Wishing all our readers celebrating Rosh HaShana תש”פ a happy, healthy, peaceful and sweet New Year.
Wishing all our readers celebrating Rosh HaShana תש”פ a happy, healthy, peaceful and sweet New Year.
In a previous post we saw how a September 18th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday’ promoted the claim that “Arab Palestinian parties” had run in the recent Israeli election.
We also saw how two written reports published on the BBC News website on September 21st and 22nd described Arab Israelis as “Israel’s Palestinian citizens”.
Sharp: “OK but we also saw another interesting development here. The Arab Palestinian parties, they did really well, didn’t they? The third…now forming the third largest party in the Knesset.”
Harkov: “Yeah, they’re Israeli. These are Arab citizens of Israel.”
In its coverage of previous Israeli elections in 2013 and 2015 the BBC described the Joint Arab List as being comprised of “Israeli Arab parties” and used the term “Israeli Arabs” to describe that list’s target electorate. So why has the BBC now taken to inserting the confusing term “Palestinian” into its reporting? A clue may be found in a conversation aired (from 23:03 here) in the September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme.
After having inaccurately claimed that “for a fifth of its existence Israel has had Benjamin Netanyahu as its prime minister”, presenter Evan Davis brought in the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.
Davis [26:05]: “Ahm, Jeremy, tell us about the Arab Israelis because as I understand it their turnout in this election rose pretty significantly compared to the last one which was, what, back in April.”
Bowen: “Yeah, ahm, 20% of the citizens of Israel are not Jews. They’re Arabs, or more specifically, they’re Palestinians. Not the Palestinians of the West Bank or of Gaza, though related of course, but Palestinians who are Israelis, who have an Israeli passport and are supposed to have full rights though in practice they don’t.”
In fact, as of May 2019, 25.76% of Israel’s population are not Jews. 20.95% are Arabs and 4.81% are ‘others’ including non-Arab Christians and non-Arab Muslims. A poll conducted in April 2019 indicated that 46% identified as Arab Israelis with the pollsters commenting that when compared to a previous poll from 2014:
“…the findings in the current poll show that the number of respondents self-identifying as “Arab-Israeli” has risen, and the number of those identifying only as “Palestinian” dropped.”
While other polls may give slightly different results, one thing is clear: the BBC’s Middle East editor has apparently adopted the political narrative according to which all Israeli Arabs are Palestinians – regardless of how they actually chose to self-identify – and that patriarchal approach is increasingly finding its way into BBC reporting.
1) At the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer explains ‘The Turkey-Qatar Nexus’.
“While the Mideast news headlines are currently (justifiably) dominated by the clash between the Iranian-led, largely Shia axis and its West-aligned enemies, the Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood nexus constitutes a third force.
This alliance first came to prominence in the early, optimistic months of the “Arab Spring.” In Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, Muslim Brotherhood-associated movements played a vital early role in the popular uprisings in those countries.
Qatar offered encouragement via Al Jazeera, and financial support to Islamist insurgent groups such as the Tawhid Brigade and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
Turkey was the main backer for the Sunni Arab rebels throughout the Syrian rebellion, and offered active support to Mohamed Morsi’s short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.”
2) The ITIC documents a recent example of the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorism.
“The “shahid culture,” reflected in the glorification of terrorists who perpetrated terrorist activities, is a common practice in the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. It is a major component in the Palestinian heritage and part of the policy of the Palestinian Authority. Shahids are usually commemorated in various ways, including naming streets, squares, schools and public institutions after them. Special attention is given to the glorification of shahids among the younger generation in order to turn them into role models. Thus, terrorist attacks and their perpetrators become publicly legitimate, increasing young Palestinians’ motivation to follow in the footsteps of the shahids and carry out attacks against Israel.”
3) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the Joint Arab List.
“When the Joint List, the Arab party that emerged as Israel’s third largest in the recent round of elections, endorsed Benny Gantz as its candidate for prime minister on Sunday, pundits took to every available perch to declare the moment historic. After all, no Arab party has ever endorsed a Jewish leader, and Ayman Odeh, the party’s Obama-esque leader, seized the moment properly by tweeting a line from Psalms. To many, this felt like a breath of fresh air, a surge of coexistence and compromise after Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line policies.
The hosannas, however, are premature: The Joint List, sadly, remains a vehemently anti-Zionist party whose members have often expressed their support for convicted terrorists.”
