BBC’s Hugh Sykes tells R4 listeners that Jews rejected the Partition Plan

As noted here previously, on June 8th Hugh Sykes produced two reports for BBC Radio 4. The second of those reports was broadcast in the programme ‘PM‘ (from 45:16 here) and presenter Eddie Mair introduces it as follows: [all emphasis in italics in the original]

Mair: “In Israel there’s a triple anniversary this year, as our correspondent Hugh Sykes explains from Jerusalem, which itself has experienced numerous car rammings and knife attacks recently. On Radio 4’s the World at One Hugh heard from Jewish Israelis who want to end the occupation. Here’s Hugh’s report for PM.”

As was the case in that earlier report, Sykes’ portrayal of attacks against Israelis (rather than the city of Jerusalem, as Mair bizarrely claims) does not include any use of the term terror. Once more, Radio 4 listeners do not hear any background information explaining why the Six Day War happened and the 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem until 1967 is again erased from audience view.

Sykes: “Since September 2015 there’ve been 58 vehicle ramming attacks here in Israel and 177 stabbing attacks on people presumed to be Jewish, killing 50 – most of the dead; Israeli Jews. 250 of the Palestinian attackers were killed by Israeli security forces – figures from the Israeli government. And these anniversaries? It’s 50 years since the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel fought against Syria, Jordan and Egypt and Israel won. 2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the occupation which ensued.”

Sykes then presents listeners with an inaccurate claim relating to the 1947 Partition Plan.

Sykes: “And 70 years ago in 1947, the UN General Assembly passed the partition resolution, recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states with economic union and an international regime for a shared Jerusalem. The two-state resolution 181 seventy years ago was rejected by Palestinians and by most Jewish organisations.”

The non-binding recommendation known as UN GA resolution 181 of course limited ‘corpus separatum’ status of Jerusalem to a period of ten years, after which “the whole scheme shall be subject to examination by the Trusteeship Council in the light of experience acquired with its functioning” and “the residents the City shall be then free to express by means of a referendum their wishes as to possible modifications of regime of the City”.

The Palestinians – in the form of the Arab Higher Committee – did indeed reject the Partition Plan outright – but so did the Arab states; unmentioned by Sykes. While some groups such as Etzel and Lehi expressed opposition to the Partition Plan, the organisation officially representing Jews in Palestine – the Jewish Agency – both lobbied for and accepted it. Sykes’ attempt to portray the plan as having been rejected by both Arabs and Jews is egregiously inaccurate, although unfortunately not unprecedented in BBC content.

Sykes then goes on:

Sykes: “Civil war broke out between Jews and Palestinians, the State of Israel was declared in 1948 immediately followed by the first Arab-Israeli war which Israel won. Many Israelis are celebrating this year as the 50th anniversary of salvation because they won the Six Day War. Palestinians are marking 50 years of occupation – a word that many Israeli Jews reject. Here are two settlers voicing views that I’ve heard here many times.”

The edited and unidentified voices that listeners then hear are of a genre the BBC so often finds fit to amplify. Sykes commences by suggesting to listeners that individuals – rather than states – are ‘occupiers’.

Sykes: “Do you feel you’re an occupier?”

Woman 1: “Hmm…I don’t know that I’d use that word. I just live here. I’m not familiar with…I don’t use that word. I do not like the word occupying. I am not.”

Sykes: “You’re 20 kilometers inside the West Bank; inside what most of the world describes as illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”

Woman 1: “Let’s just say I don’t agree with the world. Just because the whole world thinks something is right doesn’t make it right.”

Woman 2: “The solution between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is in the Bible. The land of Israel was promised to the sons of Jacob and Israel and this is why the name of the state is Israel and not Palestine. Palestine is Philistines. The Philistines have disappeared from the map of the world. In Israel, Israel is the boss.”

Having inserted the BBC’s standard portrayal of ‘international law’ (which endorses one narrative concerning what is actually an unresolved dispute), Sykes goes on to present a conversation with a shopkeeper in Jerusalem that is remarkable for his own prompting and numerous closed questions.

Sykes: “A conversation in a book shop in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is annexed and governed by Israel and there are now more than half a million Israeli settlers living in what international law regards as the occupied West Bank, though Israel disputes that. The bookshop owner is Imad Muna [phonetic].

