Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

A week after having briefed BBC journalists and four days after his colleague participated in two sympathetic BBC radio interviews, the PA representative in London, Husam Zomlot, was given another opportunity by the BBC to promote PLO taking points ahead of the Bahrain economic workshop.

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a five and a half minute item (from 34:30 here) introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “In Bahrain tomorrow the US government’s Middle East point man Jared Kushner will begin putting into practice his long-trailed plan to bring peace. It’s taken two years to construct but already the foundations of what Mr Kushner’s father-in-law President Trump hopes will be ‘the deal of the century’ look pretty shaky. The decision to put the political questions on pause and instead concentrate on raising billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy has been dismissed by the Palestinian leadership as a bribe. That leadership won’t be in Bahrain and it refuses to engage with an American administration it no longer views as an honest broker after a series of diplomatic decisions, such as moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which have delighted the Israelis. Well this was the pre-Bahrain protest on the streets of the West Bank town of Ramallah today. [recording of shouting] ‘Trump go home’ is what they shout. Well I’ve been speaking about Jared Kushner’s plan to the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husam Zomlot.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to inform his listeners that those ‘protests’ – which in some locations included violent rioting – were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction. Listeners first discovered that Mr Zomlot does not understand the meaning of the term money-laundering

Zomlot: “A plan that does not deal with the real issues is really not a plan. Call it whitewashing, money laundering [sic], whatever you want to call it but it’s not a plan. It has nothing to do with peace. Definitely it has nothing to do with us, the Palestinians.” [laughs]

Coomarasamy: “Well the other part of it is prosperity – peace to prosperity is the slogan – and there’s a lot of money – $50 billion potentially – that the Americans would like to see distributed to the Palestinian people and to your neighbours.”

Zomlot: “This is the game of deceit. If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy. It’s condescending approach by Kushner telling us and the world that Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves. He knows what’s our interest and therefore he decides it and then he releases a plan – Kushner and his team – that does not mention the word occupation or freedom or statehood or self-determination. It seems these people all what they are thinking about is cash.”

Refraining from raising the relevant topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in creating its current economic crisis and specifically the issue of its payment of cash rewards for terrorism, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “They say that there is a second stage to this; that there will be a political part of the plan but this is…the first part is to get the cash injection you do need, after all, don’t you?”

Zomlot: “Of course cash is always needed. Of course economic support is always needed but it’s a matter of priority. Cash and economic support has been happening for over 25 years by the international community but it was for a certain purpose. It was for a certain direction which is establishing a Palestinian sovereign state. The UK has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the US, Europe and what have you and we agreed to that economic assistance. But Kushner is thinking like a real estate man, not like a statesman and he thinks that Israel takes the property and we take the cash. Now Palestine is not for sale, number one. Number two: what cash? The fifty billion is not coming to the Palestinians. Around half of it will be coming to the Palestinians over a period of ten years and half of the half of it is going to be loans that will be incurring a lot of interest. We will be heavily indebted and if you do the math then we will end up with one billion every year from the international community, which we already get – but for a programme that goes towards the two-state solution on the 1967 borders according to international resolution.”

Coomarasamy failed to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” and that Zomlot’s partisan interpretation of the two-state solution does not stand up to scrutiny. Neither did he bother to ask his interviewee why the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the principle of the two-state solution throughout the 25 years that they have been receiving the foreign aid Zomlot claims was for that purpose.

Coomarasamy: “Isn’t this though at the moment the only game in town? Don’t you need to be there at the table making your argument?”

Zomlot: “Even if it’s the only game in town, when you are certain that such a game is going to be leading to the opposite direction of your national camp, of your hundred years-old movement towards your rights, then you don’t dance on this tune; you don’t engage in this.”

Coomarasamy: “So what’s the alternative?”

Zomlot: “We have many alternatives and that’s why our president went to the Security Council last year in February and said here is the Palestinian peace plan. We want to see an international peace conference. He said name me one conflict that was not resolved by international mediation and international will.”

Coomarasamy: “If you feel that this current administration in Washington is one that simply does not have your interests at heart, it’s going in a completely opposite direction to Palestinian interests, what do you do? You cannot side-step it, can you? You have to engage in some way.”

Zomlot: “We met Mr Trump himself four times. We met his team, and I was included, more than 32 times. We engaged at full at the most senior level. We have been genuine, transparent, constructive, positive and hopeful. What we learned in every turn that this is a deceitful team; that they have one plan and one plan only which is the endorsement and the legitimisation of Israel’s colonial expansion and the delegitimisation of the Palestinian national project and international legitimacy. Why would they close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington at the height of our engagement? Because they don’t see the Palestinians as a people. Why would they close the consulate general – the United States of America consulate general that was established in 1844? Because they don’t see us as a nation and they want us to be only part of Israel, part of the Israeli internal discussion. So now we are only a section in the American embassy to Israel. It’s clear what’s their intention. We cannot be just engaging for the sake of engaging.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question Zomlot’s falsehood concerning “colonial expansion” and neither did he clarify that the PLO mission in Washington was closed because the Palestinian Authority instigated moves that contravene US legislation. Likewise, Zomlot’s inaccurate framing of the reasons behind the merger of the US consulate with the US embassy in Jerusalem went unchallenged by Coomarasamy.

And so, as we see, yet another Palestinian official was given unchallenging air-time on BBC radio in order to promote his talking points while yet another BBC interviewer carefully avoided any mention of relevant but inconvenient topics such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority rewards for terrorism, Palestinian rejection of previous peace proposals, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which renders Zomlot’s claims regarding a Palestinian “national camp” commitment to the two-state solution meaningless.

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More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

 

 

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More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of a long interview (from 30:05 here) with the PLO’s Saeb Erekat which was aired on June 20th (ahead of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented by Razia Iqbal.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

From 34:09 Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “Do you think that the conference in Bahrain next week marks the beginning of the end of any notion of the two-state solution?”

Erekat: “I don’t think the notion of the two-state solution will ever disappear because it’s the only solution. If not this year, in 50 years. The difference will be how many Israelis and Palestinians will be killed because of these short-sighted, political blind politicians who believe that they’re here to carry out the settlement programme.”

With Erekat having used such terminology in the past, Iqbal should obviously have been ready to challenge that latter statement but refrained from doing so.

Iqbal: “But you say that the two-state solution will never disappear but there is also the idea of one state and equal rights for citizens, isn’t there?”

Erekat: “This will never be accepted by Israelis. Today from my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to the Mediterranean I am – a Christian and Muslim Palestinian – I’m 50.9% of the population. Benjamin Netanyahu’s 49.1% of the population.”