4) At the Hoover Institution, Tony Badran takes a look at the ‘peace process’.
“Speaking to reporters in August, President Trump said he would likely wait until after the Israeli elections in September to unveil his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. Although this plan has been long in the making, with the exception of the proposal to allocate investment funds to the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries, its details have remained unknown; and that’s a good thing. A peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is the “toughest deal of all,” the American president remarked. Perhaps. It also might be, in and of itself, the least relevant. In fact, progress on this front is as low a priority for America in the Middle East as you can get. The real interest for the United States lies elsewhere. The Trump administration appears to recognize this reality full well, as the steps it has taken so far suggest.”
The early edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on September 18th included two items relating to the previous day’s election in Israel, the second of which was introduced (from 27:01 here) by presenter Karnagie Sharp as follows:
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Sharp: “First to Israel…ah…where Netanyahu…this is a headline from one of the main [sic] daily newspapers in the country: ‘Netanyahu fails to secure majority, Gantz leads, Arabs surge exit polls show’. Final results of the election are still to be announced but according to exit polls Benjamin Netanyahu – the longest-serving prime minister in the country – has failed to secure a ruling majority…ah ah…and his challenger Ben [sic] Gantz leading the Blue & White centre coalition has a lead. Arab countries have condemned a campaign pledge by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.”
Given the BBC’s record of interviewing Palestinians when reporting Israeli elections listeners may not have been surprised to then learn that they were about to hear “a Palestinian view” of the previous day’s poll. The presenter of that view – and the BBC’s perhaps unintentionally frank portrayal of his starting point – may however have been less expected.
Sharp: “For a Palestinian view on these elections let’s now speak to Hagai Elad, the executive director of B’Tselem, the Israeli information centre for human rights in the occupied territories. Welcome to the programme. So I’m going to read you another headline from Ha’aretz. It says ‘Magician Bibi has run out of rabbits’. What do you make of the exit polls so far?”
Elad: “…the votes are still being counted and we may be facing still weeks of negotiations about the future government. And all this is discussed in the context of as if a celebration of democracy. But in fact all…all of what this does is to paint a false democratic façade hiding a deeply undemocratic reality that has been in place already for decade after decade. When the election results are clear or not clear, when there’s deadlock or no deadlock, when there’s a Right-wing government or a Left-wing government or a national unity government, the continuation of Israel’s oppression, dispossession and occupation of the Palestinian people.”
That blatantly false and obviously partisan portrayal of Israeli democracy failed to prompt any reaction from Sharp.
Sharp: “OK. So when you look at the results at the moment, you know, we know that the results are still coming in but if prime minister Netanyahu…if he were to lose will this change things in the region?”
Elad: “So of course the personality of the prime minister makes a big difference but if I take a broader perspective about this reality and for instance the context of potential annexation of parts of the West Bank was mentioned, then we actually put the centre of attention not on what may have been but what has already happened: de facto annexation. The fact that Israel does whatever it wants in the 60% of the West Bank known as Area C and that all this is happening above the heads and beneath the feet of the Palestinians living in that area that are never asked, never counted as they were also not counted in yesterday’s election.”
Sharp made no effort to remind listeners that the PLO agreed to Israel being in control of Area C when they signed the Oslo Accords or to clarify that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live in Areas A and B which are under Palestinian Authority control. She continued with a description of four Israeli political parties as “Palestinian” and the uninformed suggestion that they are “in the government”.
Sharp: “What’s really interesting though…I want to bring that…because you also called it undemocratic; the Arab Palestinian parties did well though this time, didn’t they? Third largest party now in the Knesset, never seen before in the government. So there’s a bit of hope there.”
Elad: “So we’re talking about the 20% of the – or so – of the citizens of the State of Israel who are Arab and also of course there are also Jewish voters to this party. But between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there are 14 million people or so – thirteen and a half, fourteen million people. And there is one government that controls the lives of all the people in this area and controls all the territory in this area and in this area there are 5 million Palestinians in the occupied territories – in the Gaza Strip, in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank – and they are not citizens. They live under Israel’s military occupation and they do not participate in the political process. They have no political rights.”
Sharp once again failed to challenge Elad’s blatant and materially misleading claims. Arab residents of East Jerusalem are of course entitled vote in Israeli general elections if they have chosen to take Israeli citizenship (and in municipal elections even if they have not) and Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule in parts of Judea & Samaria or under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip (which, contrary to Elad’s claim, has not been under Israeli control for fourteen years) of course vote – when their rulers allow it – for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Joint Arab list secured 13 seats in this election – the same number as in the 2015 election – but the embarrassingly under-informed Sharp went on to make another inaccurate claim.
Sharp: “OK. You still haven’t reacted to the fact that for the first time we’re seeing that these Arab Palestinian parties have done well in these new elections. Who are they likely to align with do you think and how can that make a difference?”
Elad: “They have done perhaps somewhat better than in previous elections but they’ve been part of parliament already for many years, including in this formation of one unified party, already for quite some time. The situation is that this comes at the backdrop of an extremely racist election campaign, especially from Likud but also from others and also what statements that already were made by Netanyahu denying any potential involvement of Arab parties in Israel’s government.”
Elad: “A deeply racist position.”
Sharp: “OK. Thank you very much for speaking to us. That’s Hagai Elad the executive director of B’tselem speaking to us.”
Sharp failed to clarify to listeners that some of the Arab parties hold anti-Zionist positions which can be regarded as racist or that those parties have traditionally refused to participate in any Israeli government.
So what did BBC World Service listeners get in this item? They heard the crude propaganda of a political NGO which engages in lawfare against Israel go completely unchallenged by an interviewer who was clearly very much out of her depth – with the result that audiences were materially misled.
The September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included six different items (three in news bulletins) relating to the previous day’s election in Israel. In the last of those items (from 2:35:17 here) presenter Mishal Husain spoke with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen before going on (from 2:37:59) to interview Likud MK Sharren Haskel. However things took an interesting turn when the Israeli member of parliament raised the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.
In one of her later questions (from 2:40:36), Husain made the false claim that the Israeli prime minister said he “wanted to annex the West Bank”. Netanyahu actually spoke about applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Rift Valley and Israeli communities rather than to the entire area previously illegally occupied by Jordan.
Husain: “Now over the course of this election campaign Mr Netanyahu said that he wanted to annex the West Bank. Would that prevent an alliance – a coalition government – with Blue & White?”
Haskel: “I don’t think that’s what’s going to prevent it because even Blue & White have spoken about the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea, which was the declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is a consensus among most Israeli[s] about these area[s] because it is a very important security and defence strip for the State of Israel and it is also a very historical area that goes back thousands of years…”
Husain [interrupts]: “And occupied territory under international law.”
Unsurprisingly, Husain did not bother to clarify which country’s sovereign territory she thinks that area was before it was ‘occupied’.
Haskel: “Ahm look, it’s a disputed territory and obviously we disagree on some of this area but we can agree definitely that the Palestinian leadership has been the refusal [refused] negotiation, has been the refusal [refused] to create stability and peace in the area. Instead of investing most of their funds into education, into infrastructure, into the people where there’s about 50% almost of unemployment, they’re pocketing the money, they are investing it in terrorists who are sitting in prison. It means that they give salaries to people who are [have] actually murdered innocent civilians…”
Husain [interrupts]: “They’re not…they’re not on the programme right now to answer those accusations.”
Haskel: “No I know. Well you know it’s all fact. It’s all been written before.”
Husain [talking over her interviewee]: “Sharren Haskel. Sharren Haskel of the Likud party – thank you.”
Husain’s abrupt termination of that interview on the grounds that no representative of the Palestinian Authority was there to “answer those accusations” is of course particularly noteworthy given that just three months ago she was perfectly happy to remain silent while the PLO’s Saeb Erekat used the ‘Today’ programme platform to voice a series of bizarre and baseless accusations concerning Israeli ‘apartheid’ with no Israeli representative given the right of reply.
BBC Watch regularly documents the comparatively little coverage given by the BBC to internal Palestinian affairs and so it was interesting to note the appearance of a report headlined “Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between September 12th and 15th.
On September 16th an additional article relating to the same story appeared in the ‘features’ section of the same webpage under the headline “Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching”, where it remained for three days.
Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman, the article opened with a gratuitous references to Israeli counter-terrorism measures and an editorialised – but context-free – reference to the anti-terrorist fence. [emphasis added]
“When a young woman was admitted to Al Hussein hospital with a fractured spine and bruises on her body and face, doctors began to treat yet another case of traumatic injury.
Everyone here was used to young patients arriving with devastating wounds.
The hospital is located close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, whose streets lead past packed suburban refugee camps to Israeli army checkpoints and the foreboding separation barrier – all frequent flashpoints for violence.”
