BBC WS ‘World Have Your Say’ misleads on Israeli buses

The February 23rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ – which claims to “host your conversations, experiences and perspectives on the big conversations of the moment” [emphasis added] – began (from 00:46 here) with an item loosely based on a story about a catalogue designed for the orthodox sector that was published by the Ikea franchise holder in Israel and which, like a catalogue published several years ago by the company’s franchise in Saudi Arabia, excluded images of women.whys-ikea-catalogue

The item – which left listeners with some inaccurate and misleading impressions – was introduced by presenter Chloe Tilley as follows:

Tilley: “But first we’ll begin by speaking to ultra-orthodox Jews and others to pick up on a conversation surrounding a magazine released in Israel by Ikea. In it there were no photographs of women. Ikea has apologised for upsetting people but said ‘due to requests we received, we decided to launch an alternative and special catalogue which allows the religious and Haredi communities to enjoy our products in accordance with their life-style’. Well let’s speak now to Jeremy Sharon who is religious affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post. Ahm…Jeremy, just explain to us why this has become an issue in Israel.”

Sharon: “Well the truth is that this is something which has been going on for quite a long time – ehm…since the 1980s – and in some ultra-orthodox newspapers, before that as well. So I think it has jumped to the headlines because it was an international company like Ikea but in the ultra-orthodox newspapers they do not generally print pictures of women. Some in the past have even not published the names of women and referred to them by their initials. And in other publications it’s often very rare to see pictures of women published, which has changed slightly in recent years with the publication of some illustrations of women in women’s supplements in the ultra-orthodox newspapers.”

Tilley: “But this was just one supplement, wasn’t it? There was another catalogue which people may see in any other part of the world from Ikea that was distributed in Israel. This was just for the Haredi community so why are some people offended by that?”

Sharon: Well I mean I think that’s a good question. I think there is concern that Haredi norms – the norms of the ultra-orthodox society – might penetrate and move into general society. I’m not sure how well justified that is but one example has been in recent years the introduction of gender separate buses where women have to go to the back; ultra-orthodox women need to go to the back – or in fact any women travelling on those lines go to the back of the bus – and men stay on the front. Other examples also can include in certain neighbourhoods attempts to make gender segregation on pavements, on sidewalks. So I think maybe that’s the concern. Having said that, I’m not sure how justified that is but I think, I think there is a concern that this might spread or be forced on the wider public.”

The claim concerning “gender separation on pavements” relates specifically to Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox Mea She’arim neighbourhood at a certain time of the year and that was ruled illegal by an Israeli court.

“Following several years of active opposition to gender-separate sidewalks on Mea She’arim Street during the Succot holiday, Jerusalem Police said this week that they are satisfied with the arrangements for the busy thoroughfare this year.

In recent years, haredi communal leaders and hassidic yeshivas along Mea She’arim arranged for stretches of the road to be divided into separate sections for men and women during Succot to prevent intermingling – particularly during the evening, when traditional Simhat Beit Hashoeva parties are staged and thousands of people throng the neighborhood. […]

However, the High Court of Justice previously ruled that such arrangements are illegal and last October insisted that the police prevent gender-separation from 2012 onwards.”

Chloe Tilley later repeated the theme of ‘segregation’ on buses while speaking to her interviewee Ruth Colian (08:23):

Tilley: “We heard Jeremy talk about women having to sit at the back of the bus and men at the front.”

And again (at 09:42) while speaking to interviewee Esti Shushan:

Tilley: “Explain in your everyday life, how do you feel like an erased woman? As I said before, Jeremy talked about women having to sit at the back of the bus. What other segregation is there? What other restrictions, if you like, are there on your life as a woman?”

Listeners would therefore be very likely to go away with the impression that buses in Israel are “gender separated” and that women have to “sit at the back” of those buses. That, of course, is not the case and when the New York Times published a similar claim in 2013, CAMERA secured a correction.

