On December 25th the BBC News website published a report titled “Jerusalem: Guatemala follows US in planning Israel embassy move” which opened as follows:
“Guatemala is to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, becoming the first country after the US to vow to do so.
It was one of only nine to vote against a UN resolution which in effect repudiated the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel’s PM thanked Guatemala’s president, but Palestinians branded the decision “shameful and illegal”.
Donald Trump’s controversial declaration on Jerusalem has been widely spurned around the world.”
Under the sub-heading “Why is Guatemala doing this?” readers were told that:
“President Jimmy Morales made the announcement on Facebook, noting the “excellent relations” between Guatemala and Israel.
He did not say when the move would happen.
Guatemala, along with 12 other countries, had their embassies in Jerusalem until 1980, when they moved them to Tel Aviv after Israel annexed East Jerusalem, in a move not recognised internationally. All other countries still have their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Guatemala and Israel have a long history of political, economic and military ties. The Central American country is also a major recipient of US aid – something which Donald Trump threatened to cut to states that voted in favour of the UN resolution.”
Guatemala’s embassy in Israel is currently in Herzliya rather than Tel Aviv but the same erroneous statement also appeared in a report aired on BBC World Service radio programme ‘OS‘ on December 25th. Presenter Ben James told listeners (from 05:35 here) that:
James: “We’re going to talk more about Guatemala’s decision now to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backing the US president Donald Trump’s controversial announcement that the US recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, expressing that through the location of the embassy.”
Wallace: “A lot of it has to do with, you know, what the United States wanted and Guatemala trying to prove that they are, like, reliable allies from [of] the United States. You know it’s always been a very, very strong relationship. United States is the biggest foreign investor, you know, huge provider of foreign aid. Guatemala, I believe, is the fourth country in the whole world in terms of foreign aid from the United States.”
After telling listeners that a lot of people from Guatemala live in the United States, Wallace seemed to suggest that repercussions against those people could occur if Guatemala did not follow the US’ lead, saying:
“…policies regarding immigration from that would have a big effect on Guatemala’s economy.”
Wallace: “But funnily enough Guatemala also has a very strong relationship with Israel. […] Guatemala was actually the second country in the world to vote for the recognition of Israel at United Nations and ever since they have had diplomatic relationships. It was the first country ever in having an embassy in Jerusalem and they kept it there till 1980.”
BBC World Service Middle East analyst Alan Johnston then joined the conversation but had little to add other than more promotion of a now well-established BBC mantra:
Johnston: “…There’s a huge amount of tension on the city [Jerusalem] as a result of President Trump’s move…”
As we see, both these BBC reports steer audiences towards the view that Guatemala’s decision was dictated by its relations with the United States. Guatemala’s foreign minister has rejected such claims.
“The United States did not pressure Guatemala into announcing it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Central American state’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
“There wasn’t any pressure. There wasn’t any overture from the United States to make this happen. This was a decision by the government, the state and the foreign policy of Guatemala,” the minister, Sandra Jovel, told a news conference in Guatemala City. […]
Jovel said the plan to put the embassy in Jerusalem “had been considered for the past five months, and things just lined up in a certain way and also the resolutions in the UN and everything contributed to saying that now was the right time.”
Guatemala’s assertion that it decided the move alone, without being pressed by the United States, follows criticism from the Palestinian foreign ministry and a focus on how reliant the country is on US aid and trade.”
Notably, in contrast to its copious portrayal (including in these two reports) of the December 6th US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “controversial”, the BBC did not use that term to describe the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s December 13th declaration of “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine”. And when Iran’s parliament declared Jerusalem “the everlasting capital of Palestine” on December 27th, the BBC did not even report that development, let alone brand it as “controversial”.