The February 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item presented by James Naughtie in which he spoke to Lyse Doucet about conditions in the Yarmouk camp area of Damascus. The programme is available for a limited period of time here and the relevant segment begins at around 02:34:20.
A couple of minutes into the item, Naughtie says:
“And of course they’ve been refugees from a time long before this awful conflict began.”
“Yarmouk camp was set up in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war which led to the establishment of the State of Israel. They fled there.”
As we noted here earlier this month, a similarly inaccurate claim was made in an article by Yolande Knell and Yousef Shomali about the same subject which appeared on the BBC News website.
“The unofficial camp [Yarmouk] was set up as a home for refugees who left or were forced from their original homes because of the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.”
And as we remarked at the time (and as is equally applicable to Doucet’s inaccurate statement):
“Obviously, the average reader would take that sentence to mean that Israel was created after – and as a result of – the 1948 war. Clearly, that claim is inaccurate and actively misleads audiences with regard to the fact that the 1948 war began on May 15th 1948 – the day after Israel declared independence – when the nascent state was attacked by five Arab countries and an assortment of irregulars and foreign volunteers. “
The BBC News website’s Middle East desk later revised that statement in response to a complaint and noted in its reply that:
“As you correctly point out, the war followed the creation of Israel, and we have changed the wording accordingly.”
But two weeks on it seems that basic facts of Israeli history still evade other BBC reporters too.
We look forward to an on-air correction by the Today programme, together with some equally urgently needed context for listeners regarding the political motivations which lie behind the fact that Syria and other countries have deliberately kept the refugees their attack upon the new Israeli state created – and generations of their descendants – in second-class refugee status for the last sixty-six years.