Bateman’s reference to “flashpoints for violence” of course fails to inform readers that such violence is usually the outcome of Palestinian terrorism.
Seeing as the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau decided to produce a feature article on the under-reported topic of violence against Palestinian women, one would have expected some factual information concerning the broader legal and social background and indeed the final section of the article included some fairly generalised discussion of those topics – and a rare reference to the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria.
“Campaigners blame a culture of impunity towards male perpetrators, bolstered by a penal code dating from the 1960s in the period that Jordan occupied the West Bank.
Some of its provisions create a loophole used by Palestinian courts to pardon or issue lenient sentences to men who commit violence against women when they plead they acted out of family honour.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2011 amended the law with the aim of deterring the so-called “honour killings” excuse.
But a 2017 report by the United Nations said judges in most cases still resorted to articles 99 and 100 of the code, “whose application mitigates the penalty of killing, including if the victim comes from the same family of the perpetrator”.
It also said Palestinian women suffered “multiple sources of discrimination and violence” both in public and private.”
“”They suffer the violence of the Israeli occupation, whether directly or indirectly, but they also suffer from a system of violence emanating from the tradition and culture, with embedded patriarchal social norms,” the report added.”
In other words, even when producing an extremely rare feature article on the very serious issue of discrimination and violence suffered by women in Palestinian society, the BBC’s Tom Bateman could not resist promoting irrelevant politicised references to Israel.
On September 23rd the BBC News website published an article titled “What is the United Nations and what does it do?” on its ‘World’ page.
Apparently intended as a backgrounder ahead of the United Nations General Assembly annual conference, the article includes a section sub-headed “Who will and won’t be there?” in which readers were told that among those not attending is “Israel’s President Benjamin Netanahyu”.
Considering the rate at which it produces reports concerning or referring to Netanyahu (who will not be attending the UN event due to coalition negotiations), one would of course expect the BBC to be able to provide audiences with an accurate description of his position and title.
BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website to inform them that Netanyahu is Israel’s prime minister and its president is Reuven Rivlin and – although we did not receive a reply – the report was corrected several hours later but without any footnote informing audiences of the amendment.
Over the years BBC audiences have seen several reports concerning two zoos in Khan Younis and Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
April 2012: Gaza zoo resorts to displaying stuffed animals
“Mohamed Owaida from the Khan Younis Zoo says it is proving too costly to feed his living animals, and he can not always get live specimens through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip.”
August 2016: The last tiger to leave Gaza zoo
“He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”
“Dozens of animals died during fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel.”
August 2016: BBC Radio 4 ‘PM’, Yolande Knell
“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”
“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”
“Mr Jomaa blamed the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of Gaza, which is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and bad economic conditions for the squalid conditions in the zoo.”
Now the Times of Israel reports that the Rafah zoo has reopened.
“In April, international animal rights charity Four Paws took all the animals to sanctuaries, receiving a pledge the zoo would close forever.
But last month, it reopened with two lions and three new cubs, penned in cages only a few square meters in size.
Critics say the owners want to bully Four Paws or other animal welfare organizations into giving them thousands of dollars to free the animals into their care.
Four Paws paid the zoo’s owners more than $50,000 in the year before its closure for medical treatments, food and caretakers. […]
The newly reopened zoo’s manager, Ashraf Jumaa, from the same family that owned the old one, said they brought the new lions through tunnels from Egypt.”
Given the BBC’s previous record, should it decide to cover this latest development in the story it reported in April we can no doubt expect to see more politicised commentary blaming the conditions suffered by animals in Gaza zoos on inadequately explained Israeli counter-terrorism measures.
Following the election in Israel in April of this year we noted that viewers of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Dateline London’ were exposed to a series of inaccurate claims and outright falsehoods from panellists discussing that topic which went unchallenged by the presenter and hence impeded the BBC’s obligation to providing current affairs programming which builds “people’s understanding” and helps them engage as “informed citizens”.
“…is this the beginning of the end for Israel’s longest-serving prime minister?”
Ley continued: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Ley: “Now Israel’s newspaper front pages this weekend are not the ones Binyamin Netanyahu was probably expecting. After the second indecisive election in just five months, power is described as slipping away. ‘Himself alone’ and ‘political death spasms’ are among the headlines. Prime minster for the last ten years with a three-year stint before that in the 1990s, Mr Netanyahu has been reduced to urging Benny Gantz, the ex-army chief who leads the newish centrist party Blue & White – the largest in the Knesset after Tuesday’s poll – to join a unity government. Gantz told him to push off.”
