At the bottom of the recent BBC News website article concerning the visit of the Egyptian foreign minister to Israel (discussed here) readers found links to several backgrounders, one of which is titled “History of Mid-East peace talks“.
Although it is now date stamped July 2013, the URL is the same as that of a backgrounder of the same title produced in 2010 by Paul Reynolds. Three years ago, in July 2013, we pointed out on these pages that the backgrounder provides a misleading portrayal of Resolution 242 – and it has not been corrected since that time.
“The first entry on that page relates to the subject of UN SC resolution 242.
“Resolution 242 was passed on 22 November 1967 and embodies the principle that has guided most of the subsequent peace plans – the exchange of land for peace.
The resolution called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”, and “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.
The resolution is famous for the imprecision, in English, of its central phase concerning an Israeli withdrawal – it says simply “from territories”. The Israelis said this did not necessarily mean all territories, but Arab negotiators argued that it did.
It was written under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which Security Council resolutions are recommendations, not under Chapter VII, which means they are orders. Many peace proposals refer to 242. Resolution 338 is usually linked to it. This called for a ceasefire in the war of October 1973 and urged the implementation of 242 “in all its parts”.”
The third paragraph of this entry severely misleads BBC audiences. The wording of resolution 242 is not imprecise: it was deliberately phrased in that specific manner by those who drafted it. But by presenting that wording as some sort of typographical oversight, and by concealing the fact that many others besides “the Israelis” have, over the years, clarified that the lack of definite article in the sentence is deliberate, the BBC lays the groundwork for the presentation of attempts to distort the resolution’s intent as though they were of equal validity.”
We noted at the time that the people who drafted Resolution 242 had given ample explanation of its wording and provided several examples.
“There are many other examples which also clarify the fact that the wording of resolution 242 was in fact deliberately very precise and intended. It is therefore unfitting that the BBC should choose to misrepresent it in this disingenuous manner and the fact that it does so clearly contravenes BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality as well as deliberately misleading BBC audiences.”
However, as we see, nearly six years since its original publication this inaccurate portrayal of Resolution 242 is still being promoted by the BBC and continues to mislead readers.
There is obviously no value in a backgrounder which fails to present audiences with accurate information and thus actively hinders the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.