BBC’s Yolande Knell erases Jewish history in campaigning article

On January 29th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell – over-dramatically titled “West Bank villages’ fate rests on key Israeli court ruling” – appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis” section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Knell Battir

Knell’s article relates to two Supreme Court hearings on the subject of the route of the anti-terrorist fence – described in her opening sentences as “the controversial barrier” – which were due to be heard on January 29th. One of the locations under review is near the village of Battir and the other is in the Cremisan Valley.

Readers may remember that Knell has written about the Cremisan Valley before and that she has also promoted the campaign (indirectly funded by the UK government) to re-route the anti-terrorist fence on Twitter. In this article Knell informs readers:

“Nearby in Beit Jala, the planned route of the barrier – expected to be an 8m (25 foot) high concrete wall – will cut off Palestinians’ access to another green area and popular beauty spot in the Bethlehem district, the Cremisan valley.”

Throughout her two hundred and nine-word presentation of the point of view of those campaigning against the construction of the fence in the Cremisan Valley, Knell avoids any mention of the long history of terrorism in the area. That includes the takeover of Beit Jala by Palestinian terrorists during the second Intifada and the ensuing gunfire and mortar fire at the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo, as well as the murders in 1984 of students Revital Seri and Ron Levi by Issa Abed Rabbo (who coincidentally was recently featured in a television programme  on the Ma’an network which is funded by a variety of European governments, including the UK).

Knell does inform readers that:

“Many in Beit Jala believe the primary aim of this section of barrier is to link the nearby Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, both built on land that originally belonged to their town.”

She then inserts the standard misleading BBC mantra which conceals from audiences the fact that there are many contrasting legal opinions on the subject:

“Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Were she really interested in informing audiences rather than in the promotion of a one-sided narrative, Knell would have also presented the counter-claim that much of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo is built on land purchased by Jews before the establishment of the State of Israel and she might even have asked around in Beit Jala about the sale to Israelis of some of the town’s land in that area (upon which other parts of Gilo were built) by its former mayor Jabra Khamis. 

In comparison with the 209 words dedicated to the Palestinian view, Knell allots eighty-three words to the presentation of a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, but no column space at all to the views of Israelis living nearby.

The second location – Battir – has also been the subject of past BBC reports when Wyre Davies visited the village in 2012. In this part of the article, Knell outdoes herself as far as misinforming readers by omission is concerned.

Knell Battir c

Canaanite, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic: all that is well and good, but Knell makes no attempt to inform her readers of the rather significant historical facts which her interviewee has ‘overlooked’.

Whilst Knell quotes Badr as stating that the irrigation system in Battir is “2,500 years old”, the photo caption just to the side describes it as dating “from Roman times”. With the Romans having conquered Judea in 63 BCE, that leaves over four centuries unaccounted for and the answer to that anomaly is to be found in the fact that the name Battir is derived from the name of the much earlier Jewish community on that site – Betar –which fell to the Romans in the Second Jewish revolt of 135 CE.

In other words, Knell has adopted the politically motivated practice of avoiding any mention of the ancient Jewish presence in the region – which has of course been amply recorded by archaeologists

“Tel Betar (Khirbet el-Yahud) is situated southwest of Jerusalem near the Arab village of Bittir, its northern side flanking the Rephaim Valley.” […]

“Khirbet el-Yahud is unanimously identified with Betar, the last stronghold of the Second Revolt against the Romans, where its leader, Bar Kochba, found his death in 135 CE. The ancient name was preserved in the name of the Arab village Bittir, and the Arab name of the site – Khirbet el-Yahud, that is “The ruin of the Jews”, keeps the memory of the Second Revolt. The identification is supported by the results of the surveys and the excavations.”

Two hundred and twelve words of Knell’s 806 word report are assigned to presenting the point of view of the villagers of Battir and sympathetic organisations. Eighty one words are given over to presenting the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s point of view and yet again, the views of ordinary Israelis living in the area do not make it into Knell’s report. 

