A theme prominently seen in BBC reporting of the ongoing wave of terrorism in Israel advances the idea that the roots of the surge in violence are to be found in ‘the occupation’ and Palestinian frustration over the lack of progress in bringing about the creation of a Palestinian state.
Of course that theme is by no means new; it has been a feature of BBC reporting since long before the current surge in terror attacks began. But the BBC’s habitual one-dimensional portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as something dependent on one party to the conflict alone means that its audiences remain severely under-informed with regard to the role played by Palestinian leaders and internal Palestinian politics (another subject consistently under-reported by the BBC) in the failure to reach a negotiated end to the conflict.
In a 2014 article titled “Palestine Needs Better Friends“, the WSJ’s David Feith examined the dynamics behind representations of the conflict of the kind seen in BBC content.
“The Palestinian cause has attracted international sympathy for decades, so why do Palestinians still suffer so grievously? The burdens of Israeli occupation aren’t the full story. Palestinians also suffer from bad leaders and bad friends who do them more harm than good. In newsrooms, universities and governments world-wide, supporters of Palestine are more like enablers choosing to ignore the terrorism and tyranny that have wrecked Palestinian politics. […]
Such Western enablers emphasize many of the genuine tragedies of Palestinian life, but they elide whatever facts contradict their pro-Palestinian articles of faith. They insist that Israel won’t compromise and a powerful Israel lobby steers U.S. policy, overlooking that Palestinian leaders rejected Israeli offers of statehood in 2000 and 2008. Their idea of progressivism means admiring the Palestinian “resistance”—and remaining silent about the illiberal horrors facing Palestinian women, religious minorities, gays and political dissidents.
This approach isn’t simply a whitewash. Rather it portrays Palestinian leaders in purposefully limited fashion, as victims and pawns forever being acted upon by Israel and other outsiders, and not as decision makers choosing how to act toward Israel and their own people. This denies Palestinians’ agency, treating them as if they have no responsibility for tyrannizing other Palestinians or terrorizing Israelis. […]
The custom now is a pro-Palestinian neo-Orientalism that glosses over the real conditions of Palestinian life, focusing instead on condemning Israel. Yet the effect of this neo-Orientalism isn’t pro-Palestinian. By ignoring the pathologies of Palestinian politics, it condemns Palestinians to live under leaders who would rather impoverish and endanger their own people than compromise with Israel.”
The October 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included an interview with former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. Readers can listen to that item here from 18:02 and a version of it was also promoted separately on Twitter, using an image which does not match its caption’s claim that it is a photograph of Dennis Ross.
The introduction to the interview concluded as follows:
“Newsday’s Tom Hagler asked him if he had any optimism for a success story at the moment, with the background of the stabbings going on now”.
However, if listeners were expecting to hear analysis and information which would enhance their understanding of an issue which the BBC has repeatedly cited over the past few weeks as a factor driving the current wave of terror in Israel, they would have come away disappointed.
Although Ross provided some interesting anecdotes and insight into his negotiations with Yasser Arafat, unfortunately the brief item did little to counter the chronic deficit of information suffered by BBC audiences on the topic of why negotiations have repeatedly failed or to provide them with a view of Ross’ broader approach to the issue.
That wasted opportunity gives all the more reason to expect BBC promotion of the selectively framed theme of ‘Palestinian frustration’ as a cause for terrorism to continue.