Iqbal: “The demographics go against it.”

BBC World Service radio listeners than heard Erekat promote the ‘apartheid’ smear – which went totally unchallenged just as was the case in his earlier interview on Radio 4.

Erekat: “So, Netanyahu and Kushner are trying to dictate what I call one state, two systems: apartheid. There are roads in the West Bank I cannot use today. I have a green ID card. Netanyahu has a blue ID card. I drive a car with white and green licence plate. Netanyahu drives a car yellow licence plate. There is a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem today than the one that existed in the darkest hours of South Africa’s apartheid. That’s the truth.”

Listeners were not told that while there is a grand total of 40.22 kms of roadway that Palestinian plated vehicles cannot use for security reasons, there are also roads – for example in Erekat’s home town of Jericho – that Israeli vehicles cannot access. Neither was it clarified that Erekat’s licence plates are a different colour to those of Israeli vehicles because he lives in Area A under total Palestinian Authority control and his vehicle registration comes from that authority, not from Israel. Likewise, Erekat is not an Israeli citizen and hence does not have the blue ID card given to all Israeli citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity.

In other words, Razia Iqbal and the ‘Newshour’ team were quite happy for listeners to go away with materially misleading impressions created by Saeb Erekat’s lies about an ‘apartheid’ system which does not exist.

Erekat: “So if one state, two system apartheid is not gonna work and we’re not gonna make work and if what many of Palestinians now are saying one state equal rights which is [unintelligible] as concept for Jews, Muslims and Christians to live equal, it’s not doable for Israelis.  Palestinian and Israeli relations is like physics; there is no vacuum. If they kill the two-state solution that will translate into blood of Palestinians and Israelis.”

Iqbal then went on to ask whether the participation of Arab states in the Bahrain workshop is a “betrayal”, to which Erekat replied in the negative, going on to claim that all participants “will say the only solution is a two-state solution, State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders”. Failing to point out to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders”, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “But given the economic…the dire economic straits that the Palestinian Authority is in, isn’t it true that there is a vested interest for Egypt and Jordan – these two states in particular – to see a real change inside the Palestinian Authority and that there is animus against Mahmoud Abbas and that their presence at the conference could result in them being on the side of the Americans and saying actually this man is not the person that will help the Palestinians in the long term?”

Erekat: “This man was elected by the Palestinian people and he’s the president of Palestinian people and our law says he’ll be in office till a new president’s elected.”

With Iqbal having brought up the topic of Abbas herself, one would have thought that she would have been able to tell her listeners that his term of office ended over a decade ago and that presidential elections have not been held since 2005.

Iqbal: “Which will be when? When’s the date of the next election?”

Erekat: “We are trying now to get Hamas to accept elections. But I will tell you something: if Mother Theresa were to be the president of Palestinians and Montesquieu to be the speaker of Palestinians and Thomas Jefferson were to be the prime minister of Palestinians and they would say together a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, they’d be branded as terrorists, corrupt, not good to govern.”

Failing to challenge that egregious assertion that Palestinian leaders have been “branded as terrorists” merely because they demand a Palestinian state, Iqbal went on to nurture Erekat’s politically motivated victimhood.

Iqbal: “And you say this because you think that there is a deep-seated…you’re suggesting that there’s a deep-seated antipathy to Palestinians per se?”

Erekat: “There is a deep ideological, religious commitment by people like Friedman, Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. These are settlers. These are belong to the school of settlers. Friedman used to be a guard in the Beit El settlement. Jason Greenblatt’s kids are studying in Gush HaTzion [sic – Gush Etzion] Israeli settlement. Their commitment is ideological. They don’t believe of us as people.”

Once again Iqbal should have been ready to challenge those claims because Erekat has used them before. She however had nothing to say about Erekat’s portrayal of US officials as “settlers” and instead  presented her last question:

Iqbal: “Do you regret being part of the Oslo agreement though in the context of the burgeoning settlements which really came out of Oslo?”

The number of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria of course cannot be accurately described as having ‘burgeoned’ since the Oslo Accords were signed and Iqbal made no effort to clarify that those agreements – signed by Erekat and his colleagues – placed no limits on construction in such communities.

Erekat: “No I don’t regret for a minute trying to achieve peace because I’m not doing anybody a favour. No-one benefits more from achieving peace more than the Palestinians and no-one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians. And I really couldn’t care less if someone is pro-Israel or someone’s pro-Palestine. My world is divided between those who are pro-peace and those who are against peace.”

Razia Iqbal could have used the opportunity presented by and eight and a half minute interview with Saeb Erekat to delve into the issue of why he and his colleagues have repeatedly thwarted peace-making efforts over the past two and a half decades and to examine the question of whether it is time for “one of the most senior and long serving Palestinian officials”, as Erekat was presented in the programme’s synopsis, to step aside after having made no progress in his ostensible mission for a quarter of a century.

But rather than raise that and no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which completely rejects the two-state solution, Iqbal was content to provide Erekat with a platform from which to present his talking points concerning the Bahrain conference largely unchallenged.

The BBC cannot seriously claim that this interview and the earlier one on BBC Radio 4 made a meaningful contribution to audience understanding of the topic.

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More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

As we saw in an earlier post the PLO’s Saeb Erekat was provided with a sympathetic BBC Radio 4 platform three days after the Palestinian Authority envoy in London gave a briefing to BBC journalists.

Erekat also appeared in an item over eight minutes long billed “Newshour speaks to one of the most senior and long serving Palestinian officials” (from 30:05 here) aired on the same day – June 20th – on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented by Razia Iqbal.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “The most intractable of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians has been on the Trump administration’s agenda since Mr Trump went into the White House. His son-in-law Jared Kushner has been tasked to come up with what Mr Trump has dubbed ‘the deal of the century’. As part of that peace plan the US is hosting an economic summit in Bahrain next month – next week in fact. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be present but the Palestinians say they were not consulted and are boycotting the summit. I’ve been speaking to Saeb Erekat who is currently the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is the chief Palestinian negotiator. I began by asking him why Palestinian officials are boycotting the summit.”

The accuracy of Iqbal’s claim (which frequently crops up in BBC content) concerning the origin of the phrase ‘the deal of the century’ is questionable. Erekat began by recycling a theme he had used in his ‘Today’ programme interview aired earlier in the day.

Erekat: “Today, June 20th, Trump has been [in] office for 28 months. Did you hear the term occupation by any of them? Did you hear the term two states by any of them? Did you hear the term settlements are illegal by any of them? Did you hear Palestinians have the right to determination by any of them? They feel they can dictate a solution on me. In the last speech Jared Kushner gave he said if Palestinians accept what we offer then they are good, they can govern their people. If they don’t accept what we offer, they’re corrupt and they’re not fit to govern.”