Over six years ago – in January 2011 – Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that forced segregation on the specific bus routes dubbed ‘mehadrin lines’, which had been brought in by some private and public bus companies several years earlier, is not legal and that harassment of women to sit in a certain area of a bus is a criminal offence. The court ruled that men and women could sit separately on buses only if they did so voluntarily. Moreover, the court ruled that the public bus company ‘Egged’ had to cancel its ‘mehadrin lines’ and that buses had to carry an announcement informing passengers that everyone is entitled to sit wherever they choose (with the exception of seats reserved for people with disabilities) and that harassment of fellow passengers on that issue is illegal.egged-announcement

In other words, in contrast to the false claims made in this programme, women – ultra-orthodox or not – can sit wherever they like on buses in Israel. Clearly the BBC World Service needs to clarify the inaccurate impression given to listeners.

Related Articles:

Why was a photo-shopped image ‘top story’ on the BBC News website ME page?

The BBC, an Ultra-Orthodox paper and the censorship of images

Resources:

BBC World Service e-mail: worldservice.letters@bbc.co.uk

BBC World Service on Twitter

‘World Have Your Say’ contact details

 

 

 

 

BBC News website framing of Israeli PM’s Australia visit

Last week the BBC News website published two articles relating to the Israeli prime minister’s official visit to Australia.

1) ‘Israeli PM criticises UN ‘hypocrisy’ on historic Australia visit‘, February 22nd 2017.

2) ‘Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd berates Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu‘, February 23rd 2017.australia-visit-1

The first article is 447 words long including sub-headings. Two hundred and thirty of those words were devoted to the topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and a further 86 words to a version of an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?” which has been seen in previous reports.

Twenty-three words were used to promote a theme which has been evident in several recent BBC reports: a supposed ‘policy shift’ on the two-state solution on the part of the US administration.

Sixty-one words were devoted to amplification of criticism of the visit, together with a link to a partisan statement from individuals including anti-Israel activists.

Background information concerning the official visit was provided in 27 words and just seventeen words were used to describe its aim.

“Mr Netanyahu is in Australia for talks about expanding co-operation in cyber security, technological innovation and science.”australia-visit-2

The second article is 349 words long including sub-headings. Forty-nine words were devoted to background information. The rest of the article was given over to amplification of criticism of the visit including a link to statements made by one individual.

In summary, 45% of the 796 words produced by the BBC concerning the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Australia amplified criticism of that visit. 39% of the total word count was given over to the topic of ‘the conflict’ while 9.5% of the word count provided background information concerning the visit.

A mere 2% of the total word count related to the aim of the official visit, with BBC audiences receiving no information whatsoever about the research and travel agreements signed between the two countries.

Clearly the framing chosen by the BBC for this story was a lot less about providing audiences with an objective and informative account of the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister to Australia than it was about influencing audience perceptions through promotion of a politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

 

 

BBC avoidance of term ‘terrorist’ in Israel stories surfaces again

h/t ML

As we have seen in previous posts, the BBC’s description of the man killed by Elor Azaria in Hebron last March have ranged from “Palestinian attacker” through “wounded Palestinian” to simply non-existent. None of the BBC’s reports used the word terrorist.today-21-2

BBC Radio 4, however, came up with different terminology.

Listeners to the 06:30 news bulletin in the February 21st edition of the ‘Today’ programme heard the following report (from 32:49 here) from newsreader Kathy Clugston: [emphasis added]

“A military court in Israel is due to sentence a soldier for the killing of a wounded Palestinian fighter. Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last month in a case that’s caused division and strong feeling in Israel. He shot dead a man who was injured after he tried to kill members of the Israeli army.”

Once again we see that the BBC’s ineffectual editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ (adherence to which is entirely subjective and selective), together with the chronic failure to differentiate between the aims and actions of perpetrators of politically motivated violence, prevent the BBC from presenting a consistent, uniform approach to the subject of terrorism which adheres to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

More narrative driven BBC portrayal of the ‘peace process’

The February 15th meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington DC saw the BBC vigorously promoting the theme of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration with regard to the two-state solution:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

The next day – February 16th – the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’” which included clarification from a senior official.

‘The US ambassador to the UN has said her country “absolutely” supports the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But Nikki Haley also said the Trump administration was “thinking outside the box as well”, suggesting it was open to other possible solutions.

