On January 14th an article was published in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Will ICC membership help or hinder the Palestinians’ cause?“. The writer of the piece is not identified but from its layout we can determine that it is intended to provide a guide to the topic in Q&A format.
The article includes several points worthy of note.
1. Under the sub-heading “Why do the Palestinians want to join the ICC?” readers are informed that:
“Palestinian leaders say they are pursuing a new strategy to put pressure on Israel after decades of armed struggle and on-and-off peace talks failed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They describe it as “internationalising” the issue.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, and other international agreements after the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian-drafted resolution demanding “a full and phased withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces” within three years. President Abbas hopes bold actions will improve his standing with a deeply frustrated Palestinian public.”
As has been the case in all BBC reporting on the issue of the ICC membership bid (and the UN Security Council bid which went before it), no effort is made to inform audiences that such moves breach existing agreements signed by the Palestinians and witnessed and guaranteed by members of the international community.
2. Under the sub-heading “When will they become ICC members and what does it mean?” the article states:
“The Palestinians have asked it to exercise jurisdiction over any crimes committed in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza from 13 June 2014. This covers events prior to and during last summer’s conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza.”
That, of course, is correct but notably the BBC refrains from pointing out to audiences that – as is also the case with the UN HRC’s Schabas commission – the ‘start date’ selected by the PA deliberately excludes the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hebron-based Hamas cell on June 12th 2014.
3. In the section titled “What legal action do the Palestinians want to take against Israel?” readers are informed that:
“The Palestinians believe some Israeli military actions in Gaza last July and August amounted to war crimes. During the 50-day conflict, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed – most of them civilians, according to the UN – and tens of thousands of homes in Gaza were destroyed or badly damaged. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed.”
As we see, despite the existence of research carried out since the end of the hostilities which indicates that the statement “most of them civilians” may well be inaccurate, the BBC continues to promote out of date figures which it has not gone to the trouble of independently verifying during the last four and a half months.
4. In the same section audiences are told that:
“Action is also planned by the Palestinians against the expansion of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land it has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. Article 8 of the Rome Statute says the unlawful deportation, transfer or confinement of protected persons – those living in territory which is under military occupation – constitute a war crime.”
Whilst it is correct to say that Palestinian actions concerning settlements would be based on Article 8 of the Rome Statute, the applicable clause would not be the one paraphrased in this paragraph – 8.2.(a).vii – but clause 8.2.(b). viii:
“The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.”
5. Also in this section, readers are provided with further reading by means of a link to a BBC report from December 9th which amplified claims made in a report by Amnesty International without informing BBC audiences of the NGO’s political agenda or its involvement in the lawfare campaign against Israel.
6. Under the sub-heading “Is there are risk for Palestinians?” [sic] readers are told:
“Yes. While the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, officially supports joining the ICC, its leaders could face charges of ordering indiscriminate attacks against civilians when the ICC prosecutor considers the recent Gaza conflict. Militants from Hamas and other groups fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and cities. Israel, for its part, carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza and launched a ground offensive.”
Readers are not informed, however, that one of those “other groups” which indeed fired thousands of missiles at Israeli civilian targets was Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and hence Mahmoud Abbas could be personally open to complaints, both in his capacity as head of the Fatah movement as well as head of the Palestinian Authority with its unity government to which (at least at the time of writing) Hamas is party.