Mr Gantz of course did not use those words and in the meantime, discussions concerning such a possibility have been held. Ley went on to ask panellist Jonathan Sacerdoti “Do you think we are now witnessing the end of the Netanyahu era?” and viewers then heard an explanation of the Israeli system and the post-election situation.
That was followed by remarks from another panellist – UK journalist Yasmin Alibhai Brown – who managed to deliver an entire monologue concerning Netanyahu without uttering his name.
Alibhai Brown: “It’s so complicated. It is so utterly…but I have to be honest: I look forward to the day when we don’t…you know…he goes because he has been…I just think he’s been such bad news. It’s taken him to really bring deep pessimism to that area – almost irrecoverable pessimism – and I think that’s a tragedy. You know people don’t even talk about a two-state solution anymore. He’s taken away some hope and I can never forgive him for that so I hope it’s not him, whoever it is.”
Ley made no effort to balance Alibhai Brown’s diatribe with information concerning the Palestinian Authority’s repeated rejections of peace offers or by pointing out that the faction which won the last Palestinian election – Hamas – does not seek a two state solution at all.
Another panellist – Maria Margaronis – chipped in with a completely unevidenced assertion.
Margaronis: “Would a Benny Gantz led government be very different or much better? I mean it seems to me the campaign has been largely about who can be tougher on the Palestinians.”
Alibhai Brown: “Well yes and no, I think, because I mean a lot of Palestinians are already saying ‘at least we know the devil in Netanyahu’. We don’t know what…and the campaign has all been about expanding territory, which again…”
Ley made no effort to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression that the recent election campaign in Israel was “all about expanding territory” or to clarify that Netanyahu’s statements concerning the potential application of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley were in fact made just six days before the poll.
Following a comment from Ley that the Blue & White party “did appear from almost nowhere” before the April election, Alibhai Brown took another gratuitous swipe at ‘he who shall not be named’.
Alibhai Brown: “Yeah but I still think the presence of this particular individual – taking into account all the up and down of politics in Israel and Palestine – has been considerably destructive.”
When Jonathan Sacerdoti pointed out that Israeli voters view Netanyahu’s record differently and take into account issues such as his good relations with the Trump administration, Alibhai Brown retorted:
Alibhai Brown: “But that’s the problem, isn’t it?”
Interrupting another panellist, she went on:
Alibhai Brown: “And one must not forget…it becomes so normative but what’s been happening in Gaza in the last three or four years is unspeakable.”
Sacerdoti interjected to point out that “what’s been happening in Gaza” includes the launching of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, to which Alibhai Brown retorted with a dog whistle reference to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
Alibhai Brown: “It’s horrible and we are not talking about it here, partly because of this ridiculous definition that was forced upon us that we may not discuss some issues.”
The IHRA definition of course says nothing of the sort but Ley made no effort to intervene and clarify the matter to audiences. As Sacerdoti pointed out that the Gaza Strip is controlled by a terrorist organisation, Alibhai Brown interrupted:
Alibhai Brown: “But you don’t punish the people. You don’t shoot twelve-year-olds.”
That context-free allegation also failed to prompt a reaction from Ley.
Maria Margaronis then commented that:
Margaronis: “But in the kind of wider picture, unless there is a settlement, a just settlement for the Palestinians, both Israel and the Palestinians face a future much like the past or worse and if we have both potential prime ministers – that is Netanyahu and Gantz – both promising to annex the Jordan Valley, the Area C of the West Bank ahm…which makes a two-state solution extremely difficult because it is the main agricultural area for the Palestinians, where does that leave us?”
Ms Margaronis has apparently never visited the Jordan Rift Valley in summer: had she done so she would have refrained from making that specious claim concerning agriculture. Ley failed to clarify that Gantz has not ‘promised’ to annex the Jordan Valley – rather he has stated that it should remain under Israeli control – and viewers saw no explanation as to why he and other former senior members of Israel’s security establishment view that region as being “of vast strategic importance”.
As Jonathan Sacerdoti pointed out that the Palestinians have in the past refused all offers of a permanent settlement to the conflict, Alibhai Brown came up with another unevidenced allegation.
Alibhai Brown: “The annexation is not a kind of side product of what’s going on. It is an ambition. And it is an ambition that they are pushing and the world is allowing this to happen.”