Muna: “I was born in 1964 so on 1967 I was 3 years old. So all my life was under occupation. So I don’t know what is the difference between occupation and freedom.”

Sykes: “Do you think the occupation is permanent now?”

Muna: “I think what they call it the national project – the Palestinian national project – I think it’s fall down.”

Sykes: “It’s finished?”

Muna: “I think it’s fini…almost. Some of the people they say that it’s OK to be under occupation, under the Israeli law. So we are not united any more against the occupation. We are used to the occupation, which is dangerous. But this is our situation.”

Sykes: “Dangerous to accept it?”

Muna: “Dangerous to accept because then it will be normal; part of life.”

Sykes: “So if occupation goes on forever, which you’re suggesting, does something happen to stop it or does it just go on and on?”

Muna: “Nothing to stop it because also we are weak. As a Palestinian we are weak. We cannot do anything. The Palestinians – most of them – they’re against fighting and stabbing and bombing. Against that. “

Failing to inform listeners of the relevant issue of Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and its quotidian incitement and glorification of terrorism, Sykes goes on:

Sykes: “Do you blame your parents’ generation for rejecting the United Nations resolution which offered partition between Jews and Palestine?”

Muna: “Yes.”

Sykes: “A two-state solution in 1947 – should that have happened?”

Muna: “Yes. Yes – completely right.”

Sykes: “Do you also blame the violent Palestinians – mostly of Hamas but also of Islamic Jihad and also Fatah – for mounting that sustained suicide bombing campaign in which more than 800 people in Israel were murdered? Did that give Israel permission to remain occupiers forever?”

Muna: “It was wrong. The wall, the isolation – all the things happen because of the bombing that we did.”

Sykes: “So violent Palestinian organisations like Hamas wounded Palestinians?”

Muna:”That’s right – exactly, exactly. Every time we do it it’s come back to us.”

Sykes: “Imad Muna. In 2011 the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said that the 1947 Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan had been a mistake and if the occupation does never end,  intense Palestinian anger may return, like that expressed by a farmer I met during the second Intifada – uprising – 15 years ago.”

Listeners then hear a voiceover of an unidentified man saying:

“Three days ago the Israelis came with their bulldozers. They were uprooting olive trees and beans which we used to plant in this area. This is like cancer in the Palestinian body.”

Sykes: “A farmer in the West Bank shortly before the so-called security barrier was erected across his land.”

If a section of the anti-terrorist fence really was erected on the man’s land, he would of course have received compensation but Sykes does not trouble his listeners with such details. He closes:

Sykes: “And this year’s third Israel anniversary? It’s a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration. In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, sent a letter to Lord Rothschild in which he declared ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment of a national home for Jewish people’.”

Sykes of course misquotes that part of the short text which actually reads:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” [emphasis added]

He continues:

“His letter goes on ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’.”

With the suggestion obviously being that those rights have been prejudiced, the item closes there:

Eddie Mair: “Hugh Sykes reporting.”

Yet again we see in this item promotion of the politicised and inaccurate narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is rooted entirely in the outcome of the Six Day War – in particular ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’. Sykes’ inaccurate portrayal of Jewish acceptance of the Partition Plan obviously needs rapid and prominent correction and one can only hope that misrepresentation does not signal a taste of things to come when that anniversary is marked later this year.

Related Articles:

BBC claims Ben Gurion “opposed” the Partition Plan

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

Radio 4’s Hugh Sykes joins the BBC’s ‘it’s all down to the occupation’ binge

 

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Reviewing BBC portrayal of the 1947 Partition Plan

Members of the public looking for BBC produced information concerning the 1947 Partition Plan will find a mixed bag of results.

The content available online is untagged and hence does not appear in one place or in chronological order of publication. Members of the public might therefore encounter backgrounders in which no mention is made of the fact that the Partition Plan was rejected by the Arab states and the ‘Higher Arab Committee’ – and thus rendered irrelevant – or that violence ensued.partition-plan-2

For example, a backgrounder dating from 1997 states: 

“The Palestine partition plan was approved by the United Nations in its 128th plenary session November 29, 1947. This is the official text of the resolution which divided Palestine and created one Jewish and one Arab state.

The resolution was approved by the general assembly – 33 votes in favour, 13 votes against, with 10 abstentions.”

The timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile states:

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs.”