For many years, the US has advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

But Mr Trump indicated on Wednesday he would not insist on that. […]

“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well,” Ms Haley said on Thursday, “which is – what does it take to bring these two sides to the table? what do we need to have them agree on?”‘

Despite that clarification, the BBC continued to push the theme of a ‘policy shift’ and on the same day published an article titled “PJ Crowley: Trump unveils a subtle but vital shift in US policy” on its website’s ‘US & Canada’ page as well as in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page where it has, at the time of writing, remained for eight consecutive days.crowley-art

Ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand why the two-state solution has not been realised to date, the article states:

“A playful exchange between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually said a great deal about the dim prospects of a successful negotiation with the Palestinians under current circumstances. […]

…the parties themselves are farther apart on the substance of the process – the borders of a Palestinian state, Israeli security arrangements within a Palestinian state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – than they were at the end of the Clinton administration.”

Crowley’s ‘explanation’ of that situation begins with Israeli politics. Notably he entirely erases from his analysis the relevant issues of the Palestinian terror attacks that followed the Oslo Accords, half a decade of terror during the second Intifada and the rise in missile attacks that followed Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. 

“The centre of Israeli politics has moved markedly to the right; the left that embraced the essential bargain of the Oslo process, land for peace, has receded.

The existing Israeli governing coalition is not wired to make concessions. In fact, it is pushing Mr Netanyahu to increase the settlement presence in the West Bank while accelerating construction in East Jerusalem.”

Readers are then told that:

“In 2009, the Obama administration demanded a freeze to all settlement activity. Israel reluctantly agreed, although some growth continued within settlements Israel would keep in any final deal.

Rather than accelerate negotiations, settlements became a bone of contention within them. When the 10-month settlement moratorium ended, so did direct negotiations.”

Once again Palestinian actions are erased from the portrayal given to BBC audiences. The article neglects to inform readers that the Palestinians refused to engage in negotiations throughout 90% of the ten-month long US dictated construction freeze declared at the end of November 2009. Only at the beginning of September 2010 did the Palestinians agree to commence direct negotiations and as the construction freeze’s pre-designated time frame drew to a close on September 26th, Abbas demanded its extension and threatened to end the talks if he did not get his way, with the result that on October 2nd 2010 the negotiations ended. 

Next readers of this article are told that:

“Secretary of State John Kerry tried to achieve a framework agreement during Mr Obama’s second term, but his one-year effort fell short.”

That laconic sentence of course refers to the 2013/14 round of talks that came to an end after the Palestinians had opted to reject a framework proposed by the US, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas.

The article goes on to describe Israeli construction as a “fundamental problem” for the Palestinians without clarifying that prior to Obama’s 2009 insistence on a construction freeze, they were perfectly able to conduct negotiations on numerous occasions even though building was ongoing at the time.

“Mr Netanyahu may moderate the current pace of settlement activity but he is not going to stop it. The Palestinians will continue to see settlement activity as a fundamental problem.”

The pertinent issue of the Hamas-Fatah split is addressed in this article as follows:

“The Palestinians are deeply divided. In 2006, Hamas won an unexpected majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature over Mr Abbas’ Fatah Party. The Palestinians have lacked political unity ever since.

Today, Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, is the de facto government in Gaza. Full elections have not been held in more than a decade.”

However, the fact that Hamas is not a member of the body – the PLO – that conducts negotiations with Israel is not clarified and neither is the very relevant fact that Hamas rejects the two-state solution or that Fatah rejects one of its basic requirements: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic spike in the amount of content produced by the BBC relating directly or indirectly to the topic of the two-state solution and the ‘peace process’ in general.

In common with most of that content, this article once again fails to give BBC audiences the full range of information needed to enhance their understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have yet to bear fruit. Palestinian actions, choices, policies and decisions are erased from view while the story is framed as being about a “moribund”, “fading” two-state solution which is endangered primarily by Israeli construction and – lately – by a supposed “shift” in US policy.

