On March 18th 2013 an article ostensibly covering the subject of the swearing-in of Israel’s new government appeared in the Middle East Section of the BBC News website.
The most prominent feature of this 350 word article is the fact that the word ‘settlements’ appears in various permutations no fewer than eleven times.
In the first part of the article readers are told that:
“Mr Netanyahu will return as prime minister, heading a coalition that includes parties that support Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.
Settlement supporters have secured the defence and housing ministries.” [emphasis added]
Note the BBC’s inclusion of the phrase “on Palestinian land” – a choice of terminology which could be taken straight from a Palestine Solidarity Campaign press release – in clear breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on both accuracy and impartiality.
Under the loaded sub-heading “Pro-settlement ministers”, the article continues:
“The new line-up includes a strong showing of pro-settlement ministers.
Both the defence and housing ministries, which must approve construction in the occupied territories, have gone to pro-settlement activists.
The new defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, opposes any curbs on settlement-building.
The new housing minister, Uri Ariel, is a Jewish settler and member of Jewish Home.
He said on Sunday the new cabinet would continue to expand settlements “more or less as it has done previously”. [emphasis added]
The description of Uri Ariel as “a Jewish settler” is once again reminiscent of the type of terminology used by anti-Israel campaigners seeking to delegitimize parts of the Israeli population on the basis of their post code and is a clear breach of BBC Editorial guidelines on impartiality.
The article goes on to say:
“This could hamper any efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians, which have failed to progress through Mr Netanyahu’s last four-year term.
The Palestinians are demanding a cessation of settlement construction as a precondition to return to negotiations.
Palestinians say that the settlements, illegal under international law, will deny them a viable state.” [emphasis added]
The BBC makes absolutely no effort to reflect the fact that the legal status of towns and villages over the ‘green line’ is far from cut and dried and that there are differing legal opinions on the subject. The Palestinian viewpoint is presented unquestioningly and without equal representation of any alternative view, once again breaching BBC Editorial Guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.
The blatant bias and severe lack of impartiality displayed in this article leaves the distinct impression that the BBC has launched its own campaign against Israelis living over the ‘green line’. It should not need to be pointed out to the BBC that its remit does not include the exploitation of its wide audience reach in order to promote its own pet political campaigns either at home or abroad.
It should also not be necessary to remind the BBC that its own Editorial Guidelines state that:
“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.”
An anonymous writer on the BBC News website of course has no less significant an impact on perceptions of BBC impartiality.