A BBC feature commemorating the First World War centenary (previously discussed here) states:

“The UN voted to divide Palestine into two states: one Arab, one Jewish. In 1948, Israel declared its independence; the first Arab-Israeli war began the moment the British left.”

A piece of ‘analysis‘ from 1997 even leads audiences to mistakenly believe that the fact that the Partition Plan was never implemented is attributable to the UN rather than to Arab rejection.

“Even as the votes were cast, it was unclear if the Zionists would get the two-thirds majority they needed. In the end, the resolution was passed by 33 votes to 13; Britain was one of 10 states that abstained.

The UN lacked the means to enforce the resolution and Britain had already said it intended to withdraw from Palestine. But the partition resolution gave new impetus – and new legitimacy – to the quest for Jewish statehood.”

In additional BBC material still available to audiences online the rejection is inaccurately portrayed as coming from one particular source and the role of the Arab nations in opposing the plan (and threatening violence should it be implemented) is erased from audience view.partition-plan-1

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the native Arabs, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The UN set up a special committee which recommended splitting the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Palestinian representatives, known as the Arab Higher Committee, rejected the proposal; their counterparts in the Jewish Agency accepted it.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states after Britain signals end to Mandate, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs. Arab High Committee rejects partition.” (source)

The one backgrounder (dated November 2001) in which the Arab states’ rejection of the Partition Plan is documented was corrected in 2014 after BBC Watch highlighted its erroneous claim that Ben Gurion had rejected the UN resolution.

“The Palestinians and Arabs felt that it was a deep injustice to ignore the rights of the majority of the population of Palestine. The Arab League and Palestinian institutions rejected the partition plan, and formed volunteer armies that infiltrated into Palestine beginning in December of 1947.”

The BBC’s inconsistent portrayal of the Partition Plan is obviously relevant from the point of view of the accuracy of information provided to audiences but it also has wider implications. As readers may be aware, the corporation bases its enduring refusal to describe Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on the misguided claim that:partition-plan-3

“…a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory.”

Ahead of next year’s 70th anniversary of that UNGA resolution, it is clearly high time for the BBC to ensure that all its available related content meets editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and that its audiences – as well as journalists and other staff – are given an accurate understanding of the relevance of the resolution today.

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

Back in December 2013 we noted on these pages that an online BBC backgrounder on the topic of the 1947 Partition Plan (UNGA Resolution 181) had inaccurately informed all those reading it since its publication in November 2001 that David Ben Gurion had “opposed the plan”.

“Jewish representatives in Palestine accepted the plan tactically because it implied international recognition for their aims. Some Jewish leaders, such as David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, opposed the plan because their ambition was a Jewish state on the entire territory of Mandate Palestine.” [emphasis added]

It has recently come to our attention that several months after the appearance of that BBC Watch article, the backgrounder was amended to remove that inaccurate claim and a footnote was added.

Footnote Partition Plan art

The above section of the article now reads:

“Jewish representatives in Palestine (the Jewish Agency) accepted the plan tactically – though with reluctance – because it implied international recognition for their aims of establishing a state, but on lesser territory than they considered a legal and historical right to.”BBC UN PP

Of course all those who received the inaccurate information throughout the twelve years and five months it took to correct it are unlikely to be aware that the backgrounder has been amended because (as pointed out in our submission to the DCMS charter review consultation) the BBC News website does not have a dedicated corrections page.

That backgrounder is far from the only one which would be found by a student or member of the public conducting a search on the BBC News website for information on the subject of the 1947 Partition Plan and perusal of the material available reveals a lack of both consistency and accuracy in the corporation’s presentation of the topic.

Another backgrounder dating from 1997 fails to inform readers that the recommendation for partition was rejected outright by the Arab States and hence became a dead issue.

“The Palestine partition plan was approved by the United Nations in its 128th plenary session November 29, 1947. This is the official text of the resolution which divided Palestine and created one Jewish and one Arab state.

The resolution was approved by the general assembly – 33 votes in favour, 13 votes against, with 10 abstentions.”

Similarly, the timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile also fails to inform readers that the UN recommendation was opposed by the Arab States and hence became irrelevant:

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs.”

Other BBC material available to audiences does clarify that the Partition Plan was never implemented although in much of that content, the rejection is inaccurately portrayed as coming from one particular source and the role of the Arab nations in opposing the plan (and threatening violence should it be implemented) is erased from audience view.