Clearly that framing is not the result of an aspiration to meet the BBC’s public purpose remit but by the drive to promote a politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

BBC and Sky News promote different headlines to English and Arabic speakers

Last October we documented a case in which the same story was presented with differing headlines on the BBC’s English language and Arabic language websites.

The practice reappeared on February 21st in reports concerning the sentencing of the Israeli soldier Elor Azaria.

Visitors to the BBC’s English language website found an article titled “Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker” and while the word terrorism was absent from the report, the opening paragraph also used the term “attacker”.

“An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker in a high-profile case that split opinion across the country has been jailed for 18 months.”

In contrast, the word “attacker” did not appear in the headline of the Arabic language version of same story which was published on the BBC Arabic website under the title “Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for killing wounded Palestinian”.

azaria-english-arabic-bbc

Sky News also produces content in both English and Arabic and it too presented the story with differing headlines for different target audiences.  The headline of the English language version of the story read “Israeli soldier jailed for 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker” while the article in Arabic was titled “Lenient sentence for the Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian.”

azaria-sky-english-and-arabic

Related Articles:

BBC headlines for same story differ according to target audiences

BBC’s double standard terror terminology on view again

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

As has already been documented here, following last week’s visit by the Israeli prime minister to the White House both the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4 told their audiences of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration. [emphasis added]

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift.”

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“…President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 15th heard similar messaging in the lead story (from 01:22 here) which was introduced by Paul Henley as follows:newshour-15-2-17

“First, President Trump has given a warm welcome to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on a visit to the White House. The two leaders held a joint news conference full of mutual praise.”

Following a number of audio clips from the press conference, the item continued:

Henley: “Probably the most eagerly awaited question was whether President Trump would change the US’s long-standing policy of promoting a two-state solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is how he responded.”

Trump: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Henley: “So what is the reaction to what’s been interpreted by some as the ripping up of 30 years of US policy on Israel? Our correspondent in Jerusalem, Jonny Dymond, has been giving me his assessment.” [emphasis in bold added]

That messaging was then reinforced by Jonny Dymond. [emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “I think it represents a pretty serious shift – albeit one which was perhaps clouded by Trump’s oratorical style. Before we’d heard from President Trump and from the unnamed White House official who trailed this policy shift, the policy was pretty clear. It was that there was a two-state solution and that’s what negotiations would drive towards. Ah…ah…the State of Israel and a Palestinian state emerging next to it and the Palestinians had signed up to that, the Israelis had signed up to that with some caveats.”

Like his colleagues from the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4, Dymond presented “the Palestinians” as a homogenous group, refraining from pointing out to audiences that the Palestinian faction which gained the most votes last time elections were held certainly has not “signed up” to the idea of a two-state solution or that Hamas’ rival faction Fatah refuses to countenance a crucial component of the two-state solution concept: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. He went on:

Dymond: “It was US policy, it was the policy of the EU, it was the policy pretty much agreed upon by a number of Arab states as well. Ehm…now the president has said ‘well, take your pick; one-state solution, two-state solution’. He has effectively said the US no longer has an end point for negotiations. It will no longer drive negotiations towards any particular end point. And that is a pretty big shift in policy given that the two-state solution has been the policy for – what? – three decades or so.”

Once again BBC audiences were told that the two-state solution has been accepted policy for decades despite the fact that the Oslo Accords of the 90s make no reference to a two-state solution, leaving the issue of the final, permanent status of the territories to be negotiated between the parties.

The item continued with Dymond – in accordance with what is now standard BBC framing – describing Area C as “Palestinian land” despite the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, its final status is to be resolved through negotiations.

Henley: “And we hear that many in the Israeli government are cheered by the presence of Donald Trump in the White House and his obviously warm stance towards Israel. Are they cheered because there’s any more prospect of a peaceful resolution to this long-running conflict or simply because they think that Donald Trump will fight their corner?”

