BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ continues the promotion of a myth

The afternoon and evening editions of the January 15th BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – both presented by James Menendez – included coverage of the Paris conference which took place that day.  

Menendez’ introduction to that lead item in the afternoon edition (from 00:87 here) steered listeners towards inaccurate conclusions regarding the absence of Israeli and Palestinian participants in that conference by failing to clarify that neither party had been invited.newshour-15-1-afternoon

“But first to that big international meeting being held in Paris right now to try to resuscitate the moribund Middle East peace process. More than 70 countries are taking part but the fact that the two protagonists – Israel and the Palestinians – aren’t, well it tells you everything you need to know about the scale of the task ahead and in particular, the task of reviving the idea of a solution based on two states living side by side in peace. It’s 23 years since the signing of the so-called Oslo Peace Accords but a Palestinian state looks like a more remote prospect now than then.”

After listeners heard archive recordings relating to the Oslo Accords and following a clip from John Kerry’s speech in late December, Menendez introduced his first interviewee [from 03:50] – PA Minister of Education Sabri Saydam.

Menendez: “Well today’s conference in Paris is aimed precisely at restarting an international commitment to that two-state solution. But will it make any difference at all? Well let’s hear now from both sides and first, the Palestinians; presumably they welcome the fact that this conference is taking place. Sabri Saydam is a senior official in Fatah, the Palestinian party that controls the West Bank.”

Listeners then heard Saydam claim that all Palestinians support the two-state solution.

Saydam: “For every Palestinian this is a recipe for consensus and this is a reflection on the will of the international community and this is a reminder both to the American administration that the UN resolutions would have to be upheld and for Israel that the end of occupation is imminent.” [emphasis added]

That obviously inaccurate claim was not challenged by Menendez either at that point or later, when Saydam went on to suggest that all Palestinians believe that “the two-state solution is the only workable formula”.

Menendez: “Does it make any difference though?”

Saydam: “Maybe not for the Israeli government that exists right now; the right-wing government that believes in the policy of expansion of settlements and believes in the continuation of the occupation. Yet for Palestinians it makes a world of difference. Remember, this comes after a few weeks of the decision taken by the Security Council deeming settlements – Israeli settlements – as illegal. So for Palestinians this is a reassurance that the two-state solution is the only workable formula.” [emphasis added]

The interview continued with questions from Menendez on topics including the new American administration and the possible relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and with Saydam promoting the narrative – unquestioned by his host – according to which the Palestinians support a two-state solution but are thwarted by Israel.newshour-15-1-evening

An abridged version of that interview – including the above unchallenged statements – was also broadcast [from 26:38 here] in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day.

The BBC knows perfectly well that Hamas (together with additional Palestinian factions) does not seek a negotiated peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In its own profile of the terrorist organisation the BBC writes:

“Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, EU, Canada and Japan due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence. Under the group’s charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. […]

Hamas came to prominence after the first intifada as the main Palestinian opponent of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). […]

Hamas resisted all efforts to get it to sign up to previous Palestinian agreements with Israel, as well as to recognise Israel’s legitimacy and to renounce violence.

Hamas’s charter defines historic Palestine – including present-day Israel – as Islamic land and it rules out any permanent peace with the Jewish state.”

Nevertheless, in all its recent reporting of UNSC resolution 2334 and the Paris conference the BBC has framed the story as being about a “moribund”, “fading” two-state solution which is endangered primarily by Israeli construction of housing units in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

Not once in all that generous coverage have BBC audiences been reminded that when last given the chance to vote eleven years ago, 44.45% of Palestinians supported the party which rejects outright the option of peace with Israel. Neither have they been told that a recent opinion poll suggests that if elections were held today, Hamas would gain around a third of the votes.

Instead – as this example yet again shows – the BBC repeatedly promotes the myth that support for the two-state solution is a matter of consensus among Palestinians.  While that myth certainly helps shore up its chosen narrative on the issue of the peace process, it obviously does not contribute to the BBC’s remit of building “global understanding” concerning the range of factors preventing the two-state solution from becoming reality.

 

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BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

As was documented here earlier this month, in late December 2016 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” which opened as follows:settlements-backgrounder

“The issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has long been a major source of dispute between Israel and most of the international community, including its own closest ally, the US.

Here is a brief guide to what it is all about.”

We observed at the time that the backgrounder “includes context which, as has been frequently documented on these pages, BBC audiences have been denied for years”.

Six days after its initial publication on December 29th 2016, amendments were made to the article (on January 4th 2017) including a change of description for one of the political NGOs quoted in the report from “the Israel anti-settlement group Peace Now” to “the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now”.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 23rd 2017 were offered that backgrounder as part of the ‘related reading’ appended to the main story of the day.

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However, the backgrounder now has a new date stamp and has undergone further amendments since its initial publication.

In the first section – titled “What are settlements?” – a link to the Peace Now website has been added and that joins the existing link to the B’tselem website that appeared in the original article.

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In the second section, which is titled “Why are settlements so contentious?”, an inaccurate and misleading paragraph has been added.

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There are not “hundreds” of checkpoints and roadblocks in Judea & Samaria and many of those which do exist are in fact crossings located along Israel’s border with Palestinian controlled areas. So where did the BBC get that misleading information? While no source is provided, one possibility is a webpage titled “Restriction of movement” which was posted on the B’Tselem website on January 1st 2017 and in which an unsourced reference to “hundreds of physical obstacles […] in the form of concrete blocks, piles or dirt, or trenches” is found.

In the latest version of this backgrounder, an entirely new chapter has been added after the second section under the title “What difference will Donald Trump make?”.

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The next section is titled “What makes Jerusalem a special case?” and there a problematic and partial map produced by B’Tselem and UNOCHA (which first appeared in BBC content in October 2015) has been added. That map tells BBC audiences that the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem – a place where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed from the location by Jordan for a period of nineteen years – is an “illegal settlement” and that Temple Mount is located in a “Palestinian urban area”.

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In the last section of the backgrounder – titled “Are settlements illegal under international law?” – another amendment has been made.

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When this article – which is supposedly intended to provide audiences with accurate and impartial information on the topic of Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem – first appeared we noted that: 

“While this backgrounder is by no means perfect, it does at least present a more nuanced picture than is usually the case and includes information which BBC audiences have been denied for too long. Whether or not future BBC reports on this topic will follow suit remains to be seen.”

Rather than leaving be or making changes which would enhance that nuance and provide more of the context usually denied to BBC audiences, the backgrounder has instead been unnecessarily amended to promote more even more partisan information produced by the campaigning political NGOs Peace Now and B’Tselem as well as the latter’s partner UNOCHA

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

 

 

 

 

BBC News avoids telling Brits about PA’s Balfour ultimatum

In July 2016 the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act“ which was discussed here. BBC audiences were told that:PA Balfour Decl art

“Palestinian officials have said they are planning to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that laid out a vision for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki [sic] said the document led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people”.

Mr Malki said the lawsuit would be filed in an international court. […]

Speaking at an Arab League summit in Mauritania on Monday, Mr Malki said the UK was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the mandate in 1948.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” he was quoted as saying by the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

“And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.”

The minister did not provide any further details about the planned lawsuit.

Mr Malki made the announcement on behalf of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was not at the summit because of his brother’s recent death.”

On January 18th the same Riyad al Maliki gave an interview to Palestinian Authority TV (video clip translated by MEMRI available here) in which he provided “further details” concerning the PA’s demands.

“When I met the British foreign secretary, I told him very clearly what we expect. We expect them to apologize, to accept their historical responsibility, to acknowledge [their culpability], and to pay reparations.” [emphasis added]

And what if the UK does not agree to those demands?