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the native Arabs, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The UN set up a special committee which recommended splitting the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Palestinian representatives, known as the Arab Higher Committee, rejected the proposal; their counterparts in the Jewish Agency accepted it.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

Despite their numerous faults and inaccuracies, those examples of BBC content do indicate that the corporation is aware of the fact that the 1947 Partition Plan never got off the ground.

That of course makes the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s claim that “a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded” – the claim which is the basis for the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem the capital city of Israel – all the more bizarre.

BBC Weather and a country called null

Thanks to @moidov for bringing the following to our attention via Twitter.

BBC weather app

Of course the BBC – including its weather department – has long refused to come to terms with the fact that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and this latest invention of a location called ‘null’ is therefore entirely in keeping with its existing policy.

And if readers are in need of a reminder of the embarrassingly ahistorical foundations underpinning that policy, here it is:

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory.” 

Omissions, distortions and inaccurate history in BBC WW1 ‘educational’ feature

Those following the BBC’s commemoration of the World War One centenary may have noticed this Tweet on September 20th.

Tweet BBC WW1

The link leads to a feature on the BBC’s iWonder webpage titled “Does the peace that ended WW1 haunt us today?” which is presented by the BBC News diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall.  Launched in January 2014, the iWonder brand was described by the BBC as a project intended to “educate and inform”.

“To coincide with the start of the BBC’s World War One season the BBC today launches a range of exciting digital content under a new brand called BBC iWonder.

iWonder is the new brand from the BBC designed to unlock the learning potential of all BBC content. Interactive guides – curated by experts and BBC talent including Dan Snow, Kate Adie, Ian McMillan and Neil Oliver – are the first phase of this initiative.[…]

Tim Plyming, Executive Producer for BBC Knowledge & Learning says: “Digital plays a central role in the BBC’s World War One season coverage and we’re really excited to bring audiences a range of compelling perspectives of the war. The guides span life in the trenches to poetry and propaganda and we hope each one will educate and inform the curious novice as well as the history buff.” “

Audiences might therefore reasonably expect that the content posted on the iWonder site would be historically accurate.iWonder WW1 feature

The feature is composed of eight sections and section five is entitled “Diplomatic games in the Middle East”. There audiences are given potted versions of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration.

However, absent from this section (and all others) is any mention of the San Remo Conference, the Treaty of Sèvres or the terms of the Mandate for Palestine which Great Britain was entrusted to administer on behalf of the League of Nations. Instead, a map appearing in that section inaccurately informs BBC audiences that “Britain took control of Palestine”.

Veteran BBC watchers will not be surprised by the BBC’s erasure of the agreements and treaties which form the legal foundations of the Jewish state. In fact, a search for ‘San Remo Conference 1920’ on the BBC News website turns up just one result – and that is in the corporation’s profile of Syria. BBC audiences searching the website for ‘Treaty of Sèvres 1920’ will find a result pertaining to Iraqi Kurdistan and a reference to it in an article about the Armenian church in Turkey but nothing to inform them of that treaty’s commitment to the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.

Treaty of Sevres Article 95

Treaty of Sevres Article 95

Section six of the feature is titled “The Middle East: What happened next?”. There – with no mention of the fact that the territory concerned had originally been part of that assigned to the creation of the Jewish National Home – readers are informed that:

“In Jordan, Faisal’s brother Abdullah declared himself Emir. The British acquiesced, keen to have a friendly regime that would not threaten oil pipelines coming from Iraq. Jordan became independent in 1946, and Abdullah’s descendants still rule over the country today.”

The sub-section titled “In Palestine” informs BBC audiences that:

“The numbers of Jews emigrating to Palestine increased under British supervision, especially after Hitler came to power in 1933. Arab resentment also increased.”

The average reader of that paragraph would understand it to mean that Britain facilitated immigration of Jews to Palestine as a response to the persecution of Jews in Europe. Of course the historic facts show that in fact the British limited Jewish immigration (though never Arab immigration) and Jewish land purchase throughout much of the mandate period, with the 1939 White Paper – approved by the House of Commons just weeks before the outbreak of World War II – restricting immigration to 75,000 over a period of five years and ruling that illegal immigrants would be deducted from the quota and immigration would be halted at the end of the five-year period.  