Razia Iqbal did not bother to intervene to inform listeners that what Erekat was referring to was an interview rather than a “speech” and that Kushner did not say the things attributed to him by Erekat. Neither did she ask her interviewee how – if as he just alleged, the Trump administration had not used the term two states in 28 months – he managed to agree with them on a two-state solution as he next claimed.

Erekat: “I engaged with them – the Trump administration – in 37 meetings in 2017. We gave every possible chance. We signed agreement. We have an agreed terms of reference – international law, Security Council resolutions – and we agreed on two-state solution. Now what the American administration is doing is destroying these terms of reference, destroying international law, destroying the two-state solution. And they’re telling me – once they finish their negotiations with Netanyahu and the Israeli settlement council which they adopted their plan – ‘come here, boy, we know what’s best for you and if you don’t accept this you’re going to be related to Bin Laden, you’re corrupt and you’re not good to govern Palestinians’.”

That unsupported claim concerning “the Israeli settlement council” went unquestioned by Iqbal just as it did in the Radio 4 interview.

Iqbal: “OK, let’s look at the issue…the allegation of corruption. When you talked about how the Americans are saying that we will look at the Palestinian situation in terms of their needs as opposed to what you want, which is your rights, isn’t it true to say that there is corruption absolutely at the heart of the Palestinian Authority; that there is mismanagement of funds?”

Erekat: “I think that it’s really unfair to say this. I’m not saying that we’re perfect. I’m not saying that we’re not doing mistakes. We’re as normal as you in Britain, as Americans, as anywhere else. But [laughs] take American aid: they have never given us a single dollar directly. They have an agency called United States International Development Agency; they spend their money through it. So do the British and the French and the Germans and the Japanese and anybody else. So do I deserve to have occupation because I am corrupt? Do I deserve to have occupation because I cannot govern myself as Kushner says?”

Failing to clarify that ‘occupation’ was the outcome of attacks launched by Arab states, Iqbal went on to blame the PA’s financial situation in part on “the occupation”.

Iqbal: “It’s not about those two things being correlated. It’s about answering questions of accountability. So if the Palestinian ministers are going to give themselves more than 60% pay rises when the economy of the Palestinian Authority is on its knees, clearly informed by the occupation but also informed by mismanagement.”

Erekat predictably skirted round that issue and went on to make the inaccurate claim that the Oslo Accords included the term ‘two-state solution’ with no correction from Iqbal.

Erekat: “This was a mistake and we do mistakes and this mistake is being corrected but the point is I am under Israeli occupation. I am not independent. I entered a contract with Israel, the PLO – the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Israeli government – under the auspices of the Americans, the Europeans, the Arab, to achieve the two-state solution. Now we have an American administration that’s saying ‘no – it’s not gonna be two states. Jerusalem is not, can’t be Palestine capital. Palestinians don’t have their actual determination and they must accept this’. And these people…the conflict is political, is about territory, is about narratives. It’s not a religious conflict. Judaism to us as Christian and Muslim Palestinians was never a threat, is not a threat, will never be a threat.”

Failing to provide her worldwide listeners with any examples of the blatant antisemitism that comes regularly from Palestinian officials and the incitement to religious war put out by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Iqbal asked:

Iqbal: “And are you saying that the Americans are casting it as a religious conflict?”

Erekat: “Absolutely. When the ambassador – so-called ambassador – Friedman says that it’s God who recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and when Pompeo the Secretary of State would say that God sent Trump to save the Jews, they are turning this into a religious conflict and this should be a red line to anyone.”

The BBC itself reported at the time that Mr Pompeo “said it is “possible” that President Donald Trump was sent by God to save Israel from Iran” but Iqbal refrained from challenging Erekat’s claims.

The rest of this interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

All three of the BBC News website’s March 21st and March 22nd reports concerning the US president’s announcement of the intention to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights included links to the BBC’s profile of that area which was last updated on March 14th.

In that profile BBC audiences are told that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.”

While that may have been the case in the past, does the Golan Heights really currently provide “a third of Israel’s water supply”?

A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water.

“The Israeli water sector has natural and artificial sources of water. The main natural sources are the Kinneret Basin, which includes aquifers and rivers that flow into the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer. Natural fresh water makes up some 40% of water consumption. In addition to the sources of natural water, two sources of artificial water play a vital role in the water sector: desalinated water (mostly seawater), which in 2016 provided 25% of water consumption, and reclaimed wastewater, used mostly for agriculture, which in 2016 provided 25% of the water consumed across all sectors.”

Moreover, rainfall on the Golan is just one of several sources of water supply to the Sea of Galilee and, as the Knesset report goes on to say:

“For years, Israel has faced a water crisis, which has manifested itself in low precipitation and dwindling natural resources (groundwater and sources of surface water, primarily the Sea of Galilee). The drought in Israel’s north, an area that usually receives greater precipitation, is particularly severe.”

“…the volume of water flowing into the Sea of Galilee in the past four years is the lowest ever on record: in August 2017, water flow to the Sea of Galilee reached a record low—that month, the Sea of Galilee lost 26 MCM of water (the previous record was set in August 2014). As a result, the water level in the Sea of Galilee is expected to drop and may break the record low set in 2001, despite the fact that almost no water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee in recent years.” [emphasis added]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Readers of this profile also find the following:

“Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.

In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.

But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee [sic] and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no such thing as a “pre-1967 border”. There is however a 1923 border set out by the then mandatory powers Britain and France.

“The territorial aspects of the Syrian-Israeli dispute date to 1920–23, when Great Britain and France devised a boundary between Syria (then including “Greater Lebanon”) and Palestine, two entities that would fall under League of Nations mandates. Often referred to as the “1923 international boundary,” the line was drawn to keep the upper course of the Jordan River (between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee) and the Sea of Galilee itself entirely within Palestine and to give Palestine a few kilometers of frontage on the Yarmouk River. Between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, the boundary ran between fifty and four-hundred meters east of the Jordan River, just below the Golan Heights. Along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, it ran parallel to the shore and ten meters from the water’s edge. Sovereignty over these water resources was vested in Palestine.” [emphasis added]

There is also a 1949 Armistice Agreement Line, which was specifically defined as not being a border. Article V of the agreement states:

“1. It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.