“So far, we haven’t heard from them. The current escalation on their part makes us consider [possible] Palestinian action with regard to all those issues, including our action with regard to the Balfour Declaration. I won’t be divulging anything by saying that we have made plans for action in the framework of our embassies and our communities in Europe and Britain, and plans to mobilize civil society institutions in Britain and elsewhere.” [emphasis added]

Al Maliki added:

“The ball is in the court of the British. If Britain wants to contain all these measures on all levels, and to treat us responsibly on this issue – it is most welcome. If Britain does not want that, and prefers to escalate things on all levels, and to ignore the suggestions we made, rather than treat them positively, we will complete the measures that we have initiated.”

One might have thought that the British Broadcasting Corporation would have found that mobster-style ultimatum worth reporting to its funding public in the UK. To date, that has not been the case.

The Jerusalem building permits the BBC didn’t report

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.construction-art-22-1-main

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. 

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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.

Related Articles:

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What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

 

 

BBC responds to complaint about its description of Resolution 2334

As documented here at the time, the BBC’s coverage of UNSC Resolution 2334 included an item by Barbara Plett Usher broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 24th 2016.today-24-12

Listeners were told that:

“The resolution could become a reference point for further moves against Israeli policy in international forums but not for the next US administration. Mr Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, has sided with the Israeli government on this. And although the resolution is legally binding, it doesn’t spell out consequences for ignoring it – which is what the Israelis have said they’ll do.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint in which we noted that by describing the resolution as “legally binding”, Plett Usher inaccurately suggested to listeners that it was adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter rather than Chapter 6. 

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“You were unhappy Barbara Plett Usher referred to UNSC resolution 2334 as “legally binding”.

We raised with the news editor, who in turn raised it with Barbara. Barbara responds:

“I was trying to make the broad point that the resolution binds together the UN legal arguments against settlements that could be used to take action in international courts. It seemed to me obvious that if no consequences are spelled out (as I noted) than it’s clearly not a Chapter 7 resolution.”

However, she acknowledges that she could have made things clearer and could have spoken with greater clarity.”

While a resolution passed under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter could be used in an evidentiary capacity in an international court, it can be challenged and is not “legally binding”.

Whether or not the average Radio 4 listener is aware of the difference between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 resolutions and hence would not – as Plett Usher claims – have been misled by her description of Resolution 2334 as “legally binding” is of course debatable. 

What context is missing from the BBC’s report on Umm al Hiran?

On January 18th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page under the headline “Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions“.umm-al-hiran-art-main

The overwhelming majority of that article’s 614 words are devoted to conflicting accounts of the tragic events in Umm al Hiran earlier that day. Seeing as even now – four days later – the post-mortem examination has not been completed and the ballistics report has yet to be published, the value of some of the subjective and speculative accounts the BBC found it appropriate to publish can at best be said to be doubtful as far as helping readers understand what actually happened is concerned.

Facts were however readily available concerning another part of the story: its context. Strangely, the BBC devoted just 12.2% (75 words) of the article’s word count to informing its audiences of the background to the incidents.

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The BBC’s claim that the people concerned were moved to Umm al Hiran in the 1950s is inaccurate – they were moved to the nearby Yatir area and some of them later took over land in Umm al Hiran. The claim that “they have now been told to move to new housing elsewhere” does not give BBC audiences a proper perspective of what the squatters have actually been offered. Neither is the BBC’s claim that the new town of Hiran is “mainly Jewish” supported by the facts.

One journalist who has studied the case of Umm al Hiran extensively is Ben Dror Yemini.

“The members of the al-Qiyan tribe are right. They were indeed transferred to the Yatir Forest area in the 1950s. They settled there with permission. Precisely because they have certain rights which have been recognized by the authorities and by the courts, they were offered to move – for free – to the regulated community of Hura. Not only did they receive free land, a quarter of an acre for each household, and not only was the infrastructure supplied by the government, but each family received an additional payment, at least NIS 100,000 to build its own home. Moreover, every man married to more than one woman received land units according to the number of his wives – even though polygamy is illegal. And in order not to discriminate against the young ones, all those over the age of 24 received an independent home as well.