The section continues:

“After the Holocaust, in which over 6 million Jews were killed, there was a surge of Jewish immigration to Palestine. Britain struggled to contain the crisis, and handed the task of deciding the future of Palestine to the United Nations.

The UN voted to divide Palestine into two states: one Arab, one Jewish. In 1948, Israel declared its independence; the first Arab-Israeli war began the moment the British left.”

Once again we see that the BBC continues to mislead its audiences by pretending that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing. UNGA resolution 181 was of course a non-binding recommendation, the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. Whilst Jewish representatives accepted the proposal, the Arabs rejected it outright meaning that it has no contemporary relevance whatsoever. Likewise, the BBC’s suggestion that violence commenced with the departure of British forces in May 1948 is of course an inaccurate representation of history.

Section seven of the feature is titled “Does the peace still haunt us today?” and it includes a contribution from Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards. Those familiar with Milton-Edwards’ work and with her history of associations with Alastair Crooke and his ‘Conflicts Forum’ will not be surprised by the political overtones of her contribution which includes the specious claim that “radical Islamism” arose as “a reaction to foreign intervention and control”.

The trouble is, of course, that the majority of BBC audience members hoping to be educated or informed by this feature will not be aware of Milton-Edwards’ agenda and – in contradiction of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – no attempt is made to inform them of that important factor.

This feature’s distortions, inaccuracies and omissions will come as no great surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s existing record of representation of Middle East history in general and the establishment of Israel in particular. Although BBC audiences might expect editors of a feature specifically intended to “educate and inform” to take special care to adhere to BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, political motivations have once again triumphed over historical fact in this feature. That fact is particularly worrying given that presumably the item is intended to remain in the public domain for years to come as part of the BBC’s “historical records“.  

 

BBC R4 promotes unchallenged anti-Israel propaganda and warped histories of Jerusalem

On September 3rd BBC Radio 4 aired an edition of a programme called ‘Agree to Differ’ which will be repeated on the evening of September 6th and is available here. The title of the edition is “Jerusalem” and the programme is presented by Matthew Taylor – today the chief executive of the RSA and formerly Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to Tony Blair during his premiership.R4 Agree to Differ

At the beginning of the programme Taylor informs listeners:

“…we’re going to give you a completely new way to understand a controversial issue and to decide where you stand.”

“We’re looking at a dispute that’s almost as old as civilization itself. We’re exploring the respective claims of Palestinians and Israelis over the city of Jerusalem.”

That historical illiteracy unfortunately continues throughout the programme with Taylor promoting a variety of bizarre and inaccurate interpretations of historic, political and legal issues as we will soon see. 

Taylor’s guests are Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue in London and Rafeef Ziadah who is introduced only as a “Palestinian performance poet and human rights activist”. Listeners are not informed that Ziadah is a leading anti-Israel campaigner whose day job at ‘War on Want’ is titled Senior Campaigns Officer (Militarism and Security)“. Neither are they informed that she is a prominent BDS activist who sits on the steering committee of PACBI and campaigns for the dismantling of the Jewish state. So much – once again – for the supposed BBC commitment to “summarizing the standpoint” of interviewees as part of its editorial guidelines on impartiality.

Rafeef Ziadah’s political propaganda – which Taylor fails to challenge throughout the entire 42 minute programme – begins early on with her introduction of herself.

“My family are refugees, originally from Haifa. They were forced out of Palestine in 1948 and ended up in Lebanon. My grandfather died in a refugee camp still holding the key to his home in Haifa and wanting to go back.”

History, however, shows that the Arabs who left Haifa in 1948 were not “forced out” at all.

“In early April [1948], an estimated 25,000 Arabs left the Haifa area following an offensive by the irregular forces led by Fawzi al­Qawukji, and rumors that Arab air forces would soon bomb the Jewish areas around Mt. Carmel. On April 23, the Haganah captured Haifa. A British police report from Haifa, dated April 26, explained that “every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe.” In fact, David Ben-Gurion had sent Golda Meir to Haifa to try to persuade the Arabs to stay, but she was unable to convince them because of their fear of being judged traitors to the Arab cause. By the end of the battle, more than 50,000 Palestinians had left.

‘Tens of thousands of Arab men, women and children fled toward the eastern outskirts of the city in cars, trucks, carts, and afoot in a desperate attempt to reach Arab territory until the Jews captured Rushmiya Bridge toward Samaria and Northern Palestine and cut them off. Thousands rushed every available craft, even rowboats, along the waterfront, to escape by sea toward Acre (New York Times, April 23, 1948).’