Conforming to what has been BBC policy for over a decade, Knell predictably informs audiences that:

“Israel says the barrier is essential for security but Palestinians see it as a land grab.”

In doing so she breaches BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to provide readers with factual information regarding the fence’s proven efficacy and thereby denying them the possibility of placing her “Israel says” statement in its proper context. She fails to distinguish “opinion from fact”, as required by the editorial guidelines, by juxtaposing a proven Israeli view (based on statistical evidence of the reduction in terror attacks since the fence’s construction) with an unproven Palestinian claim (of a “land grab” which has not taken place) as though they were of equal weight. Another reference to the anti-terrorist fence comes later on in the report when she states:

“Construction of the barrier began in 2002 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, following a wave of suicide bombings inside Israel. It is now approximately 440km (273 miles) long.”

Still, readers are not provided with any factual information regarding the fence’s success in curbing terror attacks.

Seven paragraphs into her report, Knell comes up with the following claim with regard to the 1949 Armistice Line:

“Much of the international community identifies the boundary, also known as the Green Line, as the de facto border of Israel.”

Despite Knell’s transparent attempt to invoke the “international community” as some sort of authority, the 1949 Armistice Line was clearly defined in writing – at Arab insistence – as not being a border of any kind and hence Knell is in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by failing to point that fact out to readers.

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;

2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.

Article VI

9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Additionally, she fails to make clear to readers that the status of Area C – as defined under the terms of the Oslo Accords to which the Palestinian leadership agreed – is to be the subject of final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO rather than an issue to be determined in some sort of popularity poll among the so-called “international community”.

It is the task of the BBC to provide audiences with factual information and context so that they can reach informed opinions. For any report on the subject of the anti-terrorist fence to be accurate and impartial, it must balance the presentation of the inconveniences and problems caused to the nearby Palestinian population with honest reporting on the very real issue of the counter-terrorism measures necessary to protect the lives of Israel’s civilian population, of which the fence is one. 

Yolande Knell’s misleading distortions of the status of the 1949 Armistice Line and her omission of factual information regarding the anti-terrorist fence actively hinder audience understanding of the subject matter of this report. Likewise, her adoption of the well-known tactic of erasing Jewish history to advance a specific narrative indicates that rather than aspiring to inform, Knell in fact seeks to herd audiences towards a particular view of this issue. This is not the report of an objective journalist: it is part of a campaign to which Knell long since self-conscripted.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

144 comments on “BBC’s Yolande Knell erases Jewish history in campaigning article

  1. Another naive young follower of this website perhaps?

    Good thing he’s around to nip that nonsense in the bud!

  2. every post we add on here annoys the same 3 people, keep it up.

    it informs other, less bigoted, individuals that just repeating lies doesnt work.

    we are legion.

    • You are confusing annoyance with contempt. But then, we already know that you are hilariously thick.

      Legion? LOL. Check how many FB likes there are on the ‘Scarlett tells Oxfam to fuck off’ page after 4-5 days, and how many on the pathetic BDS page after 4 years.

  3. M. Bunton notes ‘while it is true that Palestinian national identity would not arise until the British invasion and occupation of Ottoman land, and only consolidated itself as a result of the desire to both throw off the yoke of British imperial rule and Zionist immigration and settlement, the more important point to note is that all nationalisms arise and gather strength from specific historical circumstances. This includes Zionism, as constructed by the small but fractious minority of Jews who chose it as their national identity. As a national movement, Zionism rose to prominence in the late 19th century in opposition to the consistent persecution of Jews by newly emergent nationalist movements across Europe. This does not make it any less invented, or any more valid, than other nationalisms.’

    Palestinians are very much a ‘real people’, with a right to self-determination, free from Israeli occupation.

      • Your vitriol is not warranted.

