A move that had been anticipated since October 2018 was reported on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 4th in an article headlined “US consulate general in Jerusalem merges with embassy”. The story was summed up in the article’s opening paragraphs:
“The US has closed its consulate general in Jerusalem, which covered Palestinian affairs, folding its operations into the new embassy to Israel in the city.
The state department said the merger was made for efficiency reasons and did not signal a change of policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza.
The consulate had acted as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.
A Palestinian official called the move “the last nail in the coffin of the US administration’s role in peacemaking”.”
In addition to a 146-word section quoting (and linking to) the US State department deputy spokesman’s statement on the merger, readers found an unquestioning 126-word account of the less extreme parts of a statement from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi, with a link provided.
“Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said: “The Trump administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law.”
“Merging the US consulate in Jerusalem with the US embassy to Israel, which is now illegally located in Jerusalem, is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.”
Ms Ashrawi said such actions “preclude any possible positive role for the current US administration in seeking peace and stability” in the region.”
Ms Ashrawi and her colleagues have of course been boycotting the US administration since December 2017 and have repeatedly expressed their opposition to a peace proposal which the US has not even yet made public. Apparently though the BBC did not see the irony in the second quote from Ashrawi which it chose to highlight.
Readers of this report also found the following:
“The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says the merger marks a significant downgrade of the US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians.”
Bateman did not however clarify why any foreign “diplomatic mission to the Palestinians” should be located outside territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in a place to which the Palestinians ostensibly do not lay claim.
Unsurprisingly, the recycled background history presented in BBC’s article made no mention of the unrecognised Jordanian occupation of the city between 1948 and 1967.
“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]
The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.”
Obviously if the BBC’s audiences are to fully understand the background they need to be told of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. They likewise need to be informed of the belligerent Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews who had lived in Jerusalem for generations from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, as well as the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders.
Readers also found the BBC’s usual partisan mantra on ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.
“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
Since the BBC began covering stories concerning the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2016 – and particularly since the US announcement concerning its embassy’s relocation in December 2017 – the comprehensive background information which would enable BBC audiences to fully understand these stories has been serially withheld. As we see in this latest report, that editorial policy continues.