In Tiberias and Haifa, the Haganah issued orders that none of the Arabs’ possessions should be touched, and warned that anyone who violated the orders would be severely punished. Despite these efforts, all but about 5,000 or 6,000 Arabs evacuated Haifa, many leaving with the assistance of British military transports.

Syria’s UN delegate, Faris el-Khouri, interrupted the UN debate on Palestine to describe the seizure of Haifa as a “massacre” and said this action was “further evidence that the ‘Zionist program’ is to annihilate Arabs within the Jewish state if partition is effected.”

The following day, however, the British representative at the UN, Sir Alexander Cadogan, told the delegates that the fighting in Haifa had been provoked by the continuous attacks by Arabs against Jews a few days before and that reports of massacres and deportations were erroneous. The same day (April 23, 1948), Jamal Husseini, the chairman of the Palestine Higher Committee, told the UN Security Council that instead of accepting the Haganah’s truce offer, the Arabs “preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings, and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town.” “

The propagation of such historical inaccuracies continues throughout the broadcast, with the first question put by Taylor being as follows:

“Who has the greater attachment and entitlement to the city and for whom Jerusalem has the greater religious, cultural, historical, political importance.”

Initially unable to get a straight answer out of Ziadah regarding Palestinian history in Jerusalem and obviously unwilling throughout to curb her exploitation of any and every question posed to promote baseless political slogans such as “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”, Taylor eventually asks:

MT: “Rafeef, to what extent is your argument that there was a de facto Palestinian state before 1948, for example if you take that particular moment; the establishment of the State of Israel?”

RZ: “Historically in that part of the world even referring back to Roman times that area was referred to as Palestine. There is a Palestinian nation. I’m a Palestinian person. I know that within Israeli and Zionist mythology they say Palestinians don’t exist but the reality is Palestinians have always existed in that territory.”

Taylor then asks his other interviewee:

“Do you recognize, Barry, that in the rich history of Jerusalem there certainly was a time when it effectively was part of a Palestinian nation?”

Taylor then promotes his own remarkably unrealistic and embarrassingly anachronistic New Labour-style view:

“OK, now let me suggest a proposition that you might agree about and see whether you’re happy with this. Jerusalem is a city that experienced many, many different rulers, different peoples in charge; that we must respect different historical and religious claims, but that no one claim can ultimately trump the others.”

He further labours the point:

“There is a recognition from both of you […] for the diverse history of Jerusalem both politically and religiously. There is a commitment that you both have that this should be a city that respects those traditions.”

Of course anyone who is familiar with Jerusalem knows full well that since June 1967 all cultures and religions have free access to their places of worship and sites of cultural importance. Later on, Taylor promotes the following notion:

“Since Israel took control in 1967, around 400 Jewish families have moved there [the Jewish Quarter in the Old City] and in 1981 Israel’s High Court ruled that to maintain its character, non-Jews were not allowed to buy property there.”

Significantly, at no point does Taylor inform his listeners that in 1948 all Jewish residents of the Old City were expelled by the Jordanians and their property taken over. Although he does not specify the court case to which he refers, Taylor apparently alludes to the Burkan case in which Jordanian citizen Mohammed Said Burkan was refused residency in the Jewish Quarter because he did not meet the requirement of being an Israeli citizen who had served in the IDF or was exempt from service. The court’s main point (p138) was that the State of Israel had an interest in the restoration of the historic Jewish Quarter from which Jews had been expelled by the Jordanians and was therefore entitled to employ positive discrimination to encourage Jews to return to the Jewish Quarter.

As is all too often the case in BBC depiction of Israel, Taylor elects to mislead audiences by discounting any history before 1967, failing to note the San Remo declaration and the Mandate for Palestine. Listeners are at no point informed that the city of Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority population since the mid-nineteenth century and furthermore he fails to point out to listeners that Jordan’s 19-year occupation was not recognized by the international community.

MT: “Before the Six Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was divided into the east annexed by Jordan and the west controlled by Israel. Since the war, Israel has controlled the whole city and many Jewish settlements have been established on the eastern side. The international community deems the Israeli occupation to be illegal, but how important is international law based on the pre-1967 boundaries?”

