Political messaging and inaccuracies in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Terror Through Time’

On December 2nd another edition of the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Terror Through Time’ (presented by Fergal Keane) was broadcast under the title “Death Wish: Battling Suicide Bombers“. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:Terror Through Time 2 12 14

“Fergal Keane visits Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to discover how Israeli society reacted to a wave of suicide bombers. He’s joined by Assaf Moghadan, a researcher at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, former Israeli Army commander Nitzan Nuriel and by Professor Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University.”

The programme begins with a recording of Bill Clinton speaking at the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, after which Keane informs listeners:

“But within months, a new campaign of terrorism was bringing carnage to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv…”

Of course the post-Oslo terror campaign also took place in many additional locations in Israel besides its two largest cities, contrary to the inaccurate impression given by Keane. He goes on to interview Israeli film-maker Noam Sharon, stating “I’m here in the Old City of Jerusalem”. In fact, as Sharon states, the interview took place on Yoel Moshe Salomon street, which is not located in the Old City. After Sharon has described some of the suicide bombings which took place in that district in Jerusalem, Keane goes on to interview Assaf Moghadan and then states:Map Yoel Moshe Salomon

“By the 1990s the balance of power among the Palestinians was shifting. Islamist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as militant elements within Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, were opposed to the peace process. Support for a path of violent opposition to Israel would grow sharply in the wake of a massacre of Palestinians carried out at the Cave of the Patriarchs by a Jewish extremist.”

After a recording of an archive news bulletin, Keane once again inadequately introduces political activist cum academic Rashid Khalidi, failing to provide audiences with the crucial background summary of Khalidi’s “viewpoint” which would enable them to put his contribution into its appropriate context.

Keane: “Rashid Khalidi is professor of modern Arab studies at Colombia University, New York.”

Khalidi: “Suicide attacks were carried out in the wake of the Hebron Mosque massacre – the Haram al Ibrahimi massacre – by Baruch Goldstein in 1994, when dozens of worshippers were gunned down by this armed settler fanatic.”

But do the facts actually support Khalid’s claim? Suicide attacks had in fact already begun in 1989 with the one on the 405 bus carried out by the PIJ. Two attacks were carried out in 1993 by Hamas and in 1994 five attacks by Hamas took place. The years that followed showed a slight decline in suicide attacks – 1995: 4, 1996: 4, 1997: 3, 1998: 2, 1999: 2. The surge in suicide attacks actually came during the second Intifada which began six and a half years after Goldstein’s terror attack at the Cave of the Patriarchs – 2000: 5, 2001: 40, 2002: 47 attacks. Hence, Khalidi’s linkage is doubtful to say the least. Keane goes on to tell listeners:

“Rashid Khalidi says that Palestinian anger over a peace process that failed to stop the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land helped to create support for violent action against Israeli civilians.”

Of course Keane’s blind adoption and amplification of Khalidi’s politically motivated narrative means that he erases from audience view several vital points, one of which is the fact that the representatives of the Palestinian people willingly signed the Oslo Accords in which no limitation on Israeli (or Palestinian) building was stipulated. He also ignores the fact that construction in existing communities took place in Area C which, according to the terms of the Oslo Accords is to have its status determined in final status negotiations, making Keane’s description of that area as “Palestinian land” inaccurate and misleading.

Khalidi: “Instead of punishing the settlers by doing what a majority of his cabinet apparently wanted to do, which was to remove settlers from Hebron and perhaps even remove the Kiryat Arba settlement where the most fanatic, most extreme armed settlers were concentrated, Rabin did quite the opposite. He began the enforcement of incredibly restrictive conditions on the population of Hebron in the area where the Jewish settlers had set up in the city, such that it became clear to the Palestinians that the peace process was not delivering and to settlement and improvement of the situation for Palestinians: quite the contrary.”

Neither Khalidi nor Keane bother to inform listeners that the status of Hebron and the security arrangements there are the product of the Hebron Protocols – again willingly signed by the Palestinian leadership. Clearly that fact does not fit into Khalidi’s politically motivated narrative which portrays Palestinians exclusively as victims.

Keane then goes on to discuss with Ronen Bergman and Nitzan Nuriel Israel’s methods of coping with the wave of suicide bombings during the second Intifada before informing listeners that:

“The most profound, long-term impact was political. Suicide bombing created fear among the Israeli public and a sense of betrayal. Where were the promises of peace, they asked. And so voters gradually turned away from the likes of Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak of Labour and towards the right-wing in the form of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. As suicide bombing reached its peak in 2002, Sharon ordered the army into West Bank towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Operation Defensive Shield was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the war of 1967. The compound of PLO leader Yasser Arafat was besieged and according to the United Nations, 497 Palestinians were killed along with 30 Israeli soldiers. Arafat was accused of supporting suicide bombers from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a faction of his Fatah movement. Human Rights Watch said that while he didn’t have command responsibility, he bore a heavy political responsibility for the atrocities. More than a hundred people died in bomb attacks in Israel from March to May 2002.”