Ley: “Is that just electoral politics?”
Alibhai Brown: “No I don’t think so. No I don’t think so. It’s been going on for a long time. And the criticism has vanished, actually, of those ambitions.”
The conversation then moved on to a different topic, with Ley making no effort to clarify that annexation has not “been going on for a long time” at all and in fact the status of the area has not changed since the Oslo Accords were signed over a quarter of a century ago.
Once again we see that viewers of ‘Dateline London’ are fed false claims and downright falsehoods by under-informed commentators touting a clear political agenda while the programme’s presenter sits by and allows inaccurate allegations concerning Israel to go unchallenged.
In contrast to previous election campaigns in 2013, 2015 and April 2019, BBC News website coverage of the September 17th election was relatively limited with just seven written reports appearing between September 16th and September 22nd.
Nevertheless, some familiar themes were evident in that coverage along with some new ones.
September 16th: Israel election a referendum on Netanyahu, Jeremy Bowen
In that article the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” and “to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting” – employed the standard BBC tactic of presenting history as having begun in June 1967 while erasing the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem from audience view.
“The southern end of the [Jordan] valley, where I am, has been occupied by Israel since 1967, a big part of the land it captured in that year’s Middle East War.”
As has been the case in BBC coverage of all Israeli elections throughout the past six years, this time too the topic of the ‘peace process’ was framed as being exclusively dependent on Israeli actions.
“Usually the valley is a sleepy place. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed it into his country’s general election, which is coming up this Tuesday. He declared that if he was returned as prime minister, he would annex the Jordan Valley, and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The suggestion has been condemned by many of Israel’s friends, including Britain, on the grounds that it would be yet another nail in the coffin containing hopes for peace. Israel would have absorbed land Palestinians want for a state.”
Bowen told BBC audiences that:
“Israel’s electoral system always produces coalitions. Would-be prime ministers need to add their own party’s seats to those of smaller parties who exact a price for giving their support. The ultra-Orthodox have been staunch supporters of Mr Netanyahu. Without their seats, he would not be able to form a government.”
Apparently the BBC’s Middle East editor has forgotten that in 2013, Netanyahu did form a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.
September 17th: Israel’s election: The most important things to know
In this article BBC audiences found both a problematic video dating from June 2019 in which Israeli citizens living in certain locations are portrayed by the BBC’s Yolande Knell as “illegal” and a partisan map produced by the political NGO ‘B’tselem’ which has often been promoted in previous BBC content.
Once again audiences saw promotion of the Palestinian narrative according to which the prognosis of the ‘peace process’ depends entirely upon Israel, along with the BBC’s habitual but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.
“The fate of the Palestinians depends on who is in power in Israel, since Israel occupies land which they seek for a state of their own.
Mr Netanyahu says he will never agree to a sovereign Palestinian state with powers like any other country (something which he says will be a serious threat to Israel).
He has also pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and a swathe of land known as the Jordan Valley (which comprises about 30% of the West Bank). Because they are built on occupied territory, the settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The Palestinians, who want the settlements removed, say such a move would make a Palestinian state impossible and kill the peace process once and for all.”
The BBC promoted the unsupported claim that:
“…Mr Netanyahu is politically right wing and ideologically driven by Jewish claims to the land based on the Bible…”
Readers were told that: [emphasis added]
“In April’s election, Mr Netanyahu won the most votes but failed to form a coalition, which is he why he called a snap poll for 17 September.”
At the beginning of this report readers were again wrongly informed that Netanyahu alone called an election.
“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting to hold on to power following one of its closest election races in years.
He called Tuesday’s snap election after failing to form a governing coalition in the wake of an election in April.”
However the article’s final paragraph indicates that in fact the BBC knows that is not the case.
“After April’s election, Mr Netanyahu’s attempts to form a new government failed and he ran out of time in May. He pressed for new elections and Israeli MPs voted by a significant margin in favour of a new poll.”
Readers again found Yolande Knell’s problematic video branding people “illegal” in this report along with the previously seen Palestinian talking points concerning the ‘peace process’ and the BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra.
“Last week, Mr Netanyahu declared he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” in the Jordan Valley if he won. The announcement amounted to a promise to effectively annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want to be part of a future state.
Amid international condemnation, the Palestinian leadership called the move a war crime which would bury any prospects for peace.
Mr Netanyahu also reiterated a pledge from the last election to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
September 18th: Israel election: Netanyahu and rival headed for deadlock
The same narrative concerning the ‘peace process’ was evident in this report too.
“Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been in office for 10 years and is vying to win a record fifth term in office.
The 69-year-old, who leads the right-wing Likud party, has pledged to annex Jewish settlements and a swathe of other territory in the occupied West Bank if he is returned to power.
Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in occupied East Jerusalem, have warned such a move will kill any hopes for peace.”
Readers also discovered that, according to the BBC, Israelis are not allowed to decide on their own capital city:
“Like Mr Netanyahu, he [Gantz] has ruled out ever dividing Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital.”
September 19th: Israel election: Netanyahu and Gantz compete over leadership
September 21st: Israeli elections: What do the results reveal? Tom Bateman
The problematic video by Yolande Knell was promoted in this report too along with the same messaging concerning the ‘peace process’.
“The campaign led to a hardening of the view among Palestinians that the so-called two-state solution – the long held international formula for peace – is no longer viable, according to the pollster Dr Khalil Shikaki.
“There is no doubt that the debate during the election campaign in Israel has been significantly damaging to the Palestinian willingness to support diplomacy and negotiations,” he says, citing Mr Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”
Once again no effort was made to delve into the question of where that Palestinian “support” for “diplomacy and negotiations” has been throughout the past 26 years since the Oslo Accords were signed or to clarify that some Palestinian factions. including Hamas. explicitly reject such ideas. Significantly though, Bateman did find it appropriate to tout the so-called ‘one-state solution’.
“Dr Shikaki says that instead around a third of Palestinians opt for the idea of a “one-state” outcome – meaning a single country between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan in which every individual has an equal vote; something Israelis would see as risking the end of the Jewish state.”
Bateman also elected to promote disinformation concerning the voting rights of Palestinians.
“While around five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza cannot vote in Israeli elections, they are affected by the decisions of those who can.”
Arab residents of East Jerusalem are entitled vote in Israeli elections if they have chosen to take Israeli citizenship and Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule in parts of Judea & Samaria or under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip of course vote – when their rulers allow it – for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Bateman also chose to use politicised terminology to describe Israel’s Arab population:
“In fact, with nearly all the votes counted, turnout went up to nearly 70%, from 68.5% in April.
Some of that rise was because many more of Israel’s Palestinian citizens – Arab Israelis – voted this time than they did in April.”
September 22nd: Israeli elections: Arab parties back Gantz to oust Netanyahu
This article included the same politicised terminology (has there been a memo?) in analysis by Barbara Plett Usher:
“The leader of the Arab grouping, Ayman Odeh, said it wasn’t endorsing Mr Gantz and his polices: but was moving to try and block Benjamin Netanyahu from securing another term, and to send a clear message that Israel’s future must include the full and equal participation of its Palestinian citizens.”
Apparently the BBC considers it acceptable for its journalists to identify people according to their own political narrative rather than to reflect how those people self-identify.
All versions of this report told readers that:
“The Joint List won 13 seats in the election. If Mr Gantz had the endorsement of all 13 seats, he would still fall short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat legislature.”
By the time the later versions were published it was known that the Joint List’s ‘Balad’ faction had rejected inclusion in that endorsement but the BBC did not bother to update its report accordingly.
Back in January 2013 we made the following observations in relation to BBC coverage of that year’s Israeli election:
“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances.
Broadly speaking – and we see this reflected time and time again in its reporting; not only in relation to the elections – the BBC absolves the Palestinian side of the equation of any responsibility for the progress of the peace process (or lack of it) and turns Palestinians into child-like creatures lacking all agency.”
Two years later we noted that:
“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities.”
In April of this year we commented:
“Overall, the BBC News website’s selective coverage of the 2019 election conformed to the agenda evident in the corporation’s reporting of the two previous ones. Israel was once again portrayed as a country ‘shifting’ to the right and that alleged shift was depicted as the exclusive reason for the predicted failure to make progress in ‘the peace process’.
In order to promote that framing, the BBC of course has to ignore the fact that no matter which Israeli political party has won elections over the past twenty-seven years, all attempts to bring an end to the conflict have been met with a negative response from the other side.
And yet, despite its obligation to “build people’s understanding” the BBC continues its dumbed-down, narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters.”
As we see, the BBC’s overriding interest in promoting a political narrative means that it continues to adhere to that well-worn formula.