Before you say that this is an insufficient settlement, it should be noted that most tribe members considered it a fair and sufficient proposal. They moved to the village of Hura. Very few decided to stay. And out of the very few, a small minority left the Yatir area and spread to the Hiran area. Aerial shots document exactly what went on there starting in the 1960s: The illegal construction continued even after it was decided in 2002 to build the community of Hiran, not just for Jews as the slanderers claim. […]

The arguments I am making here do not belong to a certain side. They are based on a Supreme Court ruling, which determined in these words that “most of the tribe members moved to Hura – a Bedouin community, which is regulated and connected to infrastructures – and the remaining ones are required to evacuate their homes, and are being offered to move to Hura… They are not being expelled and not being abandoned. The suggested evacuation involves different proposals for a move, construction, compensation and a housing option, whether in the town of Hura or in the community of Hiran which is about to be built… The planned community does not prevent the tribe members from living there… Anyone wishing to live in Hiran is entitled to do so, subject to the law and under the fixed conditions.””

Another Israeli journalist who has done extensive work on this topic is Kalman Liebskind. (translation: BBC Watch)

“For very many years the State has been trying to move members of the Abu al-Qiyan family from the area in which they settled and on which they illegally built tens of structures and sheds. In order to persuade them to move to Hura – an organized community with services they do not have in their present location – the State was ready to make generous offers of land and money. Most members of the tribe chose to accept the offers. Some of them, after additional financial encouragement from the state, demolished their illegal buildings themselves.

Among those who chose to stay and refused to move even after all the legal proceedings dismissed their claims, the State defined 58 as being ‘entitled’ to compensation if they agreed to move. Who are those ‘entitled’? Families with children, married couples, one-parent families and single people over the age of 24. What was each of the ‘entitled’ to get? A developed plot of one dunam in a neighbourhood in Hura which was prepared especially to absorb the family members, together with financial compensation for each illegally constructed structure that would be demolished.

But the story did not end there. ‘Where will our children live when they grow up?’ asked members of the tribe. ‘We want plots for them too’. The State also agreed to that. And so, for example, parents of four children aged 3, 5, 7 and 9 got a commitment of financial compensation – a one dunam plot for the parents and four more plots which would be put aside for the children which, when the time came, they could purchase for the symbolic price of a few tens of thousands of shekels. Just a moment, you ask, what happens if the Bedouin has two wives and each one of them has four small children? Well then each woman will get her own plot – and for the eight small children plots would also be put aside.

Last Thursday, when the State’s representatives asked to sign the agreement, the Bedouin announced that they had a few more demands; that what they had got until now was not enough; that in addition to all that they also want a million shekels compensation for each family for the illegal structures that they had built and also 400,000 shekels for each family for the emotional damage caused to them and also plots for business and for greenhouses and also tender-exempt plots in the industrial zone of Hura.

Against all that background, another small problem was born. It turned out that in the tribe there are ten Palestinian women who were brought by the al-Qiyan tribe to live here as second wives. Not only are they not Israeli citizens, but their presence is not legal. The State’s representatives explained to the Bedouin that with all the goodwill in the world, the State cannot give a gift of land to Palestinians from Hebron or Ramallah – Palestinian Authority citizens – that nobody knows how they got here.

In light of the new and inflated list of demands, the negotiators understood that the Bedouin were not interested in closing a deal. This was a list of demands from parties trying to end the negotiations. Nevertheless, the State’s representatives decided to see what more could be done in order to leave an opening for a quiet evacuation. A round of telephone calls between the members of the Israel Land Authority committee produced another better offer. Take ten more plots and we’ll close the deal. Nobody explained, of course, that this is an elegant way to give plots to the Palestinian women without saying so outright but each one understood what he was supposed to understand.

