Another report on talks impasse fails to break the BBC mould

On April 9th an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel PM Netanyahu curbs contacts with Palestinians“. The report opens:curbs contacts art main

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his ministers to stop high-level meetings with their Palestinian counterparts.”

Only from the fifth paragraph onwards are readers informed that the issue is a lot less dramatic than the BBC’s initial presentation may have led them to believe.

“The government officials said Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni, would be an exception from the PM’s edict.

Defence and security officials will also be allowed to continue to engage with the Palestinians, according to reports.

Otherwise, only low-level co-operation will be permitted.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reports on the impasse in the current round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, this report fails to clarify to audiences that the commitment on the part of the Palestinians not to apply to join UN agencies was part and parcel of the initial agreement which preceded the current round of talks (as recently confirmed by the PA president’s spokesman) and not just an understanding on the part of Israel as has repeatedly been implied by the BBC.

“The order follows “Palestinians’ violation of their commitments under peace talks”, officials said.

It comes after a request by the Palestinians to join 15 UN treaties and conventions as a state party.”

The report goes on to quote and promote unnamed “correspondents”, providing no information which would enable audiences to assess the relevance or validity of the claim made by those anonymous sources.

“Correspondents say Mr Netanyahu’s action has dealt another blow to the faltering US-brokered peace process.”

Under a sub-heading of “Unhelpful” the report goes on to promote the notion of equivalence as has been the case in previous BBC reports on the same topic.

“On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the US would continue to promote the talks despite recent setbacks.

He blamed both sides for taking “unhelpful” steps.

The peace talks resumed in July under US auspices after a three-year hiatus.

Each side blames the other for violating previous promises.”

The article continues:

“The Palestinians were furious when Israel did not sanction the release of a fourth batch of prisoners, as agreed in principle under the terms on which the Palestinians returned to peace talks last year. The Palestinians wanted the group to include a number of Israeli Arab prisoners.”

Once again, no attempt is made to explain to BBC audiences the significance and implications of the Palestinian demand for the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens.

That particular section of the article is illustrated using the photograph below, captioned “Israel has announced plans to build about 700 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem” and the same claim is reiterated in the body of the article, with no mention of the fact that the relevant tenders –situated in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo – had already been issued six months previously, meaning that the proposed oddly termed “settlement units” are therefore obviously not “new”. No attempt is made to clarify to audiences that limits on Israeli construction were not part of the agreed terms which preceded the recommencement of negotiations. 

“They [the Palestinians] were further angered by Israel’s approval of about 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.”

curbs contacts art pic

The report continues with the standard BBC insert which both fails to clarify to audiences the status of the relevant parts of Jerusalem before 1967 (occupied for 19 years by Jordan after its invasion of foreign territory) and breaches BBC editorial guidelines by failing to inform audiences that other legal interpretations of “international law” exist.

“Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and formally annexed the area in 1980. Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The article goes on to once again present aspects of the agreement which preceded the latest round of talks as though they were Israeli interpretation only and fails to clarify to readers that those points were actually part and parcel of the agreement.

“Israel stressed that it had predicated any prisoner release on progress being made in the negotiations and on the Palestinians abiding by a commitment not to seek membership of international agencies.”

As has been the case with all previous BBC reports on this topic, this article continues to avoid informing BBC audiences about crucial background factors which have contributed to the current impasse including the PA’s refusal (with Arab League support) to renounce future claims and thus bring an end to the conflict by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

In fact, in all its coverage so far of the topic of the current round of negotiations, the BBC has systematically avoided informing its audiences of the importance and significance of the issue of Palestinian – and wider Arab – recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and as time goes on, it is increasingly difficult to attribute that glaring omission to mere oversight.

Related Articles:

BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC’s Knell amplifies PA narrative, mainstreams BDS on late-night BBC Radio 5

BBC continues to present an incomplete picture of Israel-PLO talks

BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

BBC opts for equivalence in report on talks breakdown

Crucial background to floundering of ME talks still outside the BBC’s frame

BBC claims final tranche of prisoner release included “hundreds” – reader secures correction

6 comments on “Another report on talks impasse fails to break the BBC mould

  1. ‘Oversight’? For crying out loud. The BBC has had a perfectly overt antisemitic agenda for 30 years.

    • “Once again, no attempt is made to explain to BBC audiences the significance and implications of the Palestinian demand for the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens.”

      Yes but… the BBC would then have to explain how the Palestinian people was scattered between Palestinian citizens of Israel (‘Israeli Arabs’), Palestinians living in the State of Palestine, Palestinians living in refugee camps and the Palestinian diaspora, in 1948, following the creation of the State of Israel in part of Mandate Palestine. Might end up being too long for an article.

  2. “[John Kerry] blamed both sides for taking “unhelpful” steps.”

    In fact Kerry clearly attributed primary responsibility for the talks breakdown to Israel. Speaking to the foreign relations committee he said:

    “The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day and then 700 [settlement] units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof — that was sort of the moment,” he said. “We find ourselves where we are.”

    Thw world’s press interpreted this as blaming Israel. For example:

    “Kerry raps Israel in faltering Mideast peace.” The Washington Post
    “Kerry places blame on Israel for crisis in peace talks.” Haaretz

    One Israeli politician, David Rotem, is quoted in The Independent as effectively accusing Kerry of anti-semitism: “being blamed by Mr Kerry was to be expected. “The Jews are always found guilty of all the problems in the world,””

    The “unhelpful steps” quote was made by by a State Department spokeswoman after Kerry’s comments in an apparent attempt to tone them down.

    • Kerry and the entire diplomatic community attributed the failure of the peace talks to Israel since the government of Israel refused to release more veteran prisoners as it had pledged to, announced it would build additional structures in illegal settlements inside Palestinian territory, and let several ministers vocally oppose the two state solution and peace.

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