its savage, inhuman practices have exposed the Zionist lie about the democracy of the Zionist entity that has managed to deceive the world for forty years [i.e. since 1948 – ed.], revealing Israel in its true light – a fascist, racist, colonialist state built on the usurpation of the Palestinian land and the annihilation of the Palestinian people, a state that threatens and undertakes attacks and expansion into neighbouring Arab lands.” [emphasis added]

At the time of the PNC declaration in 1988, the Palestinian National Charter (or covenant) still rejected Israel’s right to exist and called explicitly for its destruction.

“Article 2:

Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

Article 15:

The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation – peoples and governments – with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, moral, and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.

Article 19:

The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations; particularly the right to self-determination.

Article 20:

The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”

Only in September 1993 did Arafat undertake to have the articles in the Palestinian National Charter which deny Israel’s right to exist brought to the PNC for removal, although it took over five more years before any action was taken, even according to the most optimistic accounts. The BBC’s claim that the PNC accepted a two-state solution in 1988 is therefore highly tendentious. 

The BBC article fails to point out to readers that its cited “UN resolution 181 in 1947″ – which was never more than a recommendation – has no legal standing, having been rejected by the Arab states

And what of the claim made in this article that the Palestinian National Council “renounced terrorism” in 1988? The declaration itself – as one would expect from the legislative arm of a terrorist organization – extols terrorism in no uncertain terms:

“And so Palestinian resistance was clarified and raised into the forefront of Arab and world awareness, as the struggle of the Palestinian Arab people achieved unique prominence among the world’s liberation movements in the modern era. The massive national uprising, the intifada, now intensifying in cumulative scope and power on occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the unflinching resistance of the refugee camps outside the homeland, have elevated awareness of the Palestinian truth and right into still higher realms of comprehension and actuality. Now at least the curtain has been dropped around a whole epoch of prevarication and negation. The intifada has set siege to the mind of official Israel, which has for too long relied exclusively upon myth and terror to deny Palestinian existence altogether. Because of the intifada and its revolutionary irreversible impulse, the history of Palestine has therefore arrived at a decisive juncture.”

The accompanying political communique is even more explicit: [all emphasis added]

“In the light of this, and toward the reinforcement of the steadfastness and blessed intifada of our people, and in accordance with the will of our masses in and outside of our homeland, and in fidelity to those of our people that have been martyred, wounded, or taken captive, the Palestine National Council resolves: First: On The Escalation and Continuity of the Intifada

A. To provide all the means and capabilities needed to escalate our people’s intifada in various ways and on various levels to guarantee its continuation and intensification.

B. To support the popular institutions and organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

C. To bolster and develop the popular committees and other specialised popular and trade union bodies, including the attack groups and the popular army, with a view to expanding their role and increasing their effectiveness.”

Memorial for the 16 Israelis killed in first attempted suicide attack of 1st Intifada, in 1989.

And indeed, the five years which separated the PNC’s 1988 declaration from the 1993 Oslo Accords and the end of the first Intifada resulted in the deaths of some 173 Israelis at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.  

As is well known – and was known when the BBC published this article in 2008 – the signing of the Oslo Accords brought a new wave of terror which was followed by even worse terrorism during the second Intifada – orchestrated and financed by none other than Arafat in his simultaneously held roles as President of the Palestinian National Authority and Chair of the PLO. 

Even taking into account the fact that some of the post 1988 terrorist attacks against Israelis were perpetrated by groups which do not come under the PNC umbrella (the article completely fails to mention that the PNC/PLO does not, for instance, include Hamas), the BBC’s promotion of the notion that the PNC “renounced terrorism” in 1988 is completely inaccurate given that many of the individual groups making up the PLO were directly involved in terror – not least the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade which self-identifies as the military wing of Fatah – the largest faction in the PLO and the one formerly headed by the same Yasser Arafat who headed the PLO at the time of the PNC declaration in 1988.

Over five years after its publication, it is high time that this misleading backgrounder underwent serious review and correction.