BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

In addition to the BBC’s written and filmed reports concerning remarks made by the UN Secretary General on January 26th which were previously discussed here, audiences also heard an audio report (from 18:52 here) which was broadcast on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

During the conversation between presenter Tim Franks and the BBC’s Nick Bryant listeners heard an account of Ban Ki Moon’s comments with Bryant telling listeners that he “called for a freeze on Israel’s settlement activity”. As was also the case in the written and filmed reports, Bryant did not clarify that an informal construction freeze has been in place for “almost two years” according to Ha’aretz.

In response to Tim Franks’ question about the Israeli reaction to Ban Ki Moon’s remarks, Bryant replied:

“Well there’s been a very strong reaction from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

Neither he nor Franks provided listeners with any of the amply available relevant information which would allow them to understand the background to that portrayal – including admissions by Ban Ki Moon himself and his predecessor.

Later on Bryant told listeners:

“But it was the words of Ban Ki Moon that really created the headlines out of that meeting and I sense that, you know, clearly he is deeply troubled by these reports that the Israeli government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in what he calls illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank…”

As was the case in the written and filmed reports, Bryant made no effort to clarify to audiences that there had been no official confirmation of that supposed planning approval or that the “reports” he quotes come from the political NGO ‘Peace Now’. Bryant went on:

“…and that comes off the back of a declaration last week that an area of land – 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho – has now been called state land. He described those as provocative acts.”

Bryant failed to provide listeners with the background to that story about a plot of land located in Area C and hence, according to the Oslo Accords, under full Israeli control.

“The technical move to change the status of the land, which has been farmed for decades by settlers, followed the conclusion of a Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria investigation into the land’s proper legal status under Israeli law. […]

It is also close to the settlements of Vered Yeriho, Almog and Beit Ha’arava and is under the auspices of the Megilot Regional Council. […]

The civil administration said that a decision had been taken by the political echelon for professionals to evaluate the status of the land. “The declaration of state land is in its final stages,” the civil administration said.

There will be a 40-day objection period before such a declaration takes place. Giving the property the status of state land will make it easier for the farmers to use it.”

In conclusion, whilst listeners to this item heard uncritical amplification of the UN Secretary General’s comments, they were not provided with the necessary background which would enable them to assess their validity or the information pertaining to the UN’s record on Israel which would enhance understanding of their context.   

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3 comments on “BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

  1. I think you’re letting Bryant off too easily. The phrase “Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN” means something quite different from “Israelis believe that they are always victimized at the UN”.

    Saying “Israelis believe …” is a factual assertion, a claim that they have a particular state of mind. In contrast, Bryant’s expression is an assertion about Israelis’ character, that they tend to believe something. It’s the difference between “the BBC Trust is always confident that BBC reports are presented in good faith” vs “the BBC Trust is confident that BBC reports are always presented in good faith.” The first expression implies that the BBC Trust can’t do its job; the second is a finding of fact that might be wrong, but is not inherently irrational.

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