Notably, at no point in this programme is it clarified that Arafat was not only the leader of the PLO, but also the president of the Palestinian Authority. No mention is made of his instigation of the second Intifada and, as we see above, his role in financing that terror war is downplayed to the level of ambiguous “political responsibility”.

After discussing the role of the anti-terrorist fence in reducing suicide bombings with Assaf Moghadan, Keane once again turns his attentions away from counter-terrorism and towards politics.

“But Israel’s politics changed dramatically. The old existential fear dominated and produced governments for whom security – rather than a long-term pact with the Palestinians – became the primary focus. Along with this came the steady expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land: a deep cause of Palestinian fury. For the Palestinian militants, instead of suicide bombers the new terrorism would see hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli civilians.”

So according to Keane’s version of events, it was “Jewish settlements” which caused “fury” which prompted the continuation of terror attacks against Israeli civilians, with the tactic changing from suicide bombings to rockets.

The one major hole in Keane’s inaccurate theory is of course that the majority of the thousands – not “hundreds”- of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip took place after Israel’s disengagement from that territory in 2005 – including the evacuation of all ‘settlements’ – and hence one can in fact see that Keane’s linkage between the Palestinian terror organisations’ activities and ‘settlements’ is fallacious to say the least.

Missile attacks from GS

Keane proceeds with a very odd question:

“As with the airline hijackings of the 1970s, the suicide bombing campaigns focused attention on the Palestinian cause. But did they improve living conditions or bring a Palestinian state any closer?”

Keane gives the last word to Khalidi.

“Well, I would argue that attacks carried out in particular during the second Intifada which began in 2000 – and those attacks really reached a peak in 2001/2002 with bus bombs and other atrocities all over Israeli cities – had a devastating effect on the Palestinians, not only in terms of public opinion but in terms of hardening Israeli opinion against the Palestinians in terms of unifying Israeli opinion around the most extreme right-wing positions in Israeli politics. So their ultimate impact, besides the havoc that the Israeli army wreaked on the Palestinians as part of the re-occupation of the tiny areas that they had originally evacuated as part of the Oslo Accords, the public opinion impact worldwide of the Palestinians blowing up buses – all of these things together in my view had a devastating impact on the Palestinians primarily. Obviously there was enormous suffering caused by the actual attacks, but strategically I would say the balance is entirely in Israel’s favour and that should be a strategic factor for any Palestinian political leader.”

In other words, BBC audiences are left with the message that suicide bombings are undesirable not because they are morally wrong or abhorrent, but because they do not serve the strategic interests of Palestinian public relations. They are also told that Israeli public opinion is ‘unified’ around “the most extreme right-wing positions in Israeli politics” – a claim not borne out by the results of the 2013 elections or those which went before them. Khalidi also erases the fact that Arafat’s campaign of terror actually coincided with an increase in foreign donor contributions to the Palestinian Authority and that continuing terrorism cannot be said to have had a detrimental effect upon the provision of foreign aid funding.

Ostensibly, Fergal Keane set out to explore in this programme “how Israeli society reacted to a wave of suicide bombers”. What he actually achieved was – once again – uncritical amplification of political messaging from the Rashid Khalidi show. 


BBC WS ‘Witness’ erases Arafat’s terrorism

On September 15th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Witness’ broadcast an episode titled “Rabin and Arafat Shake Hands” pertaining to the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993.Witness Oslo

Presenter Louise Hidalgo set the scene thus:

“This was going to be a truly historic moment. These two bitter adversaries – Yitzhak Rabin the army general turned prime minister and Yasser Arafat the guerilla leader – standing side by side to witness the signing of the first agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Fatah and the PLO – both led by Arafat –at no point confined their activities to fighting the Israeli army.

In a paper published in 2010, Dr Boaz Ganor wrote the following in the chapter titled “Guerrilla Warfare vs. Terrorism”:

“Ehud Sprinzak sums up this approach as follows: “Guerrilla war is a small war – subject to the same rules that apply to big wars, and on this it differs from terrorism.” David Rapaport adds: “The traditional distinguishing characteristic of the terrorist was his explicit refusal to accept the conventional moral limits which defined military and guerrilla action.”
As opposed to Laqueur, Paul Wilkinson distinguishes between terrorism and guerrilla warfare by stressing another aspect–harm to civilians:

Guerrillas may fight with small numbers and often inadequate weaponry, but they can and often do fight according to conventions of war, taking and exchanging prisoners and respecting the rights of non-combatants. Terrorists place no limits on means employed and frequently resort to widespread assassination, the waging of ‘general terror’ upon the indigenous civilian population.