        How disrespectful and hateful of you to attack me, when I only provide unbiased information for the readers.

        You are clearly feeling upset by something. Would you care to explain yourself?

        Best Wishes

        • The hatred is all coming from you, in that you refuse to accord the Jewish nation, which had a thriving civilisation in Israel when your ancestors were swineherds in some godforsaken hole, the same status you accord every other nation.

          • They were called Israelites, not Israelis.

            The name is the only similarity.

            Please mind your language and respect those who contribute.

          • Dear Leah,

            Hating Jews has no legal baring on the case at hand.

            For the record, I do not. But even if I did (hypothetically speaking) it wouldn’t alter the validity of my points.

            Why can you not engage academically with the points I raise? These ad-homonym attacks fool no one – you don’t have a clue about what’s really going on at the political and societal level, do you?

            This will show you where you’re wrong, and it comes from an intellect much greater than yours!


          • This will show you where you’re wrong, and it comes from an intellect much greater than yours!

            Illan Pape? really?
            arabs who lived under british mandate didn;t consider themselves Paletsinian they saw themselves as part of southern Syria.; actaully it was the Jews who called themselves Paletsinians. 181 talked about a jewish state and an arab state not a Plaestinian one.

          • When people start quoting Pappe, they out themselves immediately as ignorant Jew haters. I am only surprised he didn’t mention ‘Khazars’.
            We have seen his kind come and go thousands of times. They think they fool people by starting off all nice, and asking ‘innocent’ questions in their ‘thirst for knowledge’. The mask soon slips. Frankly, I can smell them out very quickly by now.

          • Yes, these tenured academics , they clearly don’t know their stuff.

            I have have to say, this is in far contrast to two bored vitriolic web posters whose combined knowledge consists of misinformation about the Basel ‘congress’, San Remo and Article 80. yawn……

            There we find some ‘real’ facts. We can ignore anyone else who’s spent years researching the matter – better to put our faith in people who are good at ‘sniffing out Jew haters’. There be facts here! ayyye!

          • Your ignorance of what ‘tenured academics’ actually means, is surpassed only by your ignorance of the history of the Jews and the Middle East. Pappe has admitted he has doctored history. He has also been exposed as a charlatan by Morris. Moreover, the groves of academe are full of charlatans.
            You have no idea about my background or expertise.
            I never mentioned Basel.
            You really are one IQ-challenged idiot, aren’t you?

          • misinform? I guess you and Pappe knows better than the
            The International Court of Justice who said : “When the League of Nations was dissolved, the raison d’etre [French: “reason for being”] and original object of these obligations remained. Since their fulfillment did not depend on the existence of the League, they could not be brought to an end merely because the supervisory organ had ceased to exist. … The International Court of Justice has consistently recognized that the Mandate survived the demise of the League [of Nations].

          • You intentionally omit the facts! What you choose to ignore is for convenience sake!

            Try rebuffing these points, if you can!? (which you can’t!), and those FACTS are as follows:

            1) The ‘mandate’ was, pure and simple, a British and French colonial project to divide the spoils of WW1 (the old Ottoman empire) between the victors. Even US president Woodrow Wilson viewed as incompatible with the right to self determination for all people (even Arabs! Shock-horror!) It has no standing in international law today!

            2) The mandate system is, was, and always will be incompatible with the right to self determination, as per the UN Charter. Empires have no recognition in the ‘club of States’, as per the UN charter – The ‘Mandates’ from 90 years ago to not override the right to self determination of 4.5 million people. To suggest so is akin to denying the holocaust. Disgusting.

            3) Zionists in the early 20th Century were not promised all of Israel (as defined by today’s Israeli government). In fact, 3 separate promises were made, disingenuously I admit!, by the British government at the end of WW1. The reality is that the British were not in any moral or legal position to make such a promise then, and that has been recognised as such now. To base your ‘justification’ for occupation on a false promise by the British in the 1920’s is to all but admit that you have no justification for the current occupation.