Yesterday evening [January 17th], after the last meeting, it was clear to the State’s representatives that there was nothing more to discuss and no-one to talk to and the evacuation went ahead.”

The vast majority of that highly relevant background is markedly absent from the BBC’s minimalist portrayal of the context of this story. To those familiar with the BBC’s partial portrayal of stories concerning Bedouin land claims over the years (see ‘related articles’ below) that will probably not come as much of a surprise. But nevertheless, the corporation cannot possibly claim that it met its remit of providing accurate and impartial information in order to enhance “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” with those 75 words.

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BBC News ignores two water-related stories

Back in February 2015 the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet produced a number of reports on different platforms concerning the city of Rawabi. As was noted here at the time:Rawabi 1

“The main focus of all these reports is the issue of Rawabi’s water supply. […] the bottom line impression given to BBC audiences is that Rawabi’s lack of water is Israel’s fault.

At no point does Doucet clarify to her audiences on various platforms that the Joint Water Committee (JWC) is a product of the Oslo Accords – signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Those same accords stipulate that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the water supply in Areas A (where Rawabi is located) and B.

Whilst she does tell audiences that the JWC “hasn’t met for years”, Doucet refrains from informing audiences why that is the case, avoiding any mention of the fact that the Palestinian Water Authority suspended cooperation in 2008 as part of a political strategy and with no interview or comment from that body appearing in any of her reports. Hence, audiences remain ignorant of the fact that the committee which must convene in order to approve the water pipeline to the new Palestinian city is hobbled by the Palestinian Water Authority and Doucet makes herself party to the Palestinian politicisation of water issues.”

In the month after those reports appeared the problems concerning Rawabi’s water supply were solved, but no follow-up coverage from the BBC appeared.

That, of course, is not the only example of politicised portrayals of the subject of water that BBC audiences have seen over the years.

Last week – as the BBC was busy once again telling its audiences that the two-state solution is “fading” and “may be passing” – an event took place which went entirely unreported on the corporation’s various platforms.

“Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee.

The committee is tasked with developing and modernizing the water infrastructure in the West Bank, allowing better water access to Palestinian towns and villages, maintaining existing infrastructure and approving new projects. It hasn’t met in six years. […]

Key topics under discussion include increasing water supplies to the West Bank and Gaza, as well as approving drilling new wells and updating water rates.

The agreement was signed in winter in order to allow the committee to be fully operational when water demand is at its highest in the summer months.

The parties also announced that the two sides have approved a joint strategic planning mechanism that will operate until 2040, including new infrastructure ventures to deal with expected population growth.

Mordechai said the agreement shows it is possible to reach “understandings and agreements when dealing with practical, bilateral issues, free of external influences, dealing with natural resources and other infrastructure issues that affect the entire population.””

Also last week, a second desalination plant was opened in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step. […]

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, did not participate in the project, and is not represented at the ceremony.”

That event was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC either: could it be that only water-related stories which can be framed with a specific angle are of interest to the corporation?  

Weekend long read

1) Back in July 2015 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced two campaigning reports concerning illegally built structures in Susiya in the South Hebron Hills which lacked both impartiality and information essential for understanding of the story. At the Tower, Eylon Aslan-Levy now has a long article explaining its background.Weekend Read  

“Khirbet Susiya is an unlikely cause-célèbre. Deep in the South Hebron Hills, this shantytown comprises a few dozen tents, animal pens, and German-donated solar panels. Israel insists it was built illegally and wants to demolish it while offering to rehouse the residents nearby. The Palestinian Authority encourages further construction without permits and in defiance of Israeli court orders. The European Union funds this construction, and together with the U.S. and UN publicly warns Israel to back off. Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations on both Left and Right continue to petition the Israeli Supreme Court and wage an international public relations battle over the fate of the windswept hamlet.

How did Israel, the Palestinians, the international community, and an assortment of NGOs reach this unsightly stalemate over an obscure Judean hill?”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, Professor Amnon Rubinstein writes about Israeli Arab views of Western values.