2. In pursuance of the spirit of the Security Council resolution of 16 November 1948, the Armistice Demarcation Line and the demilitarized Zone have been defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of the two Parties in such manner as to minimize the possibility of friction and incident, while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the Demilitarized Zone, without prejudice to the ultimate settlement.” [emphasis added]

As documented by Frederic C. Hof:

“During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian troops penetrated Palestine-Israel in several areas. When an armistice was signed in July 1949, Syrian forces still held blocs of territory west of the 1923 international boundary. The parties agreed to a compromise: Syrian forces would withdraw from the farthest extent of their advance (the truce line—later the Armistice Demarcation Line [ADL]) to the 1923 international boundary, and Israel would refrain from introducing military forces into areas vacated by Syria. Thus was created a demilitarized zone consisting of three, non-contiguous blocs of land in what had been mandate Palestine totaling 66.5 square kilometers. In some places the ADL corresponded to the 1923 international boundary, and in others it penetrated into the former Palestine mandate. The demilitarized zone was everything between the ADL and the 1923 international boundary. Syria — quite inexplicably — agreed that the ADL along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee would correspond to the 1923 international boundary (i.e., the 10-meter strip), even though its soldiers and civilians enjoyed access to the sea’s waters before, during, and after the 1948 fighting. Therefore, any time a Syrian national—military or civilian— crossed the invisible line to swim or fish an armistice violation occurred. Israel claimed sovereignty over the entire 66.5 square kilometer zone. Syria did not, reserving its claims for a future peace conference.” [emphasis added]

There is also what is termed the Line of June 4, 1967 (link includes map). That line is also not a border: it represents the positions – despite the Armistice Agreement – held by Israel and Syria on the eve of the Six Day War.

“Neither side lived up to its [Armistice Agreement] obligations. Syria retained pieces of the demilitarized zone, including the Palestinian Arab town of El Hamma on the Yarmouk River, and treated the 10-meter line paralleling the northeastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee as if it did not exist. […] Secret talks in 1952–53 to partition the demilitarized zone failed. Between 1954 and 1967 there was a “game of inches” for control of the zone, always fought to the advantage of Israel. On the eve of war in June 1967, Syria still controlled the 10-meter strip and some 18 of the zone’s 66.5 square kilometers, including El Hamma (along with a small salient to its west along the Yarmouk River), the east bank of the Jordan River between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, some high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and a small patch of land overlooking the Hula Valley.” [emphasis added]

Hof goes on:

“As a result of American shuttle diplomacy, Syria came to believe, by July 1994, that Israel would seriously contemplate full withdrawal “to the line of June 4, 1967” in return for a peace treaty satisfactorily addressing Israel’s core concerns. Syria demanded that all land wrested by Israel from Syrian control in June 1967—18 square kilometers of demilitarized zone in the Jordan Valley and the 10-meter strip along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights—be returned to Syria in its entirety. […] Syria wanted a line that had, for the most part, not been demarcated: a line that, in several key areas, corresponded neither to the 1923 international boundary nor to the 1949 ADL. Syria wanted the eve of war (1967) status quo restored and a boundary drawn reflecting, in effect, a snapshot of who was where on June 4, 1967.”

In other words, the BBC falsely claims the existence of a “pre-1967 border” and its assertion that the existence of a border to the east of the shore of the Sea of Galilee is something that only “Israel says” exists is untrue.  

The claim that a return to a “pre-1967 border” would “give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee” is inaccurate, seeing as the only border in existence prior to 1967 was the one agreed upon in 1923 by France and Britain which left access to the lake within the borders of Mandate Palestine. 

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Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part two

In part one of this post we took a look at some examples of the glaring lack of impartiality found in a programme in a series called ‘Y Wal’ (The Wall) produced by the licence fee funded Welsh language channel S4C which is currently available on BBC iPlayer.

“Ffion Dafis visits one of the world’s most controversial boundaries – the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

Those unable to view BBC iPlayer can see that programme here. English language subtitles can be activated by clicking the subtitles icon in the lower right corner and choosing ‘Saesneg’.

In this post we will look at the accuracy of the background information provided to viewers – information which, at least in theory, is supposed to enhance their understanding of the programme’s subject matter and enable them to reach informed opinions.

Just minutes into the programme its presenter – actress Ffion Dafis – tells viewers that:

[02:20] Dafis: “The turn of the millennium saw another dark chapter in the history of the conflict – the Second Intifada, or uprising. Hundreds of lives were lost on both sides. In 2002, after dozens of suicide bombings, Israel decided to build a wall.”

As we see Dafis makes no effort to inform S4C audiences of the fact that the Second Intifada terror war was planned in advance by the Palestinian leadership and she downplays the number of Israelis murdered in those attacks. Israel of course did not decide to “build a wall” but an anti-terrorist fence, the vast majority of which is made of wire mesh and while the decision to do so was indeed taken in April 2002, the first section of that fence was only completed 15 months later. Dafis goes on:

Dafis: “When completed the 700 kilometer-long concrete wall will encircle the West Bank. It is a monstrosity. It is also deemed illegal according to international law. In 2004 the International Court of Justice concluded that the wall breached humanitarian law. Israel was told to demolish it but construction work continues.”

The claim of a 700 km-long “concrete wall” is a blatant falsehood. Neither was the anti-terrorist fence ever intended to “encircle the West Bank”. The politicised conclusions of the International Court of Justice in 2004 were of course never more than an advisory opinion and Dafis’ claim that the structure is “illegal according to international law” is unfounded. Later on Dafis tells audiences that:

[06:07] Dafis: “In the aftermath of the Second World War the UN voted to divide Palestine between Arabs and Jews. In May 1948 the State of Israel was created. The Jewish people had returned to their holy land.”

Dafis fails to clarify that the 1947 UN Partition Plan was rendered irrelevant by its rejection by Arab states and the local Arab population, who together proceeded to launch violent attacks against the Jewish residents of what was still at the time British administered Mandate Palestine. With absolutely no mention of the League of Nations ‘Mandate for Palestine’ intended to establish a national home for the Jewish people, Dafis goes on:

[06:53] Dafis: “The Jewish nation were to claim more than half of Palestine’s land even though the Jewish population was less than half the population of Palestine. After two years of civil war Israel expanded its territory further. An armistice was agreed in 1949. A tentative border was drawn between Palestine and Israel –the so-called green line.”

Dafis’ claim that a “civil war” took place of course conceals the attacks by numerous Arab countries. Not only did the 1949 Armistice Agreement specifically state that the armistice line was not a border, but it was signed by Israel and Jordan – not “Palestine” – with no claims whatsoever made on that territory at the time by the local Arab population.

