On the afternoon of January 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration” to which amendments were subsequently made.
The article includes many of the building blocks used to frame the narrative that has been presented in numerous other recent BBC reports.
a) A lack of historical context: the history of Jerusalem is presented as beginning in June 1967.
“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”
b) A partial portrayal of ‘international law’.
“Settlements in East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
c) Portrayal of the absence of progress in the peace process as being primarily attributable to construction in Israeli communities in specific parts of Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria.
“Mr Obama regarded opposing new settlement homes as a key plank in pursuing a possible “two-state solution” to ending the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.” […]
“The latest UN Security Council resolution stated that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.”
d) A euphemistic portrayal of the end of negotiations in April 2014.
“Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.”
This report also resurrects an old BBC theme last seen in 2013: the promotion of the inaccurate notion that construction in the area near Ma’ale Adumim known as E1 would prevent territorial contiguity in a future Palestinian state.
But the really interesting part of this report is what it does not tell BBC audiences and what that says about the BBC’s editorial policy on the topic.
The article’s subject matter is portrayed as follows:
“Israel has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem, after the staunch pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office. […]
Jerusalem’s City Hall approved construction permits for 566 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.”
Readers were not told that under any realistic scenario (such as those put forward in the Clinton Parameters or the Olmert Plan), those three Jerusalem neighbourhoods would remain under Israeli control. Likewise, audiences were not made aware of the fact that no existing agreements between Israel and the PLO (including the Oslo Accords) forbid or curb construction of housing within Jerusalem or Judea & Samaria.
However, as the Jerusalem Post reported, at the same committee meeting the Jerusalem municipality in fact approved 105 more new homes than was reported by the BBC in this article.
“On Sunday, the municipal construction committee approved 566 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev, as well as 49 units in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina; 14 in Wadi Joz; 24 in Umm Lison and Umm Tuba; 7 in Jebl Mukaber; 4 in Beit Safafa; 3 in Sur Bahir; and 4 in a-Tur.”
In other words, not for the first time we see that the BBC is only interested in reporting the granting of construction permits in “occupied East Jerusalem” if it believes (rightly or not) that those housing units are intended for Jewish Israelis.
The fact that the topic of Jerusalem building permits receives coverage – or not – on the basis of religion/ethnicity is obviously troubling – not least because it shows that information liable to complicate the chosen narrative is ignored. It is difficult to see how the BBC can claim to be providing its audiences with information that meets editorial standards of ‘due impartiality’ when that politically motivated editorial policy is so evident.