BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports from Rawabi: inaccuracies and omissions

Last week the BBC published and broadcast several versions of a report by Lyse Doucet about the construction project at Rawabi on a variety of platforms.

On February 5th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an audio version of Doucet’s report (available here from 0:45:00).

On February 6th and 7th a filmed report was broadcast on BBC World News and a version of it appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page headlined “Rawabi: A new Palestinian city in the West Bank“.

Also on February 7th a written version of Doucet’s report (together with Jane McMullen) appeared on the Magazine and Middle East pages of the BBC News website under the title “The new Palestinian city that lacks only one thing“.

A number of points arise from these various reports.

1) In the introduction to the audio version presenter Julian Marshall says:

“In the Israeli-occupied West bank an audacious Palestinian project is rising on the hills.”

In the filmed versions viewers are told by Doucet that the developer is “building homes for 25,000 people on Israeli-occupied land”.

The written report opens:

“A Palestinian millionaire has built a totally new city from scratch in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, complete with a Roman amphitheatre and football stadium.”

Later on are readers informed that:

“”It’s the biggest ever project in Palestinian history,” exclaims American-Palestinian multi-millionaire Bashar Masri, the driving force behind a new Palestinian city in the hills of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”

Only in the thirty-sixth paragraph do readers who bother to venture so far discover that:

“Rawabi is being built in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but access to a permanent road and a fixed pipeline goes through an area which an interim peace accord placed under Israeli jurisdiction.”

Indeed, Rawabi is situated in Area A which has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo Accords were signed. The BBC, however, continues to categorise areas which have not been under Israeli control for two decades as “occupied”.

2) The fact that Rawabi is situated in a Palestinian Authority controlled area of course means that planning approval for its construction was given (in late 2009) by that body.

“Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, the developer of Rawabi, announced that Dr. Khaled Fahd Al Qawasmi, Minister of Local Government of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has approved Rawabi’s Masterplan in an unprecedented and definitive move to clear the way for construction to begin on the first new Palestinian city in recent history. The official Ministry approval was preceded by the approval of the Palestinian Higher Planning Council.”

Nevertheless, listeners to the audio version of the report were misled by Doucet who claimed that:

“This is under Israeli occupation. He (Masri) had to get agreement from Israel about where to build….”

3) Also in the audio version, listeners heard presenter Julian Marshall say:Rawabi 1

“Rabawi is the first ever new Palestinian city to be built in the territories: a huge gamble by American-Palestinian multi-millionaire Bashar Masri. He’s sunk hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money into building homes for 25 thousand Palestinians…”

Whilst that is no doubt the case, neither the audio nor filmed reports inform BBC audiences that the company developing the project also has Qatari funding.

“Bayti is jointly owned by Qatar government-owned Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company and Ramallah-based Massar International.”

In the written version, Qatari funding is mentioned but the involvement of the Qatari government – and its concurrent funding of Hamas – is not adequately clarified.

“Masri is funding the $1bn project from his own considerable fortune, as well as with hundreds of millions from the real estate arm of the Qatar Investment Authority. The wealthy Gulf state has become a powerful player across the Middle East. Masri concedes that their backing is politically as well as commercially motivated, and, admits they requested a very big mosque.”

4) Rawabi’s amphitheatre appears to have made a particular impression on Doucet. In the filmed version viewers hear her exclaim “Roman columns in Rawabi!” with Bashar Masri replying “Yes – it’s part of our history”.

In the audio version Doucet says:

“…it would look like a big housing project anywhere except this one has this vast Roman amphitheatre with classical Roman columns. I said ‘Roman columns in the West Bank?’. And they said ‘yes; the ancient, ancient Palestine’.”

Doucet of course makes no effort to relieve audiences of the misleading impression that there is some sort of historical connection between the term ‘Palestine’ as used by the Romans in their renaming of Judea in the second century and the modern-day Palestinians.

5) The main focus of all these reports is the issue of Rawabi’s water supply. In the audio version listeners are told:

“…and now crucially he’s [Masri] waiting for agreement from Israel – from a joint Israeli-Palestinian water committee – to get water.”


“…and the finger is being pointed at Israel; saying why are they not giving the water?”

In the filmed version viewers are told that:

“The joint Israeli-Palestinian water committee has to sign off the water supply but it hasn’t met for years. The problem is political.”