With no mention of the fact that Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem had been under illegal Jordanian occupation for 19 years when Jordan chose to attack Israel in June 1967, Dafis goes on:

[07:20] Dafis: “Since then, relations between the two nations have been fraught and bloody. The roots of today’s clashes lie in the 1967 six-day war when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza. Israel maintains its military occupation of the West Bank, an area which is home to 2.5 million Palestinians. Israel claims the wall is essential to protect its people and says terrorist attacks have fallen by 90%. They’re reluctant to demolish the wall.”

Using a clear Christmas reference Dafis then turns her attention to Bethlehem.

[08:26] Dafis: “South of Jerusalem, in the little town of Bethlehem, the wall is having a devastating effect on people’s lives. It snakes through the town, separating people from schools, work, families and hospitals.”

As the B’tselem map below shows, the anti-terrorist fence (marked in red, with planned construction in purple) does not ‘snake through’ Bethlehem at all – that claim is a complete falsehood.

Nevertheless, Dafis later repeats that falsehood and adds a new one: the claim that Bethlehem is “surrounded” by “settlements”.

[22:06] Dafis: “Pilgrims flock to the holy city of Bethlehem from all over the world to visit the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem lies within Area A but the city still suffers the effects of Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Tourist numbers are down and it has the highest unemployment rate in the West Bank. Bethlehem is surrounded by Israeli settlements and the wall snakes through the centre of the city.”

Viewers are again inaccurately told that the 1949 armistice line is a “border” and hear a partisan version of ‘international law’:

[09:30] Dafis: “Only a fifth of the wall follows the green line – the internationally accepted border between Israel and the West Bank. Around 80% of the wall’s route cuts into Palestinian land. In some places it encircles Jewish settlements built by Israel on Palestinian land. For generations Jewish and Arab people had lived side-by-side in these lands. Following the Six Day war of 1967 more than a million Palestinians came under Israeli control. This was the beginning of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories which continues today. For religious Jews, their victory was a miracle from God. Their dream of returning home to the holy land had been realised. They started to build settlements on the occupied land in defiance of international law. These are a major dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Today there are over 150 settlements in the West Bank with over half a million residents. But Gush Etzion was the first to be built after Israel occupied the land in 1967.”

Viewers are not informed that Jews had purchased lands in Gush Etzion long before the Jordanian invasion and ethnic cleansing and that the “first” community “to be built” – Kfar Etzion – was actually established in 1943, depopulated in 1948 and rebuilt in 1967.

Dafis’ portrayal of the Oslo Accords – signed by the PLO rather than “Palestine” as she claims – fails to inform viewers of the reasons for the failure to reach final status negotiations.

[19:48] Dafis: “In 1993 Israel and Palestine signed an agreement to bring the conflict to an end. But Palestine paid the price. The West Bank was split into three administrative divisions. […] Area C accounts for 60% of the West Bank. It was intended as a temporary arrangement. 25 years on it’s still in place.”

At 22:35 viewers hear of a “partition” that never took place.

Dafis: “On the outskirts of Bethlehem is the Aida refugee camp. This was created after the 1948 partition. The camp is overcrowded and living conditions are appalling.”

Viewers are of course given no explanation of the political reasons behind the existence of a ‘refugee camp’ in a place which has been under full Palestinian control for well over two decades.

At 28:31 Dafis comes up with the following claim:

Dafis: “In the West Bank, there are 500 checkpoints along the wall where Israeli soldiers guard the border. Israel maintains they’re essential to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. For Palestinians they represent yet another way in which the Israeli military control their lives.”

In addition to the fact that the route of the anti-terrorist fence is not a “border” and that final status negotiations to define the route of any border between Israel and a potential Palestinian state have never taken place, it is unclear where Dafis gets the conveniently round number of 500. There are in fact 14 crossings serving vehicles and/or pedestrians.

As noted in part one of this post, throughout the whole 48-minute programme viewers hear the entire anti-terrorist fence exclusively described as a ‘wall’ even though that description is inaccurate. Viewers also hear extensive use of the politically partisan term ‘Palestine’ throughout the programme despite the fact that no such state exists at this point.

[30:35] Dafis: “The wall doesn’t only separate Israel from Palestine. It also separates Palestinians from one another.”

It is difficult to recall a more blatantly one-sided and factually inaccurate programme being aired on British television and promoted on the BBC’s On Demand Programme Services (ODPS). Obviously this publicly funded production was motivated by purely political intentions rather than the aim of informing British Welsh-speaking audiences.

Related articles: 

Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part one

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 1

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 2

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

Resources:

S4C complaints

BBC complaints

 

 

 

 

Corrections secured to inaccurate BBC News website maps – part one

On February 8th 2017 the BBC News website published an article by Jonathan Marcus titled “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“ which was discussed here at the time.

The original version of that article included a map:

Several days later – sometime between February 12th and February 15th 2017 – changes were made to that map:

In July 2018 the BBC News website linked to Marcus’ 2017 article as ‘related reading’.  

Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning the inaccurate map in which he pointed out that:

Kibbutz Gadot

“In the map about half way down the page it shows a triangular area to the west of the River Jordan which is shown in yellow as “occupied by Israel”.  (It is the area just to the right of where it says “River Jordan”.)  This area has been internationally recognised as being a part of Israel since the 1949 armistice agreement.  It was a demilitarised zone (DMZ) from 1949 to 1967, but still a part of Israel.  In the middle of that zone was Kibbutz Gadot, which came under frequent bombardment by Syrian forces on the Golan Heights between 1949 and 1967.  The armistice agreement by which that area became a DMZ was superseded on May 31st 1974 by the Israel Syria disengagement agreement, which created a new DMZ, which is shown on your map as the UNDOF area.”

Mr Franklin’s initial complaint was rejected by the BBC and so he submitted a second one on July 27th, to which he received a reply on October 25th.

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled ‘Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38891358) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in our response.

After considering your point further we have amended this section of the map.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The amended map now appears as follows:

No footnote has been added to advise BBC audiences who read that article anytime during the last twenty and a half months that they had been presented with an inaccurate map.

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

According to the old adage it takes two to tango but an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis’ – which self describes as a “programme examining the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics” – managed to disregard that maxim throughout the overwhelming majority of its 27 and a half minutes.

Titled “The Middle East Conundrum” and presented by Edward Stourton, the programme – aired on July 2nd and repeated on July 8th – was described in the synopsis as follows:

“Edward Stourton asks if there any chance of a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tensions have been rising following the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the deadly clashes at the border between Israel and Gaza. The peace process – if it exists at all – seems to be in deep freeze. The idea of a two-state solution does not appear to be getting any closer, while a one-state solution would effectively mark the end of a Jewish state. Does Israel have a long-term strategy?” [emphasis added]

The programme began with a recording of a report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Bowen: “Palestinians call these protests the Great March of Return. For many of the young people who rushed the borer wire with Israel, it was a one-way journey.”