The proposed definition, as noted, distinguishes terrorism from guerrilla activity according to the intended target of attack. The definition states that if an attack deliberately targets civilians, then that attack will be considered a terrorist attack, whereas, if it targets military or security personnel then it will be considered a guerrilla attack. It all depends on who the intended victims are. First and foremost, this definition is meant to answer the need for analyzing and classifying specific events as “terrorism” or “guerrilla activities.” “

As is well known, under Arafat’s leadership, the PLO carried out thousands of attacks on civilians over the decades and the organisation was designated a foreign terrorist organization by his White House hosts until the Oslo Accords. In the eleven years between the signing of those agreements and Arafat’s death, the Fatah faction he also led continued to carry out terror attacks which deliberately targeted Israeli civilians.  

But, as Dr Ganor also notes:

“Terrorism and guerrilla warfare often serve as alternative designations of the same phenomenon. The term “terrorism,” however, has a far more negative connotation, seemingly requiring one to take a stand, whereas the term “guerrilla warfare” is perceived as neutral and carries a more positive connotation.”

The BBC’s apparent wish to present “a more positive connotation” by means of use of the term “guerilla leader” does not in this case meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy. 

BBC regular Atwan shatters 14 year old BBC myth on second Intifada

h/t EoZ

Here is a clip from an interview given by that old BBC favourite Abdel Bari Atwan to the Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen on July 29th.

Apparently Abdel Bari Atwan has not told his friends at the BBC that Yasser Arafat “decided to ignite the second Intifada” or of Arafat’s “period of preparation for the second Intifada”. If he had shared that personal knowledge with them, they surely would not still be running all those embarrassingly inaccurate articles and backgrounders on their website which claim that the second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon went for a pre-coordinated thirty-four minute visit to Temple Mount.

Related Articles:

BBC second Intifada backgrounders: ‘Sharon started it’

BBC exploits Sharon’s death for more promotion of second Intifada falsehood

BBC Arabic interview with former Arafat bodyguard

Courtesy of the indispensable MEMRI, non-Arabic speaking readers can now view a portion of an interview with Muhammad Al-Daya – formerly the bodyguard of Yasser Arafat – which appeared on BBC Arabic on April 3rd.

A transcript is also available here.

Seeing as it isn’t that long ago since former Jerusalem Bureau correspondent Jon Donnison was doing terrorist chic with the promotion of “Arafat’s legacy” to the BBC’s English-speaking audiences, it would of course be appropriate for the corporation to make this interview available to audiences outside the limited sphere of BBC Arabic.


Four times less BBC Online coverage of Arafat ‘not poisoned’ stories

On December 26th the Russian forensic institute which was one of three organisations to have been provided with samples from the exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s remains announced that – like the French laboratory which conducted similar tests – its findings indicated that Arafat died of natural causes.

So to recap, two of the three institutions (Russian and French) which carried out tests ruled out poisoning in favour of a natural cause of death, whilst one (Swiss) said that its findings “moderately supported” the poisoning theory. 

On December 26th the BBC News website produced one article on the subject of the Russian findings. The accompanying links to ‘related articles’ all lead to recycled items. Towards the end of the report, the BBC once again opts for the promotion of Palestinian conspiracy theories.

“Many senior Palestinian officials have blamed Israel for the death, although Israel has strenuously denied having anything to do with it.”

me pge aft 26 12

Arafat Russian report

Previously, two reports were published on the subject of the French findings and thirteen related articles appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in a 48 hour period on the subject of the Swiss findings, nine of which also amplified the conspiracy theory surrounding Arafat’s death.

In other words, the BBC News website devoted over four times the number of articles to the coverage of findings interpreted as moderately supporting the theory that Arafat was poisoned than it did to the two other sets of findings which found that Arafat died of natural causes. 

Comparing BBC coverage of Arafat ‘poisoned’ vs ‘not poisoned’ stories

As readers no doubt recall, in the forty-eight hours between November 6th and 8th the BBC News website featured thirteen different items on the subject of the publication of the Swiss report which was interpreted as supporting the theory that Yasser Arafat died as a result of poisoning.

