Definitions and descriptions of propaganda inevitably include the use of selected information – including by continuing misrepresentation, selective use of facts and the use of loaded messages aimed at producing an emotional response – in order to influence audience perceptions of a specific issue, with the desired result being a change of attitude in the audience in order to further a political agenda.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum adds:
“In contrast to the ideal of an educator, who aims to foster independent judgment and thinking, the practitioner of propaganda does not aim to encourage deliberation by presenting a variety of viewpoints and leaving it up to the audience to determine which perspective is correct. The propagandist transmits only information geared to strengthen his or her case, and consciously omits detrimental information.”
With that in mind, let us take a look at a BBC TV report (also appearing on the BBC News website) by Jon Donnison dated November 29th 2012 and entitled “UN Palestine vote ‘won’t change life on West Bank’ “.
Having opened the report with a description of preparations for celebrations in Ramallah to mark the PA’s bid to achieve non-member state status at the United Nations, Donnison goes on to say:
“But it will change nothing on the ground. Checkpoints like this one between Ramallah and Jerusalem will still be here tomorrow, as will the long queues as people wait to get through. Palestinians will not have any control over any of the borders. They will still need Israeli permission to travel.”
Donnison offers his audience no information whatsoever on why the checkpoints exist. He fails to point out that before the five-year long terror war waged by Palestinian terror groups against Israeli civilians – known as the second Intifada – such checkpoints did not exist. Equally, he offers no explanation as to why queues may be part and parcel of the very necessary need to check every single person and vehicle passing from PA-controlled areas into Israel. He does not mention the frequent attempts made by Palestinians to pass through that and other crossings with weapons, including the incident just a few weeks beforehand at the Qalandiya checkpoint beside which Donnison stands in this report.
“Border Police forces arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian carrying eight explosive devices at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, on Tuesday.
The man reportedly traveled to the checkpoint by taxi. A routine inspection of his bags revealed the bombs, which were assembled and ready for use. The man was taken into custody.
The border crossing was closed and sappers disassembled the devices on the scene.”
But in Donnison’s report, Palestinians can only ever be passive, oppressed victims, harassed by Israeli checkpoints. The notion of Palestinian society taking responsibility for the existence of checkpoints due to the existence of Palestinian terror in the past and present is apparently as foreign to Donnison as the idea that Palestinians being inconvenienced in a long queue might be a lesser evil than Israelis of all ages, colours and faiths being blown up in a café or on a bus.
And by offering his audience only a carefully selected part of that whole picture, Donnison is engaging in propaganda rather than in reporting the news.
The report continues:
“In short, the occupation will not go away. Israel says the only way to end that occupation and achieve a Palestinian state is through negotiations. The Palestinian leadership actually agrees, but says the UN bid is not an alternative to talking – it’s just a way of putting pressure on Israel for future discussions.”
Of course it is not just Israel which insists on negotiations to bring about an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict: so does the Quartet and most of the free world. But Donnison’s airbrushing of Hamas – which has no interest whatsoever in negotiations – out of the category of “Palestinian leadership” is particularly interesting given the frequent reminders by the BBC that it won democratic elections in 2006. Donnison fails to make clear the fact that not only is there not one ‘Palestinian leadership’, but that none of the personalities or parties which could perhaps be said to fall into that category currently holds a legitimate mandate, with their terms of office having expired years ago.
In other words, Donnison’s provision of selected information continues, allowing him to present an airbrushed version of a ‘reasonable’ Palestinian leadership.
Donnison continues: [emphasis added]
“The trouble is that the dream of a two-state solution – a Palestinian state sitting side by side with Israel – is for many on its last legs and that’s because Palestinian land like this is being encroached on all the time by Israeli settlements like the one behind me. Those settlements will still be here tomorrow. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down three years ago over the very issue of Jewish settlement expansion and there’s no sign that those talks will resume any time soon.”
Of course the talks Donnison refers to actually ‘broke down’ because of the refusal of the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table throughout 90% of the entire period of a ten-month long building freeze in Judea & Samaria – which Israel imposed as a good-will gesture to the Palestinians in an attempt to restart peace talks – and the Palestinian refusal to continue talking once that building freeze came to an end. Donnison is evidently relying on his audience having a very short memory.
Note too that Donnison manages to completely ignore the subject of the Oslo Accords, refraining from explaining to his viewers that rather than being “Palestinian land”, the land in question is actually in Area C and was supposed to be the subject of direct negotiations which ground to a halt over a decade ago with the Palestinian Authority’s decision to launch a terror war instead of thrashing out the details of a peace treaty at the negotiating table.
Once again, Donnison absolves the Palestinians of all responsibility, framing them solely as passive victims of Israeli actions.
So, with carefully selected information, continuing misrepresentation and an obvious attempt to appeal to his audience’s emotions by use of loaded messages, Donnison manages to produce a ‘report’ which does a pretty good impression of being taken straight from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign propaganda handbook rather than anything approaching the standard of informative, accurate and impartial reporting which the BBC is committed to providing for its audiences.