BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

As we saw in part one of this post two programmes aired on BBC Radio 4 on November 18th and November 19th promoted the myth that a statement made earlier in the day by the US Secretary of State reversed a “four-decades-old position”.

Listeners to the November 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard about that statement in three news bulletins, two of which (from 1:02:31 and from 2:02:29 here) included the same spin. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Palestinians have expressed anger after the Trump administration said it no longer considers Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. The move, announced by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reverses a forty-year-old US policy and puts Washington at odds with virtually all other countries as well as the UN Security Council’s resolutions.”

The programme also included an item relating to the same story (from 2:31:00) in which the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel told listeners that:

Sopel: “It is significant in the sense that, you know, that what happens to the West Bank and the settlements on the West Bank is kind of one of the key contested areas. For forty years it has been seen as a breach of international law that Israel were [sic] building settlements on that land and it was gonna be one of the key negotiating areas in any final settlement talks. And at a stroke Donald Trump has overturned this with the State Department saying ‘you know what? We don’t think it is illegal now and so we’re coming out and saying so’.”

Later on in the same item Sopel misled listeners with another inaccuracy.

Sopel: “But you know we’ve now seen it with…ahm…the Golan Heights which was annexed by Israel in the Six Day War that Donald Trump says ‘we think that is Israeli territory’. He surprised everybody by saying that.”

Israeli law was of course applied to the Golan Heights in December 1981 – fourteen and a half years after the Six Day War.   

As noted here earlier, we can determine that the BBC knows full well that Secretary Pompeo’s statement did not ‘reverse a forty-year-old US policy’ because in a report published on the BBC News website it clarified that:

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Nevertheless, the BBC allowed that ‘forty years’ spin to be repeatedly promoted to its domestic audiences, even in supposedly factual news bulletins.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

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

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

Financial Times corrects editorial alleging ’40 year US policy’ calling settlements “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Economist corrects article alleging ’40 year US policy’ that settlements are “illegal”  (UK Media Watch)

Political advocacy journalism distorts coverage of US Policy on settlements  (CAMERA)

24 comments on “BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

  1. A country can annexe territory but not ‘make that legal’. you appear not to understand that.
    I do believe that policy forstly under Reagan was wound back indeed was there not a a problem between the USA and Israel when James Baker was Secretary of State
    Territory occupied or taken under force is generally not reccognised under international law.

        • You have addressed the legality of annexation. Law is adopted by jurisdictional authority. What is that authority?

          • It doesn’t need to.

            International law has few institutions to interpret and in most cases it is in highly specialist cases. Furthermore few nations take their cases to them. When they do Large countries can ignore the rulings as China did not too long ago

            I think most people who specialise in international law believe if a nation annexes territory it then it does not become part of that country in a legal way. Think of Sudetenland and Germany before WW2 for example.

          • Law goes through a process of adoption and implementation. If there is no sovereign authority, then there is no law. Popularity is not a test of legality.

          • There is always law. The stronger nations a only recognise it when it suits them otherwise they follow what China did in the Soujth Seas.
            They have created islands in areas that are clearly not theirs.

          • There is no law unless there is consent of the governed or the imposition by the authority. In this case, there is neither.

            You are conflating legal authority with popularity.

          • No I am not. It has nothing to do with popularity.
            As I said Germany annexed Sudetenland . This was against international law.

            you are confusing two sets of law international law ans perhaps criminal law on a domestic level.

            A country who has annexed a territory can impose its own law even though there is no basis for it purely because of power.

            Thank of China and Tibet for example

          • This is what you have stated above: “I think most people who specialise in international law believe if a nation annexes territory it then it does not become part of that country in a legal way.” Are they all legal experts?

            Germany annexed the Sudetenland and then was forced to cede it after it had lost the war. The US annexed today what constitutes its entire Southwest. Under what legal principle was that not against international law? Another example is the UK vis a vis Ulster.

            And I do not in any support China’s annexation of Tibet. In contrast to many other examples, such as Israel, Tibet was once an independent country with a culturally distinct population.

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  3. Actually reading it again, you state who specialize in international law. However, I would like some proof to back up what you have said. Eugene Kontorovich, for one, is one of those experts and disagrees with you.

    • Sorry mate I heard it on a radio program where there were a number of legal scholars approaching the subject of south China but broached into other areas of dispute.

      So your man says if a country annexes a territory by force ( whether explicit or implicit ) then it is legally under that country.


      • Again, the fundamental difference here is that Tibet had been an independent country before China conquered it. “Palestine” has never been an independent country. Furthermore, if the legal premise that seizing territory by force is invalid, then Jordan’s annexation was also invalid. The British also no longer have a claim and the Ottoman Empire no longer exists.

        • It does not have to be a country and the Pom’s never annexed Palestine but merely controlled it.
          Unless my history is incorrect they were given a mandate by the League of Nations.

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