BBC News report on land and ‘settlements’ again hampers audience understanding

An article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 1st under the title “Israel to take over West Bank land” opens with the following sentence:Gvaot art

“Israel says it will expropriate 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles) of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.”

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of the word expropriate is as follows:

“(Of the state or an authority) take (property) from its owner for public use or benefit.”

In other words, in order for an action to be accurately described as expropriation, the property in question has to have an owner. That, however, is apparently not the case in this instance as the JCPA explains:

“West Bank territory may be divided into three legal categories: state land, private land, and land whose status is to be determined. The territory in question had the status of territory whose status is to be determined. Before the declaration of the land as state land, an investigation had to be undertaken by Israel’s civil administration that took several years in order to ascertain its exact status.”

And even though no ownership of the land in question has been established in this case, for anyone asserting otherwise the options are still open:

“Those who oppose the recent declaration have 45 days to appeal the Israeli decision. When Palestinians have brought proof of ownership of contested territory to Israeli courts, including Israel’s Supreme Court, the courts have at times issued decisions calling on the Israeli government to restore the property in question to its Palestinian claimant, even if that requires dismantling the private homes of Israeli citizens. The determination of territory as state land as opposed to private land is a necessary action which helps avert errors in the future when these areas are developed.”

The BBC did not inform readers of those two very significant points in this 331 word report which devotes almost half its content to reactions from assorted sources such as the UN Secretary General, the UK Foreign Secretary, the PLO’s Saeb Erekat and the US State Department.

Neither are audiences informed that the land in question is located in Area C which, according to the terms of the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people, is under Israeli administration with that including zoning and planning. The fact that those same Oslo Accords do not place any limitations on either Israeli or Palestinian building projects in Areas A, B and C is also not clarified to readers. Likewise, BBC audiences are not made aware of the fact that the area in question is part of the Gush Etzion district which, according to any realistic scenario of an agreement between Israel and the PA, would remain under Israeli control – as previous attempts to reach a negotiated settlement have shown.

Gvaot map final

In order to be able to reach informed opinions concerning this item of news, BBC audiences would of course have to be made aware of all the above factors. Had that been done, they would of course be able to put the boilerplate statements made by the UK Foreign Minister and others into their appropriate context. But instead of providing readers with a realistic and nuanced view of how a negotiated agreement to bring about two states for two peoples is likely to look, the BBC continues to promote Palestinian Authority propaganda which even that body knows full well is disconnected from reality.

“The Palestinians want their state to include all land captured by Israel in 1967, but some 500,000 Jews now live in more than 200 settlements and outposts in the West Bank – including East Jerusalem.”

In addition, the BBC continues to use its standard ‘international law’ insert which breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of alternative legal opinions.

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Once again the organisation obliged to build a “global understanding of international issues” actually does more to prevent audience understanding than to enhance it by failing to tell the story accurately and impartially, thus suffocating  any of the “breadth of perspective” to which it is committed.