Listeners are – as usual and in breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality – not informed of the existence of differing legal opinions and the inaccurate myth of “pre-1967 boundaries” which were in fact 1949 Armistice Lines with no legal standing is promoted.

Taylor devotes a significant part of his programme to the discussion of “international law” and Jerusalem but revealingly, at no point does he enlighten listeners by informing them to which clause of “international law” in which document he refers or what that supposed “law” actually says. Instead, the entire discussion is based on the unsubstantiated premise that somewhere there is a legal document which rules that Israeli control of parts of a city which was only ever divided by the belligerent actions of Jordan is illegal. But the really interesting part of this programme – and what appears to be its actual aim – is Taylor’s promotion of his own view of the ‘solution’ to the issue which – remarkably or not – dovetails with existing BBC policy.

MT: “Take the religious dimension out of it. What about the United Nations proposal after the Second World War that the Old City with its key religious sites be a corpus separatum that is basically an independent city-state governed by the international community. What’s your view on that?” […]

“Barry what do you think of that United Nations idea that the Old City be a kind of separate statelet under international supervision? You think that might help things?”

Of course Taylor is misrepresenting this issue from two points of view. Firstly, he inaccurately portrays the corpus separatum idea as relating to the Old City alone when in fact it related to a considerably larger area, including parts of the territory today governed by the Palestinian Authority. Taylor also neglects to inform listeners that the plan had a ten-year time limit.

Map UN Jerusalem 1947

Secondly, as has been noted here on previous occasions, that UN proposal formed part of the 1947 Partition Plan (resolution 181) which, as Rabbi Marcus points out in the programme, was rejected by the Arab side outright and has no legal binding whatsoever because its adoption was conditional on the agreement of both parties.  

The BBC, however, not only stubbornly refuses to recognize the fact that resolution 181 has no significance but also continues to implement an editorial policy of promoting it, as can be seen in some of its Editorial Standards Committee’s distinctly odd decisions.

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

Matthew Taylor appears to have taken it upon himself to promote this red herring too in a programme which – far from achieving its stated aim of giving audiences “a completely new way to understand a controversial issue” – can only contribute to their further confusion with its misrepresentation of history and “international law”, its unchallenged promotion of baseless political propaganda such as “ethnic cleansing” or “apartheid” and its advancement of a totally irrelevant ‘solution’ which was rejected almost 70 years ago by the same Arab nations who then invaded Israel – causing people such as Rafeef Ziadah’s grandfather to become refugees and dividing Jerusalem for the first and only time in its history.

Had Matthew Taylor chosen to accurately and impartially represent those events as they actually happened, he may actually have succeeded in bringing audiences a “new way” to understand the topic: one which is not based on anti-Israel political propaganda and his own redundant culturally specific beliefs.

 

BBC claims Ben Gurion “opposed” the Partition Plan

Last Friday (November 29th) marked the anniversary of the 1947 UN GA adoption of the Partition Plan – resolution 181 – which was of course rejected outright by the Arab League and hence became null and void.

Anyone searching for information on that subject on the BBC News website will find a variety of items including maps and articles. One of those articles, dating from 2001, includes a rather curious assertion:

“Jewish representatives in Palestine accepted the plan tactically because it implied international recognition for their aims. Some Jewish leaders, such as David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, opposed the plan because their ambition was a Jewish state on the entire territory of Mandate Palestine.” [emphasis added]

BBC UN PP

No source is provided to back up the BBC’s claim that Ben Gurion “opposed the plan” or how that ‘opposition’ is supposed to have manifested itself. Of course Ben Gurion’s personal opinions on the subject are actually neither here nor there; what is important is the official position taken by the body he represented – the Jewish Agency – and as is well known, that body accepted the Partition Plan.

In the testimony he gave in July 1947 to the UNSCOP Commission (with which Arab representatives refused to cooperate) which preceded the UN vote, Ben Gurion was specifically asked about his views on the subject.

“CHAIRMAN: Do you give preference to a federal State or a partition scheme?

