Since mid-December 2016 the BBC has produced numerous reports which have included portrayal of the story of the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
To date, all the corporation’s coverage of that topic has unquestioningly amplified the position expressed by Palestinian Authority and PLO officials, according to whom such a move “will be the destruction of the peace process“, “would […] destroy the two-state solution“, would be “an end to the peace process, an end to the two states” and so on.
As we have noted here on previous occasions, BBC audiences have yet to hear any alternative viewpoint – as editorial guidelines concerning ‘due impartiality’ demand – and the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking any of its Palestinian interviewees why they object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which – according to the BBC’s presentation of the issue – the PA does not lay claim.
In late January viewers of BBC World News saw a filmed report by the BBC’s Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen in which, like Yolande Knell and Tim Franks, he too visited what has recently become a ‘go to’ site for BBC journalists: a plot of vacant land next to the US Consulate in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot.
Lowen’s report can be seen here, where it is billed as follows:
“Donald Trump has pledged to be “Israel’s best friend in the US” and move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, taking a far more pro-Israel position than his predecessor, Barack Obama, who increasingly saw Israel’s government as an impediment to peace. How will the new President affect this age-old conflict?”
The report began with Lowen visiting Beit El and presenting audiences with a partial interpretation of ‘international law’:
“Ties weakened under Barack Obama, frustrated by Israeli settlement building which violates international law. The final blow: allowing a resolution against it to pass at the UN. Israel was furious.”
“Donald Trump has taken a far more pro-Israel line, vowing to move the embassy to Jerusalem, recognising Israel’s disputed claim over the whole city. He said he’d be Israel’s best friend in America. Beit El settlement is deep in the occupied West Bank which Palestinians want for a future state. David Friedman – Mr Trump’s pick for US ambassador – and his family, the president and his son-in-law have donated to it. That’s encouraged those who live here.”
Lowen refrained from informing audiences that the said Trump donation was apparently made back in 2003. Moving on to Ramallah, Lowen told viewers:
“But in Ramallah, Palestinians worry Israel’s hands will now be untied to annex territory and expand settlements. A slice of America – sort of – is entrenched here but they fear support from Washington is burning away.”
Viewers then heard from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi:
“The language that we’ve heard – particularly the language of ideology coming out as though Israel can do no wrong and that the US not only will be the patron of Israel but in many ways will be the partner of Israel in its illegal activities – this is serious cause for alarm and if it moves its embassy then there’s no reason to talk about any peace solution because it’s finished; it’s done for.”
Not only did Ashrawi’s allegation of “illegal activities” go unchallenged, but once again BBC audiences were fed an unquestioned portrayal of the supposed consequences of relocation of the US embassy.
Lowen then went on to report from Jerusalem – but without clarifying to viewers the position of his location in relation to the 1949 Armistice lines.
“This is where a US embassy in Jerusalem may stand but the Trump administration has now lowered expectations, saying discussions are at a very early stage. For years the US has leased this empty plot from Israel for an annual rent of a dollar. Successive US presidents and candidates have vowed an embassy move here and then ditched it. Now Donald Trump appears to be rolling back somewhat on the same promise. When it comes to the new president, nobody really knows what his Middle East policy will be; whether an embassy will be built here and whether his rhetoric will translate into reality. So: an unknown quantity. But Israel’s most important ally is renewing the relationship and others in this region fear what it means for the borders of this contested land.”
After well over a month and a half of coverage of the proposal to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, it is glaringly apparent that the BBC has no intention of providing its audiences with a view of the topic that challenges the PA/PLO rhetoric and allows them to make their own judgements on the story.