Stourton: “In mid-May, as Israel marked its 70th anniversary and the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, some 60 Palestinians were killed during protests along the Gaza border. The story’s dropped out of the headlines but the protests and the dying have continued in a steady attrition. 16 people have been killed since then and the casualty figures over the past two and a half months are now estimated at over 120 dead and more than 14,600 wounded.”

Stourton made absolutely no effort to provide listeners with essential context on the topic of why those ‘protests’ took place and who organised and funded them. He likewise refrained from informing audiences that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various Gaza based terror factions

Stourton: “For this programme we’ve been asking a question that used to make headlines and was once prominent in foreign ministerial in trays: is there a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Here’s a Palestinian perspective.”

Although unnamed, listeners then heard from Sari Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh: “Each side has become more uncertain of the other. Each side has become less interested, less hopeful of a final or permanent solution with the other. So we have been left in some kind of limbo.”

Stourton: “Here’s the view of a veteran negotiator.”

Also unnamed, that negotiator is Martin Indyk.

Indyk: “Yeah, I think that it is a depressing situation and it didn’t have to be this way. And I do feel a sense of responsibility. Having been involved in the effort over 35 years the sense of failure weighs heavily and especially because in the process of trying to resolve it, a lot of people have died on both sides.”

With no Israeli view presented, Stourton then went on to mislead listeners by referring to “Israel’s frontiers before the Six-Day War”. Those “frontiers” were of course armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders.

Stourton: “A two-state solution to the conflict with a border drawn roughly along the lines of Israel’s frontiers before the Six-Day War in 1967 is still the starting point for most Middle East diplomacy and polls suggest it’s still the most widely supported solution among Israelis and Palestinians. But it now seems so remote that people on both sides have begun to talk as if it’s a goal that will never be reached.”

Stourton then went on to reveal why Radio 4 was broadcasting an overtly one-sided programme on what – given the state of the region as a whole – it ridiculously insists on describing as “the Middle East conundrum” and “Middle East diplomacy”.

Stourton: “And because Israel is – unlike the Palestinian Authority – a fully functioning state with military superiority, we’ll be focusing on whether its government has a long-term vision of what the future might look like.”

He continued:

Stourton: “I should say at the outset that we’ve had great difficulty in persuading those members of the coalition now in power who have a reputation for bold thinking on this subject to talk to us.”

The programme’s framing – which can be boiled down to ‘how a succession of Israeli prime ministers rejected the two-state solution and so failed to make peace’ – then came into view:   

Stourton: “One way to approach the subject is through the life and career of the current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our story begins before Israel even existed, in the debates of early Zionists and the split between pragmatists like Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion and the so-called revisionist movement which counted Mr Netanyahu’s father among its supporters.”

Another unidentified voice – belonging to journalist Anshel Pfeffer – was then heard.

Pfeffer: “Well Professor Ben Zion Netanyahu believed in that very forceful, almost militaristic, way of bringing the Zionist programme to fruition; that the Jews shouldn’t compromise on any of their rights to the land of Israel, that there should be no weakness in any way shown towards the Arabs or towards international powers. Much less pragmatic approach than was being shown by the…by Ben Gurion’s Workers Party.”

Stourton: “Is it fair to say those ideas had a very profound impact on his son?”

Pfeffer: “No doubt about it.”

Stourton: “Anshel Pfeffer who’s just published a biography called ‘Bibi – The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. Mr Netanyahu first really claimed international attention at the event which raised the curtain on what became known as the peace process: the Madrid Conference in 1991. He was the prime minister’s spokesman and a real master of the sound-bite.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording:

Netanyahu: “We now have Israel that is ringed with a circle of talks. And we hope that it will replace the circle of guns that surrounds us: that this will bring peace.”

Stourton: “His boss, the prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, had – like Netanyahu senior – been a hard-liner in the days before Israel’s founding and the Americans, who sponsored the conference, had a tense time persuading him to come. Dennis Ross was a member of the American team and he doesn’t think Mr Shamir had accepted the idea of a two-state solution.”

Ross: “I think in Shamir’s case it was not so much he thought it was leading to a two-state solution. It’s just said it was leading to the unknown.”

Stourton: “Do you think he had a vision of where he wanted to end up?”

Ross: “He said that a couple of times to us that you know this is a process that’s beginning now and the issues – the real final status issues – will be dealt with after he was no longer there. I think his real approach was not driven by an objective of what he wanted as much as it was driven by a process that he hoped could be stretched out to the point where any risk that Israel might be running could be managed.”

Stourton: “The Madrid Conference did not in itself produce much movement but it was followed by the so-called Oslo Accords, negotiated in great secrecy in the Norwegian capital, which created a Palestinian Authority and gave the Palestinians a measure of autonomy. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a new Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, shook hands on the deal on the White House lawn in 1993.”

After a recording of the former US president Bill Clinton speaking at that event, Stourton introduced his next contributor.

Stourton: “But even then many Israeli leaders were reluctant to accept the idea of full statehood for the Palestinians. Yossi Beilin – now a prominent opposition figure in Israeli politics – was a key player in the Oslo negotiations.”

Yossi Beilin in fact retired from political life a decade ago, in 2008.

Beilin: “Only after the agreement with the PLO it became quite apparent that the two-state solution would be the solution but even then, until Rabin’s murder he never spoke about the full two-state solution. He spoke about a Palestinian entity which will be less of a state or something like that.”

Six minutes into the programme, listeners had by now heard three Israeli prime ministers described as opponents of the two-state solution. So would they hear portrayals of the views of Palestinian leaders of the same era on that topic?

Stourton: “In the Oslo Accords the PLO recognised the State of Israel and Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Movement on the Israeli side was matched by movement among moderate Palestinians. Sari Nusseibeh is a leading Palestinian intellectual and was a prominent champion of the two-state solution.”

While there are those who would disagree with Stourton’s portrayal of Nusseibeh, notably Stourton did not ask him for the PLO leader’s views of the two-state solution at the time.

Nusseibeh: “Well it seemed to me at the time on the Israeli side there were enough Israelis who seemed to also be saying they wanted to end the occupation, return to the ’67 borders, be content with the state they have within those borders and they were basically beginning to force a recognition of the Palestinian right of self-determination. And it seemed at the time to me that this would do as a kind of fair solution. It’s not the best solution, but as a fair solution. And on the Palestinian side, especially in the occupied territories, people also seemed to be struggling for primarily for a life of freedom, of independence, of dignity, of self-rule. So on both counts it seemed to me that this would be a good settlement.”