“To sum up, in a period of less than 48 hours the BBC News website promoted thirteen different reports (shown below) on the subject of the publication of the Swiss findings and related subject matter, with nine of those items amplifying conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death.” 

website 6 to 8 11

It is therefore interesting to compare that volume of coverage with the number of reports appearing on the same website between December 3rd and 5th concerning another report on the same subject which apparently concludes that Arafat died of natural causes.

BBC News web Dec 3 to 5

The two reports – one written (which has undergone numerous changes since its initial publication) and one filmed – both include repetition of Palestinian conspiracy theories which accuse Israel of being responsible for Arafat’s death.

BBC Arafat binge continues to promote conspiracy theories

The BBC’s recent Arafat overdose – which began on November 6th when no fewer than six reports were placed on its website within hours – continued the next day with the appearance of additional items. 

Those included a written article titled “Arafat polonium findings confirmed by Swiss scientists“, a filmed report by Yolande Knell titled “Palestinians react to Arafat report“, a filmed item by John Simpson who apparently now remembers that “Yasser Arafat death ‘was always suspicious’” and another filmed report by Nick Childs titled “Swiss scientists confirm polonium in Yasser Arafat remains“. All three of the filmed items appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website. 

Also on November 7th, at the same URL as a previous item originally titled “Arafat widow’s ‘shock and anger'” (and hence replacing it), a filmed piece entitled “Widow: Yasser Arafat ‘had many enemies’” appeared.

Like most of the articles of the previous day, the written report amplifies evidence-free speculations of Israeli involvement in Arafat’s death.

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat. There have also been allegations that he had Aids or cancer. Israel has consistently denied any involvement.”

Once again too, the article downplays the scale of the role of Al Jazeera in the manufacturing of this story.

“France began a murder inquiry in August 2012 after the preliminary findings of polonium by the Lausanne scientists, who have been working with an al-Jazeera documentary crew.”

The synopsis to Knell’s filmed report states:

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat but Jerusalem has consistently denied any involvement.”

Knell provides a platform for the promotion of ‘man in the Ramallah street’ conspiracy theories regarding speculations of Israeli involvement and then embellishes them with her own narrative.

Simpson’s report presents an over-simplified view of the Swiss laboratory’s findings and also amplifies the Israel-related Palestinian conspiracy theories on the subject. 

In Nick Childs’ report he erroneously describes Arafat as “a guerilla leader”. As we noted here a year ago when Jon Donnison also whitewashed Arafat’s terrorism by describing him as a “guerilla fighter”:

“A guerrilla fighter, by definition, “acts as a member of an irregular usually politically motivated armed force that combats stronger regular forces, such as the army or police”.

In other words, guerrilla fighters act against official security forces – not against civilians. […]

Yehuda Ohayon (aged 10), Yafa Batito (8), Mimon Biton (7), Haviva Biton (7), Chana Biton (8), Shimon Biton (9), Shulamit Biton (9) and Aliza Petretz (14) were not soldiers or policemen. They were pupils on their way to school on May 22nd 1970 when two bazooka shells were fired at their school bus by the PLO – under Yasser Arafat’s command.

Neither were the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by the PLO’s ‘Black September’ group at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 a military target.

The 25 Israelis killed in the Ma’alot massacre – 22 of them children – in 1974 were not soldiers or policemen either. The 38 Israelis – including 13 children – murdered in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre carried out by the PLO under Arafat were also not a military target.”

On November 8th the BBC News website added two more reports to its collection of Arafat-related items:  a written article titled “Palestinian officials: Israel only suspect in Arafat death” and a filmed report titled “Yasser Arafat forensic studies ‘will continue’“, both of which relate to the press conference given on that day by Tawfik Tirawi and amplify the PA’s unfounded accusations against Israel.

To sum up, in a period of less than 48 hours the BBC News website promoted thirteen different reports (shown below) on the subject of the publication of the Swiss findings and related subject matter, with nine of those items amplifying conspiracy theories concerning Israel’s involvement in Arafat’s death. None of the items attempted to propose any other explanation for the as yet unproven poisoning theory. 

website 6 to 8 11

Related articles:

BBC goes into Arafat overdose mode – again

 The BBC’s Arafat overdose

BBC goes into Arafat overdose mode – again

On November 6th the BBC News website once more went into Arafat overdose mode with no fewer than five articles presented on its homepage and Middle East page on that day alone. 

main page 7 11

mepge 7 11

(Note the use of the phrase “obtained by al-Jazeera” in the sub-headings on both those pages, as well as in the opening to the main article.) 

