BBC still flogging the ‘settlements’ horse

An article entitled “ ‘Hard decisions’ needed for Middle East peace – Kerry appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on May 24th 2013. 

Kerry art

The article – which ostensibly reports on the subject of the recent visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry – devotes a considerable amount of space to promoting the habitual BBC mantras of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’ and ‘settlements are illegal under international law’. However, the telegram-style clichés repeated in this article, as in countless others, not only fall short of contributing to BBC audiences’ gaining comprehensive understanding of the issues at stake, but actively prevent them from doing so.

“The last round of direct talks between the two sides broke down two years ago over the issue of settlements.”

This pro forma statement is so well-worn that BBC editors have apparently not noticed that it is no longer accurate even from the point of view of its time-scale. The Palestinian Authority refused to continue direct negotiations in late September 2010 – two years and eight months ago. The statement fails to inform readers that prior to that break-down in talks, a ten-month freeze on construction had been implemented by Israel in order to encourage the renewal of discussions, but the Palestinian Authority failed to come to the negotiating table for nine of those ten months and then used the end of the construction freeze on September 26th 2010 as a pretext to refuse to continue talks.

“Mr Kerry called on Israel to prevent further settlement building where possible in the West Bank but stopped short of calling for a total freeze.”

This statement misleads BBC audiences by implying through the use of the phrase “further settlement building” that new towns and villages are being constructed in Judea & Samaria and by failing to make clear that in fact the issue is building within the municipal boundaries of existing communities. 

“Palestinian officials want all settlement activity in the West Bank to stop before they return to negotiations with Israel.

Israel says it will not accept any preconditions for talks.

Last week the Israeli government took steps to authorise four Jewish settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

As usual, the BBC conceals from its audiences the fact that there are differing legal opinions on the subject. 

“The main issues to be addressed in a peace agreement include borders, the future of Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and fate of Palestinian refugees.”

Note the repeated use of the term “Jewish settlements” rather than ‘Israeli’. Communities in Judea & Samaria were built under the auspices of successive Israeli governments – all of which were democratically elected by the entire spectrum of the Israeli people – including the 20% or so who are not Jewish.  

An average reader of this article would go away convinced that building in communities in Judea & Samaria is the main issue preventing a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. So let’s take a look at just some of what the BBC has to airbrush out of its ‘peace process’ narrative, as presented in this article and many others, in order to promote that chimera to its audiences. 

1. The Palestinian Authority’s insistence on the ‘right of return’ for refugees: a scenario which would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

2. The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

3. The fact that Mahmoud Abbas does not hold a legitimate democratically elected mandate to sign any agreement on behalf of the Palestinian people.

4. The fact that part of the territory intended to be a Palestinian state is not controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but by a terrorist organization at war with Israel.

5. The fact that the ‘international community’ seems to be entirely at ease with the deliberate suspension of the rights of the Palestinian people to elect their leaders and representatives in order to keep the Palestinian Authority on ‘life support’ by postponing a Hamas take-over of the PA.

6. The fact that the Palestinian Authority engages in daily delegitimisation of Israel, incitement against the Israeli people and glorification of terror.

The BBC’s article also includes ‘analysis’ by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. 

Kerry art analysis

Connolly states: 

“When the basic principles of the two-state solution were first enunciated in 1967, America’s 69-year-old Secretary of State was 23. William Hague, a senior partner in the international search for peace, had not yet turned seven. The core of the issue and the depths of mutual suspicion and hostility between Israel and the Palestinians are not much changed.

Mr Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton came to Israel only five times in four years; Mr Kerry’s already been four times in as many months. If there is any glimmer of private hope to explain that burst of diplomatic energy there is no sign of it in the public domain.

Israel still wants security guarantees and Palestinians are reluctant to talk until there is some kind of halt to Israel’s building of Jewish settlements on the territory it occupies on the West Bank of the River Jordan. Israel shows no sign of satisfying that requirement for now.” 

There’s Connolly once again implying that new communities are being built in Judea & Samaria as we read – rather than housing units in existing towns and villages – and using the term “Jewish settlements” instead of Israeli. But note Connolly’s first paragraph in that ‘analysis’. The opaquely phrased claim that “the basic principles of the two-state solution were first enunciated in 1967”, followed by the use of the term “hostility between Israel and the Palestinians” deliberately airbrushes out aspects of the conflict which are vital in contributing to readers’ understanding of it.

Connolly’s reference to 1967 presumably means the Khartoum conference, but to interpret the results of that as enunciating “the basic principles of the two state solution” (whereby, according to its accepted definition, the State of Israel and a Palestinian state exist peacefully side by side) is a pretty far stretch – and one which not only downplays Arab countries’ involvement in the conflict, but ignores the third attempt by Arab states to annihilate Israel six years later. 