Dymond: “Oh very much the latter; that they think that Donald Trump is a supporter of Israel and will not place what they see as undue pressure on Israel over issues such as building in Palestinian land – the settlements – and forcing Israel to make painful compromises towards an eventual deal. And I think we saw and heard in the news conference which the two men gave an extraordinary level of amity from Donald Trump towards both Mr Netanyahu as an individual and also towards Israel in general. The language was extraordinary and the one moment where he mentioned the possible compromise…ah…which was on the issue of building in Palestinian land known as settlements, he said I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit. It was hardly the kind of hard line with which Mr Netanyahu was greeted when he went to see Barack Obama and they made it very clear – the administration then made it clear that as far as they were concerned, settlements were a red line. There was nothing like this. This is a much, much more friendly administration for Israel in general and for Mr Netanyahu in particular.”

As we see in this item and others (see ‘related articles’ below), February 15th brought multi-platform BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion that the US administration had changed its policy regarding the two-state solution as well as inaccurate portrayal of the Oslo Accords as including the two-state solution and inaccurate claims of a Palestinian consensus regarding acceptance of the two-state solution.

Clearly the editorial policy behind all those reports was based on narrative rather than fact and clearly none of these reports contributed to meeting the BBC’s remit of providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the topic of the two-state solution.  

Related Articles:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

 

 

 

BBC’s double standard terror terminology on view again

On the afternoon of February 21st the lead stories on BBC News website’s main homepage, World page and Middle East page were presented using the same headline:

“Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing”

BBC News website homepage

BBC News website homepage

BBC News website 'World' page

BBC News website ‘World’ page

BBC News website 'Middle East' page

BBC News website ‘Middle East’ page

That headline failed to inform BBC audiences that the person killed was a terrorist and that information was likewise absent from the sub-heading on all three pages which told readers:

“Victim’s father calls sentence a “joke” in a case which split opinion in Israel on the use of force”

Although it is impossible to know how many of the people who read that headline clicked on the link to the article, those who did found a report which – in typical BBC style – refrains from using the terms terror, terrorist or terrorism in its portrayal of an Israel-related story. 

“An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker in a high-profile case that split opinion across the country has been jailed for 18 months.” [emphasis added]

In contrast, visitors to regional pages of the UK section of BBC News website on the same day did find such terminology used in the headlines and text of domestic stories.

uk-terror-story-1

terror-uk-art-2

Once again we see that the claims concerning “consistency” and “impartiality” made in the BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism‘ do not hold water.

Related Articles:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

 

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

The February 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 19:53 here) relating to that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.twt-15-2

In that item, presented by Shaun Ley, listeners heard yet another baseless claim of a shift in US policy along with the inaccurate suggestion that the two-state solution formed part of the Oslo Accords. [emphasis added]

Ley: “Now for a quarter of a century a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been the default position of diplomats and politicians alike. It would mean an independent Palestine set up alongside Israel. Tonight at a White House news conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners then heard a recording of the US president speaking at that press conference which was apparently intended to support Ley’s claim that Trump had changed US foreign policy.

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Ley continued with what has become a standard BBC theme: promotion of ‘settlements’ as the main obstacle to an agreement, with numerous no less relevant factors such as the Hamas-Fatah split, Hamas’ rejection of the two-state solution or the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state obscured from audience view.

“Mr Netanyahu certainly received a much warmer welcome here than he had when President Obama was in the White House and he appeared to be enjoying the experience. There was an awkward moment though when, having talked about the need for compromise, the president raised the thorny issue of Israeli settlements: a longstanding obstacle to any deal.”

Another recording from the press conference was then heard.

Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started till late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

Netanyahu: “Let’s try it.”

Trump: “Doesn’t sound too optimistic…good negotiator.”

Netanyahu: “That’s the art of the deal.”

Ley then inaccurately told listeners that Netanyahu’s reply “Let’s try it” related to the topic of settlements rather than to a deal.

Ley: “Well you may just have heard, just before the end of that clip was Mr Netanyahu apparently replying to the challenge over settlements with the words ‘let’s try it’. But on the question of two states or one the Israeli prime minister said too much time over the years had been devoted to labels rather than substance.”

Netanyahu: “So here’s the substance: there are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out several years ago and they haven’t changed. First, the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state. Second, in any peace agreement Israel must retain the over-riding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river because if we don’t, we know what will happen.”