            4) If Israel really wanted the West Bank and Gaza (the location of many religious sites) then why did it only colonize the fertile and arable land when it arrived? Is it because these really is about land, and not about religion? (answer: of course it is!)
            Israel’s expansionist policy is a land-grab, pure and simple.

            5) You pro-Zionists never EVER respond to the point made by Ehud Barak: either it’s a Jewish state that practises Apartheid, or a democracy that is no longer a Jewish state. Which one do you want? Be BRAVE and say!

          • The word ‘colonise’ tells us all we need to know about this jerk, but as to (4): ever heard of Jerusalem and Hebron, idiot? Perhaps they are also ‘fertile land’.

          • You intentionally omit the facts! What you choose to ignore is for convenience sake!?

            By quoting the The International Court of Justice? hmm of course I do.

          • Address the 5 points, if you can – it’s really quite simple. We all want to see what you say…..

          • but that should stop you from attempting the questions.

            Go on, give it a try.

            You can read, can’t you? I mean, you do know how to reference material, right?

            If so, try it – answer the 5 points.

      • I will answer you. however I want to ask you how is it that by quoting The International Court of Justice I omit the facts?

        1. How is number 1 doing with the fact that Leage of nation were responsivle for the creation of Lebanon JOrdan Syria and Iraq . are they all illegal according to you?
        2. read again what the international law of justice say about the mandate.
        3.Britis didn’t promise anything it was 51 member of the Leage of nation who did.
        4 While all throughout history Jews immigrated to Israel (such as the Vilna Gaon’s group), these were generally smaller groups with more religious motives, and did not have a purely secular political goal in mind. Since 1880 began the first modern widespread wave of Zionist aliyah. by the way it was before herzel. They came for agricultural settlement of the Land of Israel.
        THe land that they bought were in bad condition full of swamps which caused many to die. by the way there were many Jewish settlemetn in the west bank and gaza before 48 all ethnicaly expelled in 1929 and 1948.
        5. what points did Ehud Barak make.
        it is a Jewish and a democratic state, arabs citizents of israel have the same rights as Jews Israeli citizents do.

        • Alexa, a few flaws with your logic.

          1) The San Remo conference was, and I quote, an ‘international meeting of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council…attended by the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I …Britain, France, Italy and Japan’.

          Does this sound representative of the entire worlds peoples and their opinions? ONLY the victors of WW1? really? No.

          You can’t claim legitimacy from a process that isn’t legitimate in by the standards set in the UN charter of today, 2014. Laws and precedent can’t be set and respected in 2014 if they adhere to a moral and ethical code put forward in 1914, established by world powers for their own benefit, and which the UN no longer recognises as ‘true’. Where are the rights of #any# ingenious peoples reflected in a meeting of 1920’s Empire nations?

          2. You have not answered the point, try again.

          3. No, it was not 51 member states. It was the British government, who was in no moral or legal position to do so, that promised the area of ‘Palestine’ for a ‘Jewish National Home’ Those duplicitous diplomats made the idea of a ‘Jewish National Home’ intentionally vague by not mentioning a ‘Jewish Naitonal State’. Nowhere is a STATE mentioned. Cunning weasel words from the Brits, but your interpretation is not a fact. It is your twist on things left intentional ambiguous, much to everyone’s suffering.

          4. Factually incorrect. The early Jewish settlers arrived and purchased land ONLY in rich, arable farmland and near the coast. Early settlers stayed far away from religious locations as they were not in areas of fertile soil – their early settlements were quite simply pragmatic choices, ie. how to live well with the land, not how to be near religious sites. (the same reason for the Golan Heights conquest today – good land grabbing , under the guise of ‘security’)

          5. Answer the point Ehud Barak made! Just think about the future and try and deal with the reality of the situation! Where next? Or democracy, or Jew only state & Apartheid. Or have you another final solution in mind?

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