Abbas’ 2008 peace offer rejection not newsworthy for the BBC

Whilst the BBC’s preoccupation with the lack of diplomatic progress in negotiations to bring about an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict is by no means new, as the few examples below show, the stagnated peace process theme has frequently been used as context by BBC journalists reporting on the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis.  

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website, 15/10/2015)

“The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.[…]

Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel have repeatedly collapsed over the years and many on both sides have lost faith in the process.” (BBC News website, 22/10/2015)

“On the Palestinian side there is a persistent sense of resentment at continuing Israeli occupation which is intensified not just by the circumstances around the al-Aqsa compound but also by the widespread sense that the whole issue of the two-state solution has been allowed to drift off the international agenda.

It is hard to remember a time when so little diplomatic effort was put into the search for a solution to the long-running issue between Israel and the Palestinians.” (Kevin Connolly, BBC News website, 5/10/2015)

One might therefore have expected to see some BBC reporting on a related story which broke earlier this month – as our colleagues at the CAMERA Snapshots blog have recorded.HaMakor Abbas

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah movement head Mahmoud Abbas finally admitted in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Nov. 17, 2015 that he had rejected an Israeli offer of Palestinian statehood and peace in 2008.

As the Times of Israel notes, the 2008 Israeli proposal had been previously reported but had not yet been acknowledged by Abbas (“Abbas admits he rejected 2008 peace offer from Olmert,” Nov. 19 2015).

The PA president admitted that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented him with a map that illustrated prospective borders of a future Palestinian state, with Israel giving up 93 percent of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and portions of eastern Jerusalem, in addition to all of the Gaza Strip. In the video-taped interview Abbas was asked by Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker about the Israeli proposal which included a swap for most of the nearly seven percent of the West Bank Israel planned to return.

“In the map that Olmert presented you,” Drucker asked, “Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”

Failing to answer the journalist’s question as to whether the PA made a counteroffer, Abbas stated that he rejected the Israeli offer “out of hand.”.”

Notably, despite its frequent promotion of the theme of a stalled peace process (and related negation of Palestinian agency or responsibility on that issue), the BBC apparently did not think this was a story its audiences needed to know about in order to “enhance” their “awareness and understanding of international issues“.

4 comments on “Abbas’ 2008 peace offer rejection not newsworthy for the BBC

  1. The reason why this conflict cannot bez solved is precisely the support terrorists and liars who try to come up with a fake History get from european governments and their medias. In absence of these pressures the conflict would have been solved long ago.

  2. The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Israel’s offers of a state.
    Instead of agreeing to peace with Israel, they reject peace, murder more Jews, and tell the world that they are being oppressed.
    The world should stop being fooled by them.

    The last thing the leaders of Hamas and PLO want is peace. Their billionaire status fleecing their own people would come to an end.
    It’s all a charade and propaganda to make Israel look bad and keep themselves rich.

    In 2008, a long-time Jerusalem reporter learned of an Israeli offer that would give a majority of the West Bank and all of Gaza—including a corridor between them—to the Palestinians. But his scoop was blocked.
    By Mark Lavie
    November 23, 2015

    In September 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a map, a proposal that would give the Palestinians 93.7 percent of the West Bank, with Israeli territory to make up 5.8 percent, and a corridor to Gaza from the West Bank for the other 0.5 percent. Olmert insisted that Abbas initial the map before taking it. It was clear that this was Israel’s final offer. Abbas rejected it. He never met Olmert again.

    Israel wanted to keep this failed negotiation a secret. The Palestinians had other interests, however, and that’s how I discovered the offer. This has been my news story since 2009. Then, media bias killed it. Now, the crippled state of media in the Internet era almost killed it. Almost.

    In March 2009, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was interviewed in Arabic on Al-Jazeera. When I saw the MEMRI translation I immediately understood its significance: Erekat disclosed that Abbas had turned down an offer that would have given the Palestinians a state in almost all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and parts of Jerusalem. Then I found out about the map. No one else had the story.

    Excited about this scoop, I raced into my bureau chief’s office at the AP in Jerusalem. Imagine my shock when I was told it’s not a story—and I was banned from writing about it. It just couldn’t be a legitimate story, in line with the new definition of journalism.

    The profession I joined in the 1960s wasn’t about helping anyone. It was about reporting and explaining the news. This new definition of journalism, apparently requires choosing sides. This became clear to me as long ago as 1988, at the beginning of the First Intifada, when I saw a reporter jump out of her car in the middle of a Gaza riot and shout at the Palestinians throwing rocks at the vehicle: “Why are you doing this? I’m trying to help you!” Like most Western media sources, she wanted to frame the uprising—the Palestinians as people—as helpless victims, to pillory the Israelis as the cruel oppressors. Stories that didn’t fit that framework had a hard time seeing the light of day. Even a peace offer.

    So, naturally, despite the fact that Israel offered the Palestinians a state twice—in 2000 and 2008—the world saw Israel as the intransigent side. The 2008 proposal was largely unreported in world media.

    This month, Israel TV’s Channel 10 broadcast a three-part series of documentaries about the failed peace efforts of 2000 and 2008. The third part featured interviews with Olmert and Abbas. There, for the first time, Abbas admits what I knew six years ago: Olmert offered him the map and demanded that he initial it. “I did not agree,” Abbas told his interviewer. “I rejected it out of hand.” He claimed that he isn’t an expert on maps. In fact, he went back to his office and sketched the map from memory—quite accurately.

    So there was my story. And again, no one was reporting it.

    I left the AP in early 2014, so now, unlike 2009, I was free to write about it independently. I wrote an article that was quickly picked up by Jewish outlets, but I also wanted the general media to get this “news.” I found that top AP people were not aware of the interview, because they no longer have enough staff to put a senior editor on the evening shift. The ravages of the Internet age are evident throughout the industry, and cutbacks have affected news coverage as much as bias has.

    When I explained to my former colleagues the significance of what Abbas said, the AP agreed that it was worth reporting. The AP story ran a full day after the Abbas interview was aired. From there it went everywhere.

    It’s a temporary victory—the story of Israel’s generous peace offer and Abbas’s rejection is out there, finally, and making some waves. But, again, this is temporary, because the underlying bias, the framing of the conflict—strong, cruel Israel against weak, victimized Palestinians—has not changed.

    And so, I’m left with a bitter observation: If this news is making waves now, imagine what would have happened if I had been allowed to report it in real time?

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