As well as the lead article – titled “Yasser Arafat ‘may have been poisoned with polonium’“- which includes a filmed report from Yolande Knell also broadcast on BBC television news, visitors to the website were offered an article titled “Q&A: Investigation into Yasser Arafat’s death” and a filmed Al Jazeera interview with Suha Arafat which promoted further links. 

Vid Suha Arafat

In addition to the above, suggested reading material included an article from August 2012 titled “Yasser Arafat: France opens murder inquiry” and the BBC’s own 2004 obituary for Arafat which whitewashes his role in terrorism and once again promotes the myth of an “unarmed” first Intifada.

The main article, the Q&A, Knell’s filmed report and the August 2012 article all take the trouble to promote the speculation that Israel may have been involved in the as yet unproven poisoning of Arafat.

“However, many Palestinians continue to believe that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied any involvement.”

“Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat. There have also been allegations that he had Aids or cancer. Israel has consistently denied any involvement.”

“Many senior Palestinian officials claim that Arafat was poisoned by Israel.

Israel’s prime minister at the time of Arafat’s death, Ariel Sharon, saw the Palestinian leader as a terrorist and an obstacle to peace.

In 2002, Mr Sharon told the Maariv newspaper that he regretted not “eliminating” Arafat during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. But he also stressed that Israel had later made a “commitment” not to harm him.

However, Mr Sharon is alleged to have told former US President George W Bush in April 2004 that he no longer felt bound by his promise.

Israel has strenuously denied that it had anything to do with Arafat’s death.”

Such unfounded allegations and conspiracy theories have also been amplified by the BBC in past reporting on the same issue – see here and here for just two examples. As we have remarked previously on these pages:

“The question many license-fee payers must be asking themselves is how does the flagship media organization of their country justify the investment of such quantities of resources, air time and column space on the propagation of fact-free myth-cum-folklore – and why is the BBC lending an air of plausibility to this particular conspiracy theory?”

Interestingly, the filmed interview with Suha Arafat appears to suggest that she has other ideas than those promoted by the BBC.

“We have this very important to separate the political aspect of what the Palestinian Authority is doing – negotiations – and the crime of Yasser Arafat. It’s a separate subject. We have to continue regardless what is asked from us politically. Political peace process will go on the side and the investigation of very shameful crime like this crime has to be – to go on another side, another path. [….] Unfortunately, it’s somebody of his entourage.”

Relevant questions also surround the aspects of this story not being adequately reported by the BBC. The scale of involvement of Qatar’s Al Jazeera in the creation and propagation of the story is confined to a few short sentences in the Q&A article.

“On 3 July 2012, an al-Jazeera documentary reported the results of a nine-month investigation that tried to discover what killed Arafat.”

“A report, published by al-Jazeera, said “unexpectedly high levels” of radioactive polonium-210 had been detected.”

“On 6 November, al-Jazeera revealed the findings of 10 experts at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre (CHUV) in Lausanne.”

That report appears with the Al Jazeera logo, prompting the question of who paid for the tests to be carried out and why. It also shows that the claim that Al Jazeera “obtained” the report as stated in the by-lines highlighted above is inaccurate. 

The same article quotes British forensic scientist David Barclay without informing readers that he is apparently retained by Al Jazeera.

The main article makes one brief reference to Al Jazeera’s involvement:

“France began a murder inquiry in August 2012 after the Lausanne scientists, working with an al-Jazeera documentary crew, found traces of polonium-210 on Arafat’s personal effects.”

The fact that Al Jazeera’s “documentary crew” is led by the head of its ‘Investigations Unit’ Clayton Swisher (who explains his motives for initiating the story here, complete with souvenir photo of himself hugging Arafat) and that Swisher was also behind the attempt to undermine the Palestinian Authority and derail the peace process with the Al Jazeera/Guardian publication of the leaked ‘Palestine Papers’ is not made clear to BBC audiences.

Al Jazeera’s ‘Investigations Unit’ claims that: [emphasis added]

“The role of Al Jazeera’s Investigations Unit is not to report the news but to make the news. It reveals secrets and exposes truths surrounded by silence.”

AJ Investigations

As is only too well known, that self-defined remit does not of course extend to serving the public interest by exposing “wrongdoing” or “abuses of power” on the part of the Hamas-financing and sheltering Qatari regime – or even to expose the “secrets” of the extent of Al Jazeera’s own spheres of activity.

Presumably, some sort of editorial discussion with regard to the appropriateness and implications of the extensive amplification of a manufactured story from a source with clear political motives (which, as the BBC has perhaps not yet grasped, extend far beyond the sideshow of Israel) must have taken place at the BBC. Apparently these five articles and the additional ones which followed the next day are the result of that discussion. 

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.