Stourton: “Bibi [sic] Netanyahu however did not change his thinking. In 1993 – the year of that arresting handshake between Messrs Arafat and Rabin on the White House lawn – he published a book called ‘A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World’ in which he argued for firm limits on the amount of autonomy the Palestinians should be given.”

Listeners then heard what is presumably a quote from that book (which was actually published five months before that White House lawn ceremony) which was – for some reason – read in an American accent.

“Under any conception of autonomy Israel should retain the powers and prerogatives of the sovereign including such matters as military defence, foreign affairs and control of the currency and foreign trade while the Arab population could manage many areas of daily life.”

Anshel Pfeffer then told listeners that the book “basically remains Netanyahu’s blueprint” and that in it “Netanyahu presents his version of Jewish history, his version of Jewish nationalism” and that he “pushes away any kind of Palestinian claim” and “denies the fact that there is such a thing as Palestinian nationalism in any historical sense. He treats it as being very much a manufactured notion of the mid-20th century”. Pfeffer went on to claim that the book presents  “Netanyahu’s plan for the future, for what kind of a peace solution can seriously bring peace to the Middle East and ensure Israel’s prosperity and success in the future”.

Stourton: And what does that look like in his book?”

Pfeffer: “Well it doesn’t look like the two-state solution if we have to be very honest. His solution is that Israel does not have to make any kind of concessions towards the Palestinians because Israel is in a much larger battle  for survival, not with the Palestinians but with the wider Arab world and with radical Islam and with Iran.”

By this time listeners were a third of way in to the programme and yet had not heard a single word about the terrorism that followed that White House lawn handshake in 1993 and the fact that the number of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the five years after the Oslo Accords was higher than in the fifteen years before they were signed.

Describing Arafat as “the PLO leader” while failing to clarify that he was by that time also the president of the Palestinian Authority, Stourton then went on to present a debatable picture of the Camp David summit and to portray the second Intifada as something that just “began” rather than the pre-planned terror war that it actually was.

Stourton: “The high point of hopes for a two-state solution came in the summer of 2000 when Bill Clinton brought another Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat together for 2 weeks of talks at Camp David [….]. They came tantalisingly close to a deal but they failed to get there. Two months later the second Intifada – or Palestinian uprising began. It was the beginning of the slide to today’s stalemate. Martin Indyk served two terms as the American ambassador to Israel.”

Indyk: “If we look for the tipping point it really goes back to trying to identify when the population on both sides decided that the other side had evil intent rather than benign intent. The outbreak of the Intifada convinced Israelis that giving up territory or promising to give up territory was only going to lead to more violence – and it was horrendous violence. On the other side I think the Palestinians became convinced that Oslo just brought them more settlements and more occupation. It didn’t actually lead to ending the occupation.”

Of course Indyk’s claim that Oslo “brought…more settlements” is inaccurate – as the BBC has itself reported in the past. Stourton then moved on to another Israeli prime minister.

Stourton: “In the aftermath of the Intifada Israel elected a prime minister with a reputation as the hardest of hard-liners: Ariel Sharon. He surprised everyone by deciding to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners heard an archive report from Orla Guerin which included the following:

Guerin “The night sky over Gaza suggests victory but on this historic night, remember this: there is no peace deal and no Palestinian state and Israel still controls the borders here.”

Stourton: “The logic behind his withdrawal plan – and there was talk of it being extended to the West Bank – was to create separate homes for Palestinians and Israelis not by negotiation but by unilateral Israeli action and on Israel’s terms. But that ran counter to the principle at the heart of all previous peace talks: the idea that Israel would give up land in exchange for peace.”

Indyk “Mahmoud Abbas…begged Sharon to negotiate an agreement for Israel’s withdrawal so that he would have commitments that he could impose – or at least try to impose – on the Palestinians, including on Hamas.”

Listeners were not informed that relevant agreements had already been signed – including the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which laid out exactly the kinds of “commitments” Indyk claimed were lacking.  

Stourton: “Hamas, the radical Palestinian group formally dedicated to the destruction of Israel, won elections not long after the Israeli withdrawal and later secured its power in Gaza by force.”

Indyk: “But Sharon, you know, was insistent on doing a deal with George W Bush rather than with the Palestinian leadership so the withdrawal was without any understanding, any commitment on the Palestinian side, any arrangements. It was effectively pulling out and throwing the keys over the fence.”

Stourton: “So we see the impact of that still today, do we?”

Indyk: “Profoundly, profoundly because Israel withdrew, went through the incredible pain of uprooting the…the settlers there and what it got in return was rockets. Hamas’ rockets. And so that sent a message to Israelis that, you know, giving up territory doesn’t get you peace.”

In other words, BBC audiences heard Hamas terrorism – and conclusions subsequently drawn by the Israeli public – framed as having been caused by Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.  Notably they did not hear any mention of foreign funding of Hamas.

By this time the programme was almost at its half-way point and BBC audiences had first and foremost heard how a succession of Israeli prime ministers failed to make peace. In the second part of this post we shall see whether or not any balance was introduced into the latter half of the discussion.

BBC’s Jerusalem backgrounder for young people breaches style guide

In September 2017 the BBC World Service launched a new project aimed specifically at younger audiences.

“Stephen Titherington, Sr Commissioning Editor of BBC World Service English, says: “BBC Minute has turned News on its head. Young people are information hungry, but only if it’s done in a way which matches their own energetic curiosity. With new BBC Minute Video, partners can now share vision as well as sound with their audience. We are delighted to have two new partners in Egypt and Jordan, bringing BBC Minute’s fresh sounding news coverage to more audiences in the region.”

Broadcast in the English language, BBC Minute bulletins are vibrant audio summaries of the news headlines and topical stories delivered in a high-energy style that entertains as much as it educates and informs. It is broadcast twice an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a team of young journalists in London. The team also produce BBC Minute On… which focus on a single subject or key story in more detail and is broadcast twice daily.”

Those ‘BBC Minute On’ backgrounders – billed as “making sense of the news” – are available online and hence potentially the subject of editorial complaints.

In early December 2017 one edition appeared under the title “BBC Minute: On Jerusalem“. Its synopsis states:

“The US President Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians said it would be a “kiss of death” for the Middle East peace process, but an Israeli minister urged other countries to follow the US lead. But how did the city become so politically important for both sides? The BBC’s Yolande Knell and BBC Arabic’s Hadya Al-alawi explain.”

The ‘explanation’ given to the target audience of “young people” around the world is as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Presenter: “This is BBC Minute on Jerusalem. The city’s holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. But why is it politically significant for Israelis and Palestinians? Here’s the BBC’s Yolande Knell.”

