Readers of the BBC News website’s Middle East page may have noted the interesting use there of the word ‘crisis’. At the bottom of that page audiences have for some time now seen the heading “Egypt in Crisis”.
That link leads to a dedicated page with the same header.
However, according to the BBC, Syria is not “in crisis”, but in “conflict”.
But there is also an additional “crisis” on the Middle East page: one which has been consistently promoted there for the past nine months and which is apparently much more widespread and of broader consequence than the “crisis” in Egypt or the “conflict” in Syria because it is called the “Mid-East crisis”.
Yes, the subject of talks between Israel and the Palestinians somehow justifies the title “Mid-East crisis” according to the BBC.
Under that header readers seeking information on that “crisis” will find a variety of articles presumably intended to provide them with the type of background information which the BBC claims compliments its news reports.
“.. our strategy is to supplement our news coverage by providing detailed background on BBC News Online. It has the space to carry more information than broadcast news programmes, helping readers to understand the political, historical or economic background to an event.”
So let’s take a look at what BBC audiences might “understand” from what is clearly intended to be an informative article – titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem” – dated August 14th 2013 and compiled by BBC Monitoring.
Apart from the bizarre Anglicisation of the name of one of the Israeli negotiators, Yitzhak Molcho, the piece does pretty well for the first few paragraphs as far as accuracy and impartiality are concerned. Then, under the heading “What has happened so far?” readers are told that:
“…as part of the process, Israel has agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. This began with 26 in the early hours of 14 August.”
Accuracy demands that the above statement be accompanied by a clarification to the effect that the three subsequent tranches in the agreed prisoner release are – according to most reports – subject to progress in the talks themselves. Clearly, mention should have been made of the fact that the prisoners concerned are “long-serving” because they had been convicted of murder, attempted murder or accessory to murder.
“The resumption of talks was preceded by the Israeli government’s announcement of the construction of some 2,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians voiced dismay but Mr Kerry said the move was “not unexpected”.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”
But things really begin to go downhill once the reader reaches the heading “Why is it so hard to reach agreement?”
“The Palestinians are divided politically between the West Bank-based Fatah and Islamist Hamas movement, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and has condemned the talks.
Some other Palestinian groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), staged protests against the talks.”
That phrasing of course erases the fact that Hamas and the PFLP are terrorist organisations which reject any negotiation whatsoever with Israel – not just “the talks” at present ongoing – and promote terrorism as the alternative with the aim of eradicating Israel. The next paragraph of the article seems to try to compare democratically elected parties within the Israeli political system with the (albeit euphemistically described) terrorist organisations named in the prior paragraphs.
“Mr Netanyahu also faces internal challenges. Despite the public support for peace talks, some of his coalition partners – for example the Jewish Home party – and members of his own Likud party oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Curiously, given that the PLO negotiators are not able to claim to represent the Palestinian people as a whole (Hamas is not a member) and are clearly incapable of enacting the terms of any agreement which may be signed in the Gaza Strip, the writer of this article then dismisses the crucial subject of Palestinian divisions by writing the following: [emphasis added]
“More importantly, the two sides appear to have wide gaps separating their optimal positions. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their state, an idea that is vehemently opposed by some parties in the Israeli cabinet, who maintain Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel.”
Under the heading “What has been agreed in previous deals?” comes this gross distortion of history: [emphasis added]
“The 1993 Oslo accords ushered in a new era with the formation of the Palestinian Authority as an interim body and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
But the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 put the process on hold. Subsequent Israeli governments carried out more territorial withdrawals and signed further economic agreements, but without ending the conflict.”
The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed on September 28th 1995 – thirty-eight days before Rabin’s murder. Following that event, a number of additional stages to the process took place including the practical implementation of that agreement, the signing of the Wye River Memorandum on October 23rd 1998, the signing of the Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum on September 4th 1999 and the resumption of final status negotiations at Erez on September 13th 1999. On July 11th 2000 the Camp David Summit began and further talks were held in Washington from December 19th to 23rd 2000. In late January 2001 another round of talks was held in Taba and at the end of April 2003 the Roadmap was presented. One cannot accurately describe all that as a “process on hold”.
Of course what this BBC article spectacularly fails to inform readers is that between the signing Declaration of Principles in September 1993 and the start of the second Intifada in late September 2000, two hundred and sixty-nine people were murdered in attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and since September 2000, a further 1,234 people have been killed and thousands of others injured. The BBC, however, makes all that disappear from the information it provides for its audiences, thus concealing the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to engage in, finance, support and glorify terrorism exists at all – and of course failing to inform audiences of the influence of terror on the progress of the peace process.
In the next paragraph a similar sleight of hand manages to further excuse the PA of any responsibility for the lack of progress towards peace: [emphasis added]
“In September 2008, the two sides appeared to be close to signing a final peace deal during talks between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mr Abbas. However, this round ended fruitlessly after Mr Olmert’s resignation over corruption charges and the alleged refusal by Mr Abbas to accept the Israeli offer.”
That “alleged refusal” was of course well documented, including by the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected an Israeli peace proposal, which included withdrawal from 93 percent of the West Bank, because it does not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas’s spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan showed a “lack of seriousness.” “
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote about Olmert’s offer in her memoir:
“The following day, Rice brought Olmert’s proposal to Abbas in Ramallah. He rejected it, telling Rice the PA could not agree to a deal that prevented nearly 4 million Palestinians from being able to “go home” (i.e., to return to their ancestors’ former homes in pre-Six Day War Israel).”
This BBC article is not some quickly cobbled-together news story but supposedly a fact-based reference item from which readers can find information to help them understand the latest chapter in the complex subject of the Middle East peace process.
It is bad enough, therefore, that it fails to meet the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy on so many counts, but the deliberate and systematic erasing of all mention of terrorist deeds by Palestinian prisoners, of terrorist ideology on the part of organisations such as Hamas and the PFLP and of the thousands of terror attacks which have taken place since the Declaration of Principles twenty years ago is ample testimony to the unavoidable fact that the BBC has absolutely no intention of allowing ‘trivialities’ such as its obligation to impartiality to get in the way of its attempts to shape audience perceptions.