An article titled “Prince William makes historic visit to Middle East” that appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East pages on June 24th includes an insert of analysis from the BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond and a link to an article by the same journalist.
The title of that linked article – “Prince William set to ‘wander among bones of Empire’” – and the heading given to the insert – ‘The prince wanders among the bones of Empire’ – both steer readers towards a misleading view of the history of the places Prince William is visiting. The article opens:
“The Duke of Cambridge is embarking upon an historic tour of the Middle East – visiting both Israel and the Palestinian territories – in a trip in which ironies and sensitivities will abound.”
The caption to the photograph at the head of the article reads:
“The itinerary is scrupulously balanced between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories”
Neither what is today Israel, Jordan or the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority were part of the British Empire system of colonies, protectorates and dominions: rather they were territory administered by Britain on behalf of the League of Nations.
Bateman’s account of history, however, makes no mention of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.
“For just under three decades, after World War One, Britain controlled present-day Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories; three decades that would see the Middle East reshaped by European design, compromise, and failure.”
The Middle East was of course first and foremost reshaped because the Ottoman Empire chose to ally itself with the side that lost the First World War and the former German and Ottoman territories and colonies subsequently came under the supervision of the League of Nations.
Dymond’s portrayal of the fact that the British government chose to terminate its administration of the mandate originally granted by the League of Nations is similarly unhelpful to anyone hoping to understand the history behind the royal visit.
“When Palestine slipped from the hands of an exhausted and broken post-war Britain in 1948, the Prince’s great-grandfather George VI was on the throne.” [emphasis added]
Dymond found it appropriate to mention just one episode of political violence in his account:
“When Prince William lays his head this week at his Jerusalem hotel, the King David, he will be at the site of one of the worst attacks on British forces during the Jews’ battle for independence. It was an attack condemned at the time as Jewish terrorism.”
However, he failed to provide readers with any meaningful information on the Arab rioting and revolt – or the ensuing British restrictions on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine before, during and after the Second World War.
“From the Balfour declaration to the White Paper, the promises and pledges that Britain has made to different parties at different times in Palestine are now part of the region’s collective memory.”
Significantly, Dymond refrained from clarifying to the domestic audiences reading his article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page that the British government failed to meet the primary remit with which it was entrusted under the terms of the Mandate for Palestine: the establishment of a Jewish national home:
“The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”
Once again the BBC has passed up the opportunity to provide its funding public with an accurate and impartial account of the role played by their country in the history of the region currently being visited by a member of their royal family.