And in the written version:

“All new water infrastructure larger than a pipe 2in (5cm) in diameter has to be approved by the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee. But the JWC hasn’t met for years. […]

Despite repeated promises from Israel that water will be provided “in a few weeks”, the JWC still hasn’t met. And both Israeli and Palestinian officials are dragging their feet.”

In other words, the bottom line impression given to BBC audiences is that Rawabi’s lack of water is Israel’s fault.

At no point does Doucet clarify to her audiences on various platforms that the Joint Water Committee (JWC) is a product of the Oslo Accords – signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Those same accords stipulate that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the water supply in Areas A (where Rawabi is located) and B.

Whilst she does tell audiences that the JWC “hasn’t met for years”, Doucet refrains from informing audiences why that is the case, avoiding any mention of the fact that the Palestinian Water Authority suspended cooperation in 2008 as part of a political strategy and with no interview or comment from that body appearing in any of her reports. Hence, audiences remain ignorant of the fact that the committee which must convene in order to approve the water pipeline to the new Palestinian city is hobbled by the Palestinian Water Authority and Doucet makes herself party to the Palestinian politicisation of water issues.Rawabi 2

6) In the audio item Doucet explains the editorial considerations behind this series of reports.

“We wanted to tell a story about the Palestinians which wasn’t the usual kind of story that you see in the headlines of Palestinians throwing stones, Palestinians suffering and dying in wars, Palestinians protesting. This was a story of ordinary, normal Palestinian life that anyone around the world can relate to. They just want to buy an apartment to live in; to bring their kids up in. And we wanted something that was also a microcosm of the broader Israeli-Palestinian process and this seemed to fit the bill.”

Taken into consideration together with the end products, we can conclude from those mission statements that as far as the BBC is concerned, the “microcosm of the broader Israeli-Palestinian process” is to be presented to audiences exclusively in terms of blaming Israel for the woes of Palestinians whilst studiously ignoring the policies and actions of their leaders and officials which contribute to problems or hardships.

But of course veteran BBC watchers did not need Lyse Doucet’s insights into how news is created rather than reported in order to determine that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

BBC jumps on EU’s water politicisation bandwagon

Home truths on Palestinian water issues you haven’t heard from the BBC









2 comments on “BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports from Rawabi: inaccuracies and omissions

  1. Meanwhile, foul-mouthed anti-semitic Jewish beeboid cokehead Stephen Fry has sparked a string of complaints to the BBC for his insult-ridden speech at the BAFTA backslappers’ awards ceremony.

    Stephen, who has confessed he snorted his way to stardom in the BBC club toilets and Buckingham palace, must surely have been at the Columbian marching powder again. The BBC, as usual, has done nothing.

    “Foul-mouthed Fry sparks complaints
    Google Showbiz news

    Foul-mouthed Fry sparks complaints
    Stephen Fry hosted the Baftas, which was televised by the BBC

    Published: 4:23pm, 10th February 2015
    The BBC said it considered its Bafta coverage ” very carefully” after viewers complained about bad language used by host Stephen Fry.

    The comic and actor, who is the regular host of the film awards, made a series of risque remarks including telling the audience it was ” p***ing down with stars” inside the ceremony.

    He also introduced Tom Cruise as “Tom f***ing Cruise” when the Mission Impossible star came on stage to present an award.

    A statement on the corporation’s complaints website said: ” We received complaints from viewers unhappy with some of Stephen Fry’s language while presenting the Baftas.”

    It went on: “The Baftas is not a BBC event, but during our coverage of the awards ceremony we try to find a compromise between presenting the events of the night as they happened, while remaining within the expectations of the majority of the viewers at home – which saw over 5.5 million people tuning in to watch. Attitudes to strong language vary enormously and we considered very carefully how to reflect this.

    “Stephen, whose irreverence and style is extremely well-known to viewers, has presented the Baftas for several years. Any strong language was used after the watershed, and there was a presentation announcement at the start of the programme warning viewers that the broadcast would contain language of this nature.

    “We accept that some viewers disagreed with this approach, and this feedback has been noted.” “

  2. exclaims American-Palestinian multi-millionaire Bashar Masri, whose ancestors are Egyptians as everybody with the minimal knowledge of Arabic would know.

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