Ley: “This evening the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Donald Trump’s call on Israel to pull back on settlement building and pledged to work with the Americans. Manuel Hassassian leads the Palestinian mission in the UK. He believes President Trump made a terrible mistake.”

Listeners then heard Manuel Hassassian again promote the inaccurate notion that the two-state solution was included in the Oslo Accords. They also heard him make the false claims – completely unchallenged by Shaun Ley – that the 1949 Armistice lines are “borders” and that the definition of the two-state solution is that a Palestinian state would be established on all of the land occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Hassassian: “For the last 24 years when we embarked on the peace process, everybody agreed that the two-state solution would be the solution that will end the conflict and end the occupation – meaning that the Palestinian will have a state on the borders of 1967 as a result of the Security Council resolutions 234 and 388. There is a international consensus. International community talking all the time about a two-state solution.”

Seeing as UNSC resolution 388 relates to Rhodesia, Hassassian may have intended to say 338. However, neither UN Security Council resolution 234 nor 338 make any reference to a Palestinian state but Ley failed to challenge Hassassian on that too, continuing:

Ley: “But that consensus has achieved over 25 years next to nothing. Isn’t there an argument that actually on the ground people have long since given up on the idea of a two-state solution because they haven’t seen it…it’s been a convenient parking space for talking. It’s been a way of saying ‘oh look: we have something that we’re aiming for but then we don’t actually have to do anything about it’. Isn’t at least the consequence of this to throw all the pieces up into the air and force people to start talking for real?”

Hassassian: “Yes, the two-state solution and the peace process for the last 24 years have brought nothing except pain and humiliation and suffering for the Palestinian people. We have not seen any breakthrough in this peace process because I think the United States, personally, was not an honest broker of peace and they never really put any pressures on the Israelis to halt settlements. And settlements now are the major impediment to any kind of agreement and a lasting solution.”

Ley’s failure to challenge Manuel Hassassian on the claim that “settlements now are the major impediment” to an agreement is of course unsurprising since he too had made that same claim just minutes earlier, showing the extent to which the BBC has adopted the PLO’s talking points. Similarly failing to ask Hassassian why the PA initiated the second Intifada in 2000, why the PA refuses to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or what the PLO intends to do about Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, he continued.

Ley: “I mean President Trump did challenge the prime minister on this. He said can you…can you hold off on the settlements for a little bit.”

Hassassian: “Well basically he said it’s a problem but he did not really challenge Netanyahu to stop settlements. Since Clinton administration the US position has always been a two-state solution known [knowing] that the borders will be the 1967 borders.”

Clinton peace plan

Clinton peace plan

That claim too is of course false: the Clinton parameters (which were rejected by the Palestinians) clearly included land swaps and did not advocate a two-state solution based on mythical ‘1967 borders’. Hassassian went on:

“Now this is a dramatic shift in Trump’s policy to look at the peace process as something between two partners that can work out a solution with the blessings of the United States, short of a Palestinian state and more appeasing basic to Netanyahu. And the idea of Trump moving the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem is against international law…”

Ley: “Which he repeated again today. He repeated again today he is considering doing that or looking very seriously at it.”

Hassassian: “If he does that he is just ruining the entire peace process. He is defying the international law and he knows very well that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a breach to all kinds of agreements; to all UN Security Council, believing that Jerusalem is the united capital – the eternal capital – of the State of Israel. That will dramatically shift the entire game and the entire negotiations and the entire peace process. If he does that, this is a recipe for another intifada or a reaction and he is going to lose partners from the European Union that have adamantly supported the two-state solution when East Jerusalem is considered to be an occupied city. If he does that then there is no role for the United States as a gavel holder or as a shepherd to this entire peace process. He is opening a Pandora’s box of conflicts with the Europeans, with the Islamic world, with the Arab world, with the international community, defying UN Security Council resolutions and where does that leave us?”

Apparently uninterested in Hassassian’s unveiled threats of violence and failing to clarify to listeners that the Quartet – which includes the EU – calls for “a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem”, Ley closed the interview there.

The BBC’s remit includes the priority of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. Obviously the inaccurate and misleading claims made by the presenter together with his complete failure to challenge the falsehoods and propaganda promoted by his interviewee did nothing to contribute to meeting that objective.