Knell: “Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city. But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured East Jerusalem and then later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally.”

Presenter: “Now about a third of the people of Jerusalem are Palestinians. But what do Palestinians in general want? Here’s BBC Arabic’s Hadya Al-alawi.”

Al-alawi: “So Palestinian authorities have been negotiating a two-state solution which means returning to the 1967 internationally recognised borders. Also they want East Jerusalem to be their capital. However Palestinians on the ground might not agree. They want the whole of Jerusalem and also returning to the historical Palestine.”

As we see, the BBC’s audiences around the world – including in Middle Eastern countries – are not given any information concerning either the status of Jerusalem before 1948, the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of the city or the circumstances that caused Jordan to enter the Six Day War and loose its hold on that territory.

Worse still, BBC audiences are presented by Hadya Al-alawi with a partisan portrayal of the two-state solution which promotes and amplifies the PLO’s interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Moreover, Al-alawi promotes the inaccurate notion that the 1949 armistice lines are “internationally recognised borders” when in fact the armistice agreement that created them specifically states that they are not borders – as does the BBC’s ‘style guide’.  

“The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. It is properly referred to as the 1949 Armistice Line – the ceasefire line of 1949. […]

In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.” 

Given Al-alawi’s subsequent use of the politically loaded term ‘historical Palestine’ and promotion of the notion of ‘return’ without clarifying to listeners that what that actually means is the destruction of Israel, it is hardly surprising that her portrayal of the 1949 ceasefire lines is likewise intended to promote a specific political narrative and agenda.

Nevertheless, one would obviously expect a BBC journalist participating in a project declared to be aimed at “making sense of the news” for young people around the world to stick to the BBC’s style guide as well as its supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

 

 

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

The US administration’s announcement of its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6th 2017 prompted an exceptionally large number of BBC reports on all its various platforms.

In six of the twenty-two written reports on the story (see here) that appeared on the BBC News website throughout December, no historical background was given at all. In eight of those articles audiences were given ‘background information’ on the city of Jerusalem that eliminated its history prior to June 1967 – for example:

Israel occupied the area in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries, including Israel’s closest ally the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 4/12/17

And:

Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 22/12/17

Seven of the 22 articles made a cursory reference to the Jordanian occupation that existed before June 1967 but failed to clarify its context or even its duration:

Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital. [emphasis added] BBC News website, 5/12/17

One report mentioned Jordan but failed to explain that it occupied parts of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]

Israel annexed the sector from Jordan after the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 6/12/17

Of the twelve filmed reports relating to the story which appeared on the BBC News website during December, only one – which, significantly, was presented as a backgrounder: “Yolande Knell explains why the city is so important” – gave any historical information. Knell told BBC audiences that:

“Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal, undivided capital”. Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city. But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and it later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally.”

As we see, Knell’s ‘backgrounder’ made no mention whatsoever of Jordan’s nineteen-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem and the fact that the later Jordanian annexation was unrecognised by the international community.

Like all the BBC’s numerous reports, this ‘backgrounder’ too failed to note the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. The belligerent British-backed Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, was completely ignored, as was the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders. Israel’s warning to Jordan not to participate in the Six Day War was also eliminated from all the BBC’s accounts of events.

A radio report by Yolande Knell aired on BBC Radio 4 on December 23rd likewise failed to inform BBC audiences of those significant factors.

“But what makes the status of the city so contentious is the part where we’re standing: East Jerusalem. It was captured by Israel in a war with its Arab neighbours fifty years ago and annexed. That move wasn’t internationally recognised…”

In response to a complaint from a member of the public about the lack of historical context in that programme, BBC Complaints claimed that:

“It is important to note that the aim of Yolande’s report was to offer insight to the listeners of the local reaction of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In this five minute report it would not be possible to give the full context and history of the city of Jerusalem.

In relation to what Yolande said about the annexing of East Jerusalem by Israel, she said it was during “a war with it’s [sic] Arab neighbours 50 years ago”. […]

The BBC have [sic] of course explored the subject of the 1967 war in detail, for example in:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-39960461

That link leads to a long article by Jeremy Bowen that appeared on the BBC News website in June 2017 and in which no attempt was made to explain Jerusalem’s pre-1948 history – including its Jewish majority – and the topic of Jordan’s occupation and subsequent unrecognised annexation of parts of the city was ignored.

There is of course nothing new about the BBC’s failure to provide its audiences with the full range of information that would enhance their understanding of the background to stories concerning Jerusalem.

But while that practice has been in evidence for years, the failure to provide even one accurate, impartial and comprehensive account of the relevant history of the city which was the topic of dozens of BBC reports on multiple platforms in one month alone is obviously remarkable.

Related Articles:

Multiple inaccuracies in BBC WS Jerusalem history backgrounder

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

For almost two years the BBC News website has been using maps credited to UNOCHA and/or the political NGO B’tselem which purport to inform audiences about the geo-political status of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, those maps describe the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City along with many other locations of pre-1948 Jewish habitation as ‘Israeli settlements’ and – as regular readers are aware – the BBC consistently steers its audience towards the view that such neighbourhoods and communities “are considered illegal under international law”.

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

Among the inaccurate features on those maps is the portrayal of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus as “Israeli settlements”.

Map as it appeared on the BBC News website between February – September 2017

The Hebrew University (established in 1925) and Hadassah Hospital (established in 1938) were both built on land purchased by Jews in 1914 and the Mount Scopus enclave remained Israeli territory throughout the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. Interestingly, B’tselem’s own map does not mark Mount Scopus as a ‘settlement’.

Map produced by B’tselem

Earlier this month BBC Watch submitted a complaint raising that specific topic and others (including the portrayal of the Jewish Quarter as a ‘settlement’), as well as the general issue of the compromise of impartiality caused by the use of partisan maps sourced from a foreign funded political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel.

The response received includes the following:

“We have rectified our map of the area of the Hebrew University/Mount Scopus. The source map had incorrectly identified it as an Israeli settlement and we have now corrected this.

The issue of Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem is obviously contentious and given the different political positions held on the matter, no map can be considered strictly neutral.

The BTselem map corresponds with the position of the UN, which considers the Jewish Quarter a settlement in occupied territory, as it does all the Jewish communities beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire line, and for this reason we do not consider it a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.”

In other words, the BBC would have us believe that its impartiality is not compromised by the use of maps that it admits are not “strictly neutral” which it sourced from an interested party because they reflect the non-legally binding position of a body which is neither a legislature nor a court. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to meet its editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing its audiences with maps reflecting any alternative views.

The amended map now looks like this:

After amendment

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Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’