Mr. BEN GURION: We want to have a State of our own, and that State can be federate if the other State or States is or are willing to do so in the mutual interest, on condition that our State is in its own right a Member of the United Nations.” […]

“Mr. LISICKY: (Czechoslovakia): I presume that Mr. BEN GURION has listened to the statement of Dr. Weizmann, which was acknowledged with enthusiastic applause by the public. This statement favours a partition of Palestine into two states. I should like to hear the opinion of Mr. BEN GURION on this scheme-not his personal opinion because it is more or less known, but the opinion of the Jewish Agency. I am not asking for an immediate answer. I should prefer very much a considered opinion of the Jewish Agency after deliberation. If I may ask, I should like to see included in this considered opinion the point of view of the Jewish Agency on the possible federate scheme of these two States-a Jewish State and an Arab State-in Palestine after the partition. I do not mean any rigid federation, but rather a sort of loose confederation, a sort in which the independent character of the Jewish State should be completely set forth. I put the question, but I am not asking for an immediate answer.

Mr. BEN GURION: I will make two remarks on that. One is that Dr. Weizmann is thought so well of by the Jewish people and occupies such a place in our history and among us that he is entitled to speak for himself without any public mandate. You heard his views. I also had the pleasure of listening to them. As you do not insist on my giving you the answer now about the scheme of partition. I will not do it, but I will tell you what we told the Government last year and this year while we believe and request that our right, at least to the Western part of Palestine should be granted in full and Western Palestine be made a Jewish State, we believe it is possible. We have a right to it, but we are willing to consider an offer of a Jewish State in an area which means less than the whole of Palestine. We will consider it.” [emphasis added]

Those are not the words of a man “opposed” to partition, but of someone who both hopes for the realisation of what his nation had already been promised by the allied powers at San Remo, and yet has a pragmatic understanding of the realities facing the Jews living under the crumbling British mandate. 

Nearly two months before the UN vote and a month after the UNSCOP report had been published – on October 2nd 1947 – Ben Gurion addressed the Elected Assembly of Palestine Jews with a speech which indicates that he saw partition as a foregone conclusion.

In his book titled “Ben Gurion – A Political Biography” (1964), the former Labour MP for Coventry Maurice Edelman wrote (p 143/4):

“The British Government had carried out its intention of referring the Palestine question to the United Nations. A new commission had been set up known as UNSCOP – the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine – and once again Ben Gurion gave evidence.

Once again a committee reported; but this time a new proposal published on September 1st, 1947, called for partition.

Partition! The Peel Commission had been in favour of partition, but this was a new context. This, at last, seemed the breakthrough to which Ben Gurion had dedicated himself. This was the international endorsement which might be the alternative to the Mandate. This was the miraculous prospect of a Jewish State. Not the nadir of fortune that Weizmann had spoken of, but perhaps – perhaps its zenith. For this, Ben Gurion had fought and toiled, swept Weizmann from power, argued inflexibly with Commission after Commission. This could be the realisation of what his enemies called his madness – the State!”

And what did Ben Gurion himself have to say about his reaction to the UN decision on partition? 

“When I returned to Jerusalem I saw the city happy and rejoicing, dancing in the streets and a big crowd gathering in the yard of the Jewish Agency building. I’ll admit the truth – that joy was not my lot – not because I did not appreciate the UN’s decision, but because I knew what awaited us: war with all the armies of the Arab nations. […] I can express my impressions in two words: delight and trembling. I was happy, of course, but I was enveloped by anxiety ahead of the invasion of Arab armies…” [translation BBC Watch]

The unsourced, unsupported BBC claim that Ben Gurion “opposed” partition has remained on its website for twelve years and it is clearly high time for that inaccuracy to be corrected. But it is no less relevant to look at the function of that inaccurate claim within the context of the article as a whole. 

The only leader on either side named in that article is Ben Gurion and readers are informed that his and others’ ‘opposition’ to the Partition Plan stemmed from “their ambition was a Jewish state on the entire territory of Mandate Palestine”. 

The parties which actually did reject the Partition Plan are presented in much softer terms: 

“The Palestinians and Arabs felt that it was a deep injustice to ignore the rights of the majority of the population of Palestine.”

No mention is made of Arab ambitions to gain control of “the entire territory of Mandate Palestine” or of the Arab League’s refusal to come to terms with the concept of the existence of a Jewish state. No mention is made of the well-documented threats of violence made by Arab leaders against Jews living in Arab countries should partition go ahead.  

The impartiality of this article is severely compromised by its employment of an inaccurate assertion in order to portray the Jewish side which actually did accept partition as intransigent, whilst downplaying the motivations of the Arab side which rejected the UN recommendation.