“Public opinion polls should be handled with caution, but this latest one chimes in with other developments characterizing the Arab minority in the Jewish state: There has been a gradual shift in Israeli Arabs’ attitude toward Western values. In fact, the Israeli-Arab minority appears to have formed a community which is distinct from its brethren across the border: They have evolved into a multi-cultural society, which, while sharing a strong religious and nationalistic common denominator, incorporates a growing strong Western-style liberalism, perhaps as a reaction to the horrors of the “Arab Spring.”

Take the liberal litmus test of attitudes to gay rights as a yardstick. A Pew Research Center poll, conducted in 2013 in Arab countries, asked “whether society should accept homosexuality.” A vast majority (97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 93% in the Palestinian Authority) gave a negative reply. Three years earlier, in a poll sponsored by a German foundation, 45% of Israeli Arabs supported equality for gays.

Indeed, Israeli Arabs, dominated as they are by the Muslim faith , amazingly support civil marriage (43%), and the proportion of Israeli Arabs supporting separation of state and religion and gay marriages is truly astounding – 65% and 45%, respectively. The University of Haifa’s Prof. Sammy Smooha’s latest poll reveals the extent of this unheralded shift: 52.9% of Israeli Arabs advocate a policy that would integrate Israel into the West and maintain only necessary links with the Arab world, and this proportion grows to 62% when dealing with Israel’s external cultural links, a higher level than the Jewish-Israeli response (58.9%).”

3) The JCPA recently published a letter it received from a Palestinian attorney which gives some insight into topics habitually ignored by BBC correspondents in the region.

“I demand of the international legal organizations that pretend to defend human rights, the states of the European Union, and the United States, the great economic and rhetorical supporter of the PA, and even of the United Nations, which has a commitment to human rights, to set up investigatory committees on the irregularities of the Palestinian Authority, whose legal branch is nothing but an arm of Fatah’s governmental terror, and that includes the civilian and military prosecution. The security apparatus of the PA and the Fatah movement has already been committing crimes against the Palestinian people, which reach the level of crimes against humanity, for half a century – and the crimes continue.”

4) Readers may have heard that the BBC recently announced that it is “to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news”. Stefan Frank addresses that move at Gatestone Europe – with a quote from BBC Watch.

“Other British newspapers report that “the BBC is to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news.” Masquerading as real news? Wow, sudden self-criticism! Even at her age, Auntie never ceases to surprise us.

No, wait: According to The Guardian, “the plans will see the corporation’s Reality Check series become permanent, backed by a dedicated team targeting false stories or facts being shared widely on social media.””

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sundayclaims that it gives listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. However, the lead item in its January 15th edition fell outside that mission statement and, as its description in the programme’s synopsis shows, was in fact a transparently political story.r4-sunday-us-embassy-15-1

“Yolande Knell reports on the implications of a proposal by President elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item (from 00:61 here) as follows:

“Will Donald Trump follow through with his campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? The answer to that question could have huge implications for the Middle East. We’re joined from Jerusalem by our correspondent Yolande Knell. Yolande; it matters because the status of Jerusalem is absolutely crucial to the two-state solution that people, until now, say they want.”

Predictably, Knell’s response had the history of the millennia-old city beginning just fifty years ago, with no mention of the preceding 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Knell: “That’s right and Jerusalem has proven time and time again to be one of the most explosive issues; one of the most difficult issues to solve in this decades-old conflict, not least because of its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. And of course Israel captured the east of the city – which includes the Old City – in 1967 in the Middle East war. It went on to annex East Jerusalem, declare all of Jerusalem its united, eternal capital – although that’s never been recognised internationally. And the Palestinians are basically saying that any move for a US embassy – bringing it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – would kill the two-state solution; this long-standing goal of international policy on this conflict. It’s enshrined in UN resolutions: the idea of creating a Palestinian state to live peacefully alongside Israel. It will be based in Gaza, the West Bank and have East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Stourton: “I think I’m right in saying the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in the Vatican this weekend. He’s been talking about some of this, hasn’t he?”

