For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:
“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.”
For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.
Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]
“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.
In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:
“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”
On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):
“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”
But is that actually what the legislation says?
“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”
In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.
That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.
As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:
“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:
“The state’s language is Hebrew.
The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.
This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””
Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification.