Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post between the evening of November 18th and the evening of November 19th the BBC News website published three written reports, totalling 2,420 words, relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

November 18th 2019: ‘US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal’ by Barbara Plett Usher

All those articles include quotes from various Palestinian officials and/or unnamed terrorist organisations.

Article 1: “Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the US decision was a risk to “global stability, security, and peace” and said it threatened to replace international law with “the law of the jungle”.”

Article 2: “Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said it threatened to replace international law with the “law of the jungle”. […]

“Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes,” said Mr Erekat. “Once the Trump administration decides to undermine international law… this constitutes a major threat to international peace and security.”

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The United States is neither qualified nor is authorised to negate international legitimacy resolutions, and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement.”

Palestinian militant groups also weighed in, calling it the official funeral of the Oslo peace process – which laid the foundations for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – and urging stepped-up resistance to the Israeli occupation.”

Article 3: “Palestinian militants have described the US shift as the funeral of the Oslo peace process, and called for resisting the occupation.”

The second report also quoted other sources promoting the notion that the US announcement and/or ‘settlements’ threaten the ‘peace process’. [emphasis added]

Article 2: “The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc’s position was that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace“.

Ayman Safadi, Foreign Minister of Jordan – the custodian of a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount – said the change would “kill” a two-state solution, calling the settlements “a blatant violation of international law”.”

The BBC’s own commentary promoted similar framing:

Article 1: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of all settlements, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Articles 1 & 2, analysis from Barbara Plett Usher:

“Dismissing the international legal prohibitions on Jewish settlements undermines the legal framework for the peace process, including the notion of Palestinian national rights and the principle of self-determination. […]

Palestinian analysts I have spoken with say the growth of Jewish settlements has essentially killed the potential for a viable two-state solution.”

Article 2: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, where about 600,000 Jews live, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Article 3: “And it [the US statement] decreases even further the chances of a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. […]

…it creates problems for the rest of the world, which has been operating under an internationally accepted framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The international community has focused for more than two decades on working towards a two-state solution. The European Union and United Nations have been warning that Jewish settlements are eroding that possibility. Now that a main player has withdrawn opposition, the way forward is even less clear: there is no Plan B. […]

Palestinians do not have many options.”

As we see, both the selected quotes and the BBC’s own commentary steer readers towards the view that the prime obstacle to “a negotiated peace deal” and a “two-state solution” is the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. That framing of course dovetails perfectly with the narrative long promoted by the PLO.

Notably, the BBC made no effort at all to remind audiences of other factors which might affect the chances of a “negotiated peace deal” such as Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or the fact that the Palestinians are split into various irreconcilable factions and cannot even agree among themselves on a unified approach to negotiations with Israel.

Neither did the BBC bother to ask why, if this latest US statement is so detrimental to the peace process, was absolutely no progress made during the three years prior to Secretary Pompeo’s announcement.

As anyone familiar with prior efforts to bring the conflict to an end is aware, the various proposals have all included annexation of the main blocks of Israeli communities in return for land swaps. Since December 2016, however, the BBC has taken it upon itself to repeatedly amplify the PLO’s maximalist interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’. Sadly for BBC audiences hoping to gain better understanding of the issues behind this story, these three articles do not deviate from that editorial policy.

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim of Palestinian support for the two-state solution

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

6 comments on “Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

  1. If the 1978 memo that underpinned US claims about the illegality of the settlements is any indication, this particular “emperor” has no clothes. Sadly, there is every reason to believe that this species of intellectually bankrupt result-driven pretense of a legal argument is the norm. After all, in its Wall advisory opinion, the ICJ read out every reference to rights specifically afforded the Jewish people from the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to conclude that, contrary even to the remaining words, the Mandate’s purpose was to create two states.

    Here’s the legal argument supporting the settlements’ legality. The Mandate has the status in international law of treaties and international conventions. It gave the right, exclusively to the Jewish people, to return to their historical homeland and “closely settle” throughout – with the sole exception being privately held lands which must be purchased. The issue of sovereignty (what is meant by “national homeland”, for instance), is a separate issue from the settlement issue.

    Article 80 of the UN Charter prohibits the UN from diminishing rights granted to peoples in then existing Mandates. So nothing the UN did prior to the Mandate’s termination in 1948 could affect the right to return and settle the land. It should be obvious that the UN has no power to set or change any country’s borders.

    The only basis for abrogating Jewish rights to settle is to argue that the illegal belligerent 19 year Jordanian occupation accomplished this. If this is the case, then why wouldn’t Israel’s 1967 victory restore those rights? Was there a (convenient) change in international law sometime in between these two events. Obviously, international law holds the Jordanian aggression to be irrelevant to pre-existing rights.

    The only other basis would arise from the Jewish Agency’s willingness to agree to the 1947 UN’s non binding partition resolution. Yet, the offer was rejected by the Arabs, making it a nullify. Second, if this were true, then Israel would have no right to settle lands that went beyond those 1947 non-contiguous borders.

    So, next time some argues international law, have them back it up. UN declarations are irrelevant under Article 80. The ICJ’s advisory ruling is, as one judge put it with characteristic understatement, historically underdeveloped.

    As a matter of policy or national interests, countries can take whatever position they choose on the settlements. What they cannot properly do is pretend that their policy choice is based on the rule of law.

  2. To clarify a bit more, given the status of the Mandate, the rights granted are not limited to the existence of the Mandate but survive it. Separate is the issue of who is sovereign over the lands on which the various settlements sit. So, to find the settlements to be legal under international law says nothing as to ultimate sovereignty.

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