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

On February 15th visitors to the BBC News website came across two articles telling them that the new US administration had changed that country’s policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says:

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift. […]

For decades successive US governments have backed a two-state solution – the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state that lives side-by-side with Israel.

But on Tuesday, an unnamed senior White House official suggested the US would support any form of final peace deal reached between Israel and the Palestinians, retreating from its long-term insistence of a two-state formula.” [emphasis added]trump-policy-change-art

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution:

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [emphasis added]

The BBC was of course not the only media outlet to promote that theme but, as Yair Rosenberg explained at the Tablet, it is not fact-based.

“Yesterday, President Donald Trump made a fairly straightforward statement about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was promptly inflated into a geopolitical earthquake by much of the media. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians-if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

As I noted at the time, this formulation did little to alter American support for the two-state solution in practice, since both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not “like” the one-state solution:

[D]ecades of polling shows that while Israelis and Palestinians narrowly support a two-state outcome, they are decidedly opposed to a one-state endgame, which many see as a recipe for strife and civil war. Most recently, a joint 2016 survey by Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 68% of Palestinians oppose the one-state solution, as do 64% of Israelis.

Thus, given Trump’s own qualifications, his words functionally did nothing to change traditional U.S. support for the two-state solution as the preferred solution of both parties. As Ilan Goldenberg, a former Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator under John Kerry, put it, “One state is being overhyped in this instance as long as Trump keeps talking about what works for both parties.” But you wouldn’t know this from reading some of the breathless reports that followed Trump’s initial statement on Wednesday.”

Rosenberg also analysed why the media – including the BBC – got this story wrong.

“The press, however, has been primed for a major Trump shift on Israel policy since day one, and has been interpreting events through that distorting lens. Searching for a dramatic sea change that simply has not arrived, reporters latched onto Trump’s largely anodyne comments about two states as confirmation, only to have their preconceived notion quickly dashed on the rocks of reality.

Of course, Trump may well decide to withdraw U.S. support for the two-state solution at some point in the future. But there is no evidence that he has done so. The histrionic hubbub surrounding his recent comments, then, should serve as a cautionary tale for media outlets about the power of narrative assumptions to overtake the actual facts.” 

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

We have on many occasions documented the use of imprecise language in BBC reports which results in audiences being given inaccurate impressions of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Last September the BBC News website corrected one such article but the phenomenon remains widespread.

On February 2nd the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.” [emphasis added]

As the Jerusalem Post noted in its coverage of that February 2nd announcement:

“This would be the first new government-authorized settlement in the West Bank since the establishment of Revava near Ariel in 1991, when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister.”

On February 6th the BBC’s Middle East editor told listeners to BBC Radio 5 live that:

“Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses in existing communities and the establishment (so far not even on paper) of a “new settlement”.

Nevertheless, the day before that announcement was made, listeners to the February 1st edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ heard Owen Bennett Jones use the inaccurate term “new settlements” to describe the announcement of building in existing communities (from 50:22 here).newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Bennett Jones: “…And there is another big development we need to mention today. The Israeli government has announced thousands more housing units for settlers on occupied territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the evacuation of an outpost. Let’s hear now from Yolande Knell.”

Following Knell’s report of the evacuation of Amona, Bennett Jones continued: [emphasis added]

“And that was Yolande Knell from Amona and we’ve still got Tim Franks on the line. So all these new…ah…new units, housing units, new settlements and then that news from Amona – is any of this tied to the new president in the United States or is it all driven internally?”

Franks: “It’s both, Owen, because I mean the case over Amona has been dragging on for years. They were talking about evicting people from Amona when I was posted here and that was some years ago. Ahm…but undoubtedly all the announcements of thousands of new…eh…eh…eh…homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – yes; the Israeli government feels liberated by the…eh…the incoming Trump administration…”

It really should not be difficult for the BBC to ensure that its journalists are aware of the difference between construction in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages and “new settlements” and that they use precise language to describe the story they are reporting in order to prevent audiences from repeatedly going away with inaccurate impressions.