On October 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “US ‘strongly condemns’ Israel over new settlement plan“. The report opened by telling readers that:
“The US has “strongly condemned” Israel for approving plans for new settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.”
Later on readers were informed that:
“”The actions of the Israeli government in announcing this settlement undermine the pursuit of peace,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
State department spokesman Mark Toner said the new settlement would be “another step towards cementing a reality of perpetual occupation” that would “further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace”.” [all emphasis added]
Although the version of the story promoted by the US administration – and uncritically amplified by the BBC – is inaccurate, the corporation did not bother to inform readers in its own words of the fact that no “new settlement” has been announced or planned. Instead it promoted a ‘he said-she said’ account of the story without providing audiences with the background information necessary for their understanding of which of the two versions is correct.
“Its [Israel’s] foreign ministry said the new homes would be built within the area of an existing settlement.”
Some seven hours after its initial publication, the article was amended to include the following additional information:
“However, Israel’s foreign ministry said the new units did not constitute a “new settlement”.
“This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shilo and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint,” a statement said.”
The 98 approved housing units – and not 300 as this article inaccurately suggests – are indeed intended to be built in a neighbourhood of Shilo, with the purpose of providing accommodation for residents of the unauthorised outpost of Amona which is to be evacuated according to a High Court ruling.
Notably, the BBC did not tell its readers that part of the story. Instead, audiences were left to reach their own conclusions as to whether a “new settlement” is to be constructed or not.
The impartiality of BBC reporting on the subject of construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and some areas of Jerusalem is already compromised because of the repeated promotion of a politicised narrative. The bizarre style of reporting seen in this latest article not only does nothing to persuade audiences that the BBC is committed to their going away with an accurate and impartial understanding of the story but also clearly fails to contribute to meeting the corporation’s remit of building understanding of international issues.