“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” [emphasis added]

The BBC systematically sells its audiences short by failing to contribute to their understanding of why the peace process has failed to make any significant progress through the repeated airbrushing out of the picture of factors of considerably graver consequence than the subject of building in “settlements”. That practice not only seriously damages the BBC’s reputation for accuracy and impartiality, but also fails to meet the requirements of the “public purposes” set out in the BBC’s charter. 

It is high time the BBC made some (apparently) ‘hard’ decisions of its own regarding its seeming unwillingness to meet its obligation to inform audiences accurately rather than making do with the incessant promotion of a specific political narrative. One place to start, for example, would be an in-depth feature on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terror and the effects of that on the chances for peace. 

16 comments on “BBC still flogging the ‘settlements’ horse

  1. If the Israelis were as obtuse and naive regarding the reliability of their “Arab partners in peace” as the British appear to be regarding their beheading jihadists, they might take BBC seriously and meet their own destruction in ten years. The Arabs seem to be able to agree on only one thing: the reconquest of holy Islamic territory. Spain is on the way too: a million Muslims entered recently. A new mosque was constructed. The Caliphate is ahead: France, Italy, Netherlands, etc. Instead of criticizing Israel, BBC might take a leaf from Israel’s instruction manual and save itself.

      • “settlements are illegal by every possible measure” is a reckless statement to make. The legality is clearly open to question until established by the highest courts and THEN, still open to challenge. We have not gotten anywhere near that stage. May I offer a kindergarten observation, avoid absolutes and categoricals and “every possible measure”. Meanwhile, your homework: read about the 1948-67 Mizrahi Jews and what ten Arab countries owe them by way of restitution for vast stolen lands five times the size of Israel.

  2. ““Mr Kerry called on Israel to prevent further settlement building where possible in the West Bank but stopped short of calling for a total freeze.”

    This statement misleads BBC audiences by implying through the use of the phrase “further settlement building” that new towns and villages are being constructed in Judea & Samaria and by failing to make clear that in fact the issue is building within the municipal boundaries of existing communities. ”

    In fact as, Haaretz reported today, areas available for settlement continue to expand year by year, “by nearly 8,000 dunams (1977 acres) in 2012 – land equaling the entire city of Bat Yam and twice as big as Manhattan’s Central Park.”:

    Constantly repeating lies such as the above may appeal to BBCWatchers but it does not make them true.

    • Better let us read the whole articel because you can only if you pay for Haaretz which you obvuiosly do. There can;t be a debate when we don;t konw all the facts.

      • He doesn’t want a debate. He wants to present you with simple lies and distortions of facts, because he knows will take you days to locate the necessary data to properly refute them with full supporting evidence. That’s why he never provides proper supporting evidence – it’s much easier to throw in a quick lie, accompanied at most by a snippet of data taken out of context, to malign Israel, and then make us do the work necessary to prove him wrong. And even when we eventually do, he doesn’t care: he’s already disseminated umpteen more lies since then, and has simply moved on…as the saying goes, a lie can get halfway round the world before the truth can get its pants on!

    • Three questions for you, Sencar, since you claim superior knowledge on this subject:
      1) How much new* land (on average) does that 1977 acres equate to, per individual ‘settlement’?
      (*i.e. land not already lying within the boundaries of the individual municipality prior to 2012).
      2) How many acres of land in the ‘West Bank’ was used (or allotted for) for the building of new / extended housing for Palestinians during 2012?
      3) In the end, whatever the future of Israel and the ‘West Bank’, the new housing units will either stay under Israeli ownership, or will come under Palestinian (or possibly even general Arab!) ownership. So, in either case, why would such housing not benefit its future owners, whatever their ancestry?

  3. If you insist on Haaretz as your news source, you must be aware that many of us see it as hopelessly naive, an ultimate threat to Israel’s survival, and frequently quoted by Israel’s enemies. I would urge you to use many resources including Al Monitor and other Muslim sources, but fully aware of their points of view.

  4. I have been intimately acquainted, since 1960, with the former Arab community of Ein Hod, now an artists’ colony not far from Haifa. I remember it as having no road, electricity, water, or sewage and really just piles of rocks. I know:” a man’s home is his castle.” It has all those modern amenities now.
    If the Arabs keep protesting against Israelis building settlements, before they know it, the Israelis will have brought in all the amenities and built up all the empty spaces everywhere so that the Arabs can take their pick in the final peace negotiation. How marvelously cunning: modern housing instead of foul rock piles just by protesting. Of course, that’s what the whole Palestiian saga is: media manipulation a la Goebbels.

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