In her response to that question, Knell introduced the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders” – a concept which not only does not exist, but was specifically and deliberately rejected by the parties to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Knell: “That’s right – very deliberate timing. He was actually at the Vatican to inaugurate an embassy for the State of Palestine. This is after the Vatican recognised a State of Palestine on pre-1967 borders and he was there for talks with the Pope. He told reporters while he was there that this…again, this move would destroy the two-state solution and he talked to the Pope about the need for Jerusalem to be an open city for three religions, we’re told. The Vatican’s position is that it seeks an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem: a status that would safeguard its sacred character.”

Stourton: “The…Donald Trump is not the first American president to have talked about the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Ahm…it hasn’t happened though in the past. How strong is the evidence that he’s really serious about this?”

Knell: “Well, because Donald Trump made this campaign promise and so many previous presidential contenders have – George W Bush and Bill Clinton at least and then they didn’t do it – that means that people really didn’t take it very seriously at first. But then we heard from one of his advisors – from Kellyanne Conway – that this was for him a very big priority. There was also the State Department official who came out saying to the press that it had been asked for logistical advice on a move. And then we know as well that the nominee for ambassador to Israel chosen by Mr Trump, David Friedman – somebody with very hardline views – he wants this very much. He issued a statement when he was nominated saying that he looked forward to moving the US embassy to Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem: those were his words. So when I’ve been briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days – one of their fears is this announcement could come in the inauguration speech of Mr Trump.”

According to reports from the time, the words Knell claims to quote were actually these:

“In the statement, Freidman said he was “deeply honored and humbled” that Trump selected him to represent the US in Israel, and that he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.””

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “What about the international background to all this because there’s this…as we have in the news, there’s this conference in Paris today on this question.”

Knell: “Yes and it’s also coming after a UN Security Council resolution was passed last month restating this commitment to the two-state solution and well-informed sources are basically saying that a draft statement from the Paris talks is going to come out with a similar kind of statement. It will affirm also the international community will not recognise changes to the pre-1967 lines for Israel unless they’re agreed with the Palestinians. It will make clear that a negotiated solution is the only way to ensure enduring peace but it’s also going to warn, I think, against unilateral moves. That could be a reference to the idea of Donald Trump moving…eh…moving the embassy because that would basically recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

In fact, the reference to “unilateral steps” in the text of the conference’s closing statement specifically relates to the two parties to the conflict rather than to the US or any other outside country.

Stourton: “And, Yolande, finally: do you detect internally any appetite for renewed negotiations between the two sides?”

Once again, BBC audiences heard a sanitised version of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014 that promotes false equivalence in Knell’s response to that question. However, Knell made sure to close with some very clear signposting with regard to which side listeners should view as being responsible for the lack of current negotiations.

Knell: “Ahm…both sides say that they’re ready to have talks but then the talks have been frozen since April 2014. They fell apart and I think that’s why there is now this…a lot of frustration from the international community. You have 70 countries and international bodies like the EU, the UN, the Arab League, other organisations, coming together for these talks. When you talk to analysts they really see these as a last-ditch attempt to try to save the moribund peace process but they don’t expect much to come out of these talks because – as much as the Palestinians are supporting them – the Israelis say that these are futile, they’re rigged, this pushes peace backwards and they’re not even going to go for a meeting with President Hollande in the coming weeks to be debriefed on what happened.”

Fatah Facebook account

Fatah Facebook account

Since mid-December the BBC has produced several items concerning or mentioning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. All those reports – including this one – have amplified the Palestinian messaging on that topic but BBC audiences have yet to hear any opposite viewpoint – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand.

Seeing as we now know that Yolande Knell is “briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days”, that lack of due impartiality is perhaps more comprehensible.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference