BBC WS culture show reinforces stereotypes by omission of context

The September 25th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘The Cultural Frontline’ included a fairly long item (from 08:10 here) described in the synopsis as follows:cultural-frontline-ws-25-9

“…Palestinian artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme reveal how their work replaces clichéd images of their region with complex film and sound tapestries.”

In her introduction to the item, presenter Tina Daheley describes the artists’ work in similar terms:

“Rather than using their work for political protest though, they try to challenge stereotypes about their region and show complexities rather than clichés.”

Listeners actually hear very little in the way of a coherent explanation about the types of “stereotypes” and “clichés” which are supposedly challenged.

Daheley: “What sort of clichés are you reacting against?”

Abou-Rahme: “Firstly of course on the kind of media representations but at the same time it’s also this sort of traps that, you know, artists fall into which is that, you know, people want you to produce certain kind of works that have very clear, tangible images. They’re ready to respond to a perception that they have of the place and experience. You know if you’re gonna see a work that’s just showing you the checkpoint again or is just…you know…what is that gonna….how is that gonna speak to Palestinian communities? So, you know, in a way for us that’s always sort of….that it really speaks to a Palestinian audience.”

However, the absence of any effort to introduce context into this item means that in fact listeners have quite a few of the “stereotypes” and “clichés” which make up a particular political narrative reinforced.

Daheley: “Their work in video, photography and installation explores themes like colonialism, militarism and the challenges of daily life in the West Bank city of Ramallah.”

Abbas: “…young people have been making trips back to the destroyed Palestinian villages inside Israel…” […] “You’re really kind of going back to the site of your own erasure…”

Abou-Rahme: “I mean the whole project really for us started a year and a half ago at a period of really kind of immense, you know, violence and also trauma – collective trauma across the region….”

Abbas: “…our lives are, like, fragmented all the time. You know, our lines of visibility are literally fragmented with walls and checkpoints but also our experience is fragmented and communities are fragmented and separated by IDs and ID colours and you’re allowed to live here, you’re allowed to live there. So our sort of collective historical narrative is constantly…there are constant attempts to always fragment it and rewrite it…”

Abbas: “So much oppression that happens these days happens on a scale of imagination, you know, so what’s oppressed is your ability to imagine it from a way of being or your ability to imagine something else.”

‘The Cultural Frontline’ describes itself as a programme “where arts and news collide”. Not for the first time, this item clearly did nothing to contribute to meeting the BBC’s remit of enhancing audience understanding of the current affairs issue to which it relates.

Weekend long read


1) At Engage, Sarah Brown reviews a new book titled “The Left’s Jewish Problem” by the CST’s Dave Rich.Weekend Read

“Many of today’s familiar anti-Israel tropes began to circulate in the late 1950s and 1960s. The PLO compared Zionism to Nazism and the Algerian National Liberation Front blamed Israel’s creation on the monopoly of finance and media held by ‘magnate Jews’. Rich explains in detail how another trope – the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa – gained so much traction. Surprisingly, the Young Liberals play a major part in this story. The relationship between this group and the wider Liberal Party was bizarrely disjunctive in the 1960s. Their vice-chairman Bernard Greaves, for example, ‘dismiss[ed] Parliament as a hindrance to “the revolutionary transformation of society”’.

Some members flirted with Communism and others engaged in violent direct action as part of their campaign against apartheid. Among the key players was Peter Hellyer, Vice-Chairman of the Young Liberals. Through his campaigning he made connections with Palestinian and other Arab activists and this political environment exposed him to Soviet and Egyptian anti-Zionist – and antisemitic – propaganda. As Rich explains, the Soviet Union was a particularly important vector for anti-Zionist discourse. Examining these 1960s networks, and the way ideas circulated within them (rather like tracing the transmission of a virus) helps explain not just the preoccupations of today’s left but the precise arguments and images they instinctively reach for.”

2) Nick Cohen’s review of the same book can be found here.

“Anti-fascism died when Islamist utopianism annihilated socialist utopianism. At a pro-Palestinian rally in the 20th century, you would hear dreams of a future where the Arab and Jewish working classes would unite in a common homeland. By contrast, at a pro-Palestinian rally led by Corbyn in 2002, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood handed out newspapers instructing marchers that man was on Earth to serve God, and Muslims and non-Muslims could not be treated equally in an Islamic state. All of a sudden, and without anything resembling a debate, the loudest voices in the British and world left were on the side of men whose prejudices, not only against Jews, but against women, homosexuals, secular societies, and human rights, combined the worst theology of the seventh century with the worst ideology of the 20th.”

3) Not unrelatedly, Jamie Palmer examines the question of “Why Doesn’t the Western Left Listen to Palestinians?”.

“The Holocaust, the Six Day War, and the PLO terror campaign of the 1970s are receding in living memory. Subsequent generations grew up watching television news reports of Israeli tanks pounding Beirut in the early 80s and stone-throwers confronting armed soldiers during the first intifada. The Left has tended to understand these images and events using an anti-imperialist and post-colonial lens that ennobles victimhood and romanticizes violent struggle.

The upshot has been the infantilization of a people whose suffering is perceived to be somehow apolitical. What Palestinians do or say is simply an expression of enraged frustration and an inevitable consequence of oppression. If Palestinian public figures incite the murder of Jews in unequivocal terms, it is to be expected, if not exactly justified. If Palestinian politics and society are dysfunctional, it is because they are laboring under occupation. If Palestinians denounce the peace process, it is because they are tired of Israeli intransigence.

It is seldom allowed that Palestinians are thinking, speaking, and acting of their own volition or in pursuit of a counter-productive and racist agenda, which does not align with the Left’s expectations and assumptions. Behind the Left’s generalities, the specifics of what this-or-that Palestinian official, newspaper, or terrorist said are therefore irrelevant. Israel is the occupying power, ergo only Israel and Israelis are capable of moral responsibility and deserving of censure.”

4) Professor Eugene Kontorovich has published a new paper titled “Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories”.

“…international law scholars, like lawyers generally, do not try to tease legal rules out of one particular case, but try to discern the pattern in the entire set of cases. Making law from one case risks serious error.

Yet that is exactly what happens with Art. 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the provision that, loosely speaking, restricts settlements in occupied territory. The provision itself is quite obscure and has never been applied in any war crimes case. Thus, looking at state practice would be particularly useful to understand the scope of its meaning.

Yet scholars and humanitarian groups have only sought to understand its meaning through the lens of one case, that of Israel. If there were no other situations to look at, this would be understandable. But, as I show in my new research paper, settlement activity is fairly ubiquitous in occupations of contiguous territory. Yet state practice in these other situations has not been used to inform an understanding of the meaning of Art. 49(6).”

A link to the paper can be found here



Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between April 1st and June 30th 2016, fifty-four reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians (along with others relating to non-Israeli Jews) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 24% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism which were current at the time or follow-up to previously reported

The remaining 76% of those articles can be divided into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Four reports related to historical subject matter.

Operation Solomon: Airlifting 14,000 Jews out of Ethiopia (25/5/16 to 28/5/16)

Items from Israel Entebbe hostage rescue (27/6/16 to 3/7/16)

Entebbe: A mother’s week of ‘indescribable fear’ (27/6/16 to 30/6/16) (discussed here)

WW2 Jewish escape tunnel uncovered in Lithuania’s Ponar forest (29/6/16 to 30/6/16)

Two reports can be categorised as miscellaneous.

‘Polish Catholic posed as rabbi’ in Poznan (20/4/16 to 21/4/16)

Angel mosaic revealed at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity (29/6/16 to 4/7/16)

10 reports related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Gush Etzion Junction: The deadly roundabout (28/4/16 to 1/5/16) (discussed here, here and here)

Israel-Palestinian tensions return to boiling point (4/5/16 to 12/5/16) (discussed here)

My son the bomber, my daughter the victim (5/5/16 to 9/5/16) (discussed here)

New hope for Holy Land’s minefield churches (16/5/16 to 18/5/16) (discussed here)

The most dangerous church in the world (16/5/16 to 17/5/16) (discussed here)

Israel-Palestinian two-state solution ‘in serious danger’ (3/6/16 to 6/6/16) (discussed here)Bangladesh art

Bangladesh home minister suggests Israel behind spate of killings (6/6/16 to 7/6/16) (discussed here)

Dead Sea drying: A new low-point for Earth (17/6/16 to 21/6/16) (discussed here)

Israel and Turkey end rift over Gaza flotilla killings (27/6/16 to 28/6/16) (discussed here)

Turkey plays diplomatic chess in Middle East (29/6/16 to 4/7/16) (discussed here)

Four reports cross-posted on the Middle East page related to UK politics and antisemitism.

MP Naz Shah suspended from Labour (27/4/16 to 28/4/16)

What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? (28/4/16 to 2/5/16) (discussed here)

Jeremy Corbyn denies crisis as Ken Livingstone suspended (28/4/16 to 30/4/16)

Chief Rabbi condemns ‘offensive’ Corbyn anti-Semitism comments (30/6/16 to 1/7/16) (discussed here)

Seven reports related to Palestinian affairs.

Gaza cinema a new experience for many with first screenings in 20 years (8/4/16 to 15/4/16) (discussed here)

Palestinian doctor turns personal tragedy into dramatic play (15/4/16 to 19/4/16) (discussed here and here)

Traditional industries in the West Bank (17/5/16 to 20/5/16) (discussed here)

New Palestinian museum opens without exhibits (18/5/16 to 20/5/16) (discussed here)

More than half UN schools in Middle East targeted in conflicts (21/5/16 to 23/5/16) discussed here)

UN alarmed by Hamas plans for executions in Gaza (26/5/16 to 27/5/16) (discussed here)

Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income (20/6/16 to 26/6/16) (discussed here)

14 articles concerned Israel related stories – mostly domestic – and they can be divided into sub categories including:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Israeli soldier ‘faces manslaughter’ for killing wounded attacker (31/3/16 to 1/4/16)

Video of Israeli soldier’s killing of Palestinian attacker fuels debate (11/4/16 to 17/4/16) (discussed here)

Israeli soldier charged over killing of wounded attacker (18/4/16 to 19/4/16)

Jerusalem Gay Pride: Ultra-Orthodox Jew convicted of murder over stabbing (19/4/16 to 20/4/16)

Israeli diamond dealer arrested amid huge fraud probe (21/4/16)

Israeli soldier goes on trial for killing wounded Palestinian attacker (9/5/16 to 10/5/16)

Jerusalem Gay Pride stabbing: ultra-orthodox Yishai Schlissel jailed for life (26/6/16 to 27/6/16) (discussed here and here)

b) immigration:

Ethiopian Jews’ Israel migration hope (28/4/16 to 2/5/16)

c) society:

Israel promotes Arab police officer to senior rank (13/4/16 to 15/4/16) (discussed here)

Jesus’s tomb in Jerusalem undergoes restoration work (6/6/16 to 8/6/16) (discussed here)

d) domestic politics:

Golan Heights ‘forever Israeli’, PM Benjamin Netanyahu vows (17/4/16 to 18/4/16)

Israel’s Netanyahu criticises military official over Nazi claim (8/5/16 to 9/5/16) (discussed here)

Israel politics: Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon resigns in protest (20/5/16 to 21/5/16) (discussed here and here)

Avigdor Lieberman named as Israel’s defence minister (25/5/16 to 27/5/16) (discussed here and here)

Internal Israeli affairs received twice as much coverage as Palestinian affairs during the second quarter of 2016. Notably, BBC audiences saw two relatively rare reports relating to social issues (taxes and executions) under the Hamas regime. As was the case in the first quarter, a significant proportion of the Israel related stories the BBC chose to publish related to domestic legal and/or criminal issues and those reports make up 13% of all the articles published during the second quarter.


Overall throughout the first half of 2016, 30.5% of the BBC’s reporting on Israel and the Palestinians related to security issues which were current at the time or were follow up to previously covered stories. The second most reported category in Q1 and Q2 was Israeli internal affairs (26.5%). Just 10.2% of the coverage related to Palestinian internal affairs.


Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one 

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

September 1st marked the 49th anniversary of the Arab League’s issuing of the Khartoum Resolutions.Khartoum summit

“…the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, “their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.’ The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent ‘phone call’ from the Arab world might be a pipe dream”.”

For years the BBC has cited the Six Day War as the central factor in its portrayal of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and even beyond. In 2007 the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen told radio audiences that:

“The legacy of 1967, military occupation and violent resistance, the unresolved refugee crisis and the competition for control of land and water…lies behind most of the shameful brutal and tragic events I have witnessed in 16 years of covering the Arab Israeli conflict for the BBC.”

“It would be bad enough if the misery of the past 40 years was confined to the Palestinians and the Israelis. But now at the start of the 21st century, their war affects all of us.. It’s at the center of the conflict between the West and the Islamic world… Ignoring the legacy of 1967 is not an option.” [emphasis added]

One might therefore expect that audiences would be able to find information concerning the Khartoum Resolutions on the BBC News website but a search for that term yields no results whatsoever.

The website’s current profile of the Arab League offers no information on that subject either and neither does its predecessor which is still available online. An old ‘timeline’ of the Arab League dating from 2011 includes the following entry for 1967 and a subsequent ‘timeline’ from 2013 offers the same information.

Arab League timeline

Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War and no doubt the BBC’s coverage of the topic will be extensive. Whether or not that coverage will finally include the provision of BBC audiences with information concerning the Arab League’s rejection of peace after losing that war remains to be seen.

Six years on: BBC backgrounder still misleads on Resolution 242

At the bottom of the recent BBC News website article concerning the visit of the Egyptian foreign minister to Israel (discussed here) readers found links to several backgrounders, one of which is titled “History of Mid-East peace talks“.

Backgrounders Egypt FM art

Although it is now date stamped July 2013, the URL is the same as that of a backgrounder of the same title produced in 2010 by Paul Reynolds. Three years ago, in July 2013, we pointed out on these pages that the backgrounder provides a misleading portrayal of Resolution 242 – and it has not been corrected since that time.History of ME peace talks

“The first entry on that page relates to the subject of UN SC resolution 242.

“Resolution 242 was passed on 22 November 1967 and embodies the principle that has guided most of the subsequent peace plans – the exchange of land for peace.

The resolution called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”, and “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.

The resolution is famous for the imprecision, in English, of its central phase concerning an Israeli withdrawal – it says simply “from territories”. The Israelis said this did not necessarily mean all territories, but Arab negotiators argued that it did.

It was written under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which Security Council resolutions are recommendations, not under Chapter VII, which means they are orders. Many peace proposals refer to 242. Resolution 338 is usually linked to it. This called for a ceasefire in the war of October 1973 and urged the implementation of 242 “in all its parts”.”

The third paragraph of this entry severely misleads BBC audiences. The wording of resolution 242 is not imprecise: it was deliberately phrased in that specific manner by those who drafted it. But by presenting that wording as some sort of typographical oversight, and by concealing the fact that many others besides “the Israelis” have, over the years, clarified that the lack of definite article in the sentence is deliberate, the BBC lays the groundwork for the presentation of attempts to distort the resolution’s intent as though they were of equal validity.”

We noted at the time that the people who drafted Resolution 242 had given ample explanation of its wording and provided several examples.History ME peace talks 2013

“There are many other examples which also clarify the fact that the wording of resolution 242 was in fact deliberately very precise and intended. It is therefore unfitting that the BBC should choose to misrepresent it in this disingenuous manner and the fact that it does so clearly contravenes BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality as well as deliberately misleading BBC audiences.”

However, as we see, nearly six years since its original publication this inaccurate portrayal of Resolution 242 is still being promoted by the BBC and continues to mislead readers.

There is obviously no value in a backgrounder which fails to present audiences with accurate information and thus actively hinders the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.

Weekend long read

Earlier this week we noted that the BBC’s coverage of the new Israeli NGO transparency law did not provide audiences with the range of accurate and impartial information needed for proper understanding of the issue. Among the issues arising was the report’s lack of any mention of similar legislation in other countries. At the Tablet, Professor Eugene Kontorovich discusses that topic.Weekend Read

“A major talking point of the law’s critics is that it has “no democratic parallel,” and that it puts Israel in the category of non-democratic regimes like Russia, and even sets it on the road to fascism. But if these claims are true, there is little hope for democracy in the U.S., which has had similar rules for decades, and imposed new ones a few years ago without a peep of international objection.”

We have often remarked here on the BBC’s absurd tendency to promote the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the Middle East conflict (it even has a sparse webpage with that title composed of material exclusively from the last Gaza conflict) and the concurrent practice of labelling reports about that particular conflict “Mid-East crisis” or “Middle East crisis“. The Times of Israel has an interesting interview with Shadi Hamid of Brookings which relates to that issue.

“In conversation with The Times of Israel, the expert explains that he believes that even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were somehow miraculously resolved tomorrow with a two-state solution, the Middle East would still be “a bloody dangerous place.”

“It feels like Israel-Palestine has almost become an afterthought for how we talk about the Middle East nowadays,” says Hamid. “It isn’t the central conflict in the region. Many of us thought it was, particularly in the pre-Arab Spring period.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the key to resolving the ongoing problems, or making peace, in the Middle East,” he concludes.”

The UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism had produced a guide titled “Recognising Antisemitism” which some BBC journalists and other employees might find helpful.

Another hole in the BBC’s Middle East narrative laid bare

Anyone who bothered to read right to the end of the article titled “Israel seals off Hebron after surge of attacks” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 1st will have come across the following portrayal of an incident which took place on that day.route 60 attack art

“Elsewhere in the West Bank a Palestinian man died during clashes at the Qalandiya checkpoint, near Ramallah, where Muslims were trying to cross to Jerusalem for prayers.

Local hospital officials say he had a heart attack brought on by inhaling tear gas.”

That account does not clarify to audiences that what the BBC describes as “clashes” was actually violent rioting by a mob of Palestinians without entry permits who tried to breach the checkpoint by force. While Palestinian sources have indeed claimed that the man’s death was related to the use of tear gas during attempts to bring the violent rioting under control, in contrast to the impression given in this report, the connection has not been definitively established.

“A Palestinian man died Friday at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, as some security forces faced off against some 1,000 Palestinians rioting at the site.

The protests erupted when dozens of Palestinians tried to break through the checkpoint in order to attend the final Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Channel 2 reported. Security forces at the site used riot dispersal measures, which Palestinian sources said included tear gas.

According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, the man in his 40s choked as a result of the use of tear gas, and was taken to hospital in Ramallah, where he was pronounced dead.

An Israeli military source said, however, that the man’s death was caused by a heart attack, not from inhaling tear gas, the Walla news website reported.

Three police officers were lightly injured in the violence, Walla said. The crossing was closed temporarily due to the riots.”

The article also included reporting on the terror attack which took place on Route 60 on the same day – as ever without any mention of the word terror.

“It comes after an Israeli man was killed and his wife and two children wounded after their car was fired on near the Jewish settlement of Otniel.

It was the second fatal attack on an Israeli in the West Bank in two days. […]

The victims of Friday’s attack were members of the same family. Local media named the dead man as 48-year-old Michael “Miki” Mark, a father-of-10.

He was killed when the car crashed after the attack. His wife and two children were taken to hospital for treatment.

Israeli forces were still searching for a Palestinian gunman.”

Readers of the report were told that:

“In the wake of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israel to deduct from tax it collects on behalf of the PA the equivalent amount which the PA pays each month to Palestinian militants jailed in Israel.

“Israel believes that the encouragement of terrorism by the PA leadership – in incitement and in payments to terrorists and their families – constitutes incentive for murder,” the prime minister’s office said.”

As has been documented here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has long ignored the subject of the salaries paid to convicted terrorists and the financial benefits awarded to the families of deceased terrorists by the Palestinian Authority and/or the PLO, despite the relevance of that topic to general audience understanding of the background to the conflict and notwithstanding the particular relevance of the issue to British tax-payers. Most readers of this article would therefore lack understanding of the context to the Israeli government’s action and statement described above.

As we see, for the second time in one day, visitors to the BBC News website came face to face with a topic that the BBC has serially excluded from its framing for years. Obviously (if the BBC really does seek to meet its obligations to its funding public) one of the tasks at the top of the list for whoever replaces Kevin Connolly at the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau should be to try to compensate for those years of neglect by providing audiences with the information of which they have been deprived on the inter-related topics of Palestinian Authority incitement, glorification of terrorism and funding of convicted and deceased terrorists.  

Related Articles:

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

Another fatal terror attack; another miserable BBC News headline

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

From the outset, the French government’s announcements concerning its recently held one day conference on the Middle East peace process made it perfectly clear that neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives would be invited.

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. He told the international press, however, that Israel and the Palestinian officials would not be invited to the meeting, which will take place in Paris.” (Times of Israel & AFP, 21st April 2016)

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday.

In an interview with four newspapers including Israel’s Haaretz and pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al-Arabi, the minister said however that Israel and the Palestinians would not be invited to the meeting in Paris.” (France 24, 22nd April 2016)

“Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discuss the peace process which has been effectively frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited.” (France 24, 17th May 2016) [all emphasis added]

However, when Jeremy Bowen reported on that conference to BBC World Service radio listeners in the June 3rd edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) he presented a markedly different picture.Newshour 3 6

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the item as follows:

“He’s beset by flooding and strikes at home but President François Hollande has nevertheless taken time to host talks in Paris with the aim of reviving Middle East peace talks. But surprisingly, neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending. Jeremy Bowen, our Middle East editor, is in Paris; so why aren’t they there?”

Bowen: “Well the Israelis don’t wanna come. They think that having an international meeting like this is completely the wrong way to proceed. They say there should be one-on-one negotiations between the two leaders of the Palestinians and of the Israelis. Ah…the Palestinians welcomed the conference but I think the fact that the Israelis aren’t coming meant that they decided to go ahead without either of them.”

In other words Bowen promoted two falsehoods in those four sentences: rather than telling listeners that Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the meeting, he falsely attributed Israel’s absence to a refusal to attend and then ‘explained’ Palestinian non-participation by means of the myth he has created.

Later on Bowen – who has been the gatekeeper of information provided to BBC audiences on the topic of this conference – once again promoted the notion that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the lynchpin of strife in the Middle East and beyond.

“What this is about is trying to get the international community to talk again about the need to have peace between the Israelis and Palestinians because it’s really rather slipped off the agenda in the last few years. There’s no peace process whatsoever and it’s been somewhat eclipsed – their own conflict has been somewhat eclipsed – by the tumult and war and chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.”

“Ah…what President Hollande, the French president, said today was that just because there are dramatic things happening elsewhere in the region, it is no reason to ignore the real dangers of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he also said that at a time – as he put it – when terrorism was spreading everywhere in the world, then people are…I think essentially he was saying that people, outsiders, had a legitimate interest in what was happening there and in trying to settle it because his belief would be that’s one of the drivers for the violence that is spreading.”

Regardless of whether or not Bowen’s paraphrasing of the French president’s “belief” is accurate, it is noticeable that he made no attempt to relieve listeners of the mistaken impression that a prime cause of terrorism in France, Belgium, Turkey, Syria or elsewhere is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He then went on to promote a theme increasingly seen in BBC content:

“What the French foreign minister said in his closing remarks was that that idea of two state solution is in great danger – he said because of the colonization of the occupied territories by the Israelis; the fact that settlements have been growing apace.”

Apace of course means swiftly or quickly and that is the term Jeremy Bowen apparently thinks is an accurate description of fewer than fourteen hundred completed construction projects annually in existing communities throughout the whole of Judea & Samaria in the three years between 2013 and 2015 inclusive. Neither of course did he bother to advise listeners of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

Bowen closed his report with some by now standard promotion of PLO talking points.

“Now the Israelis say that the problem is the fact that there is incitement against them; that Palestinians are brainwashed into hating them. The Palestinians essentially say that their people – after getting on for 50 years of occupation – are at their wits’ end, at the end of their tether and if violence happens, that’s the reason: because of those frustrations and anger and humiliation.”

An additional report by Bowen on the topic of the Paris conference will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Related Articles:

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

On February 25th the BBC News website produced an article which described a terror attack as having taken place “in the occupied West Bank” and went on to state:

“Gush Etzion, a bloc of Jewish settlements located between Jerusalem and Hebron, has been one of the focal points of a five-month surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”

There is of course nothing novel about that portrayal of Gush Etzion as being located on “occupied” land and neither is the BBC’s presentation much different from the general trend seen in much of the Western media – or indeed some Israeli media outlets.

Last week Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz produced an article in which he described Gush Etzion Junction as having been “built forcibly on their [Palestinian] land”. That article – and that sentence in particular – prompted a response from Professor Asa Kasher on Facebook.

“‘Do they imagine’, asks Gideon Levy of the settlers in his column ‘that the Palestinians will ever give up on the junction which was built forcibly on their land, against their wishes?’. That question comes to sell its readers a lie and a falsehood. Here are the facts:Migdal Eder

At the end of Hosanna Raba […] -1926 – the chairman of the association [“Memory of David”] Rabbi Menahem Kasher [my grandfather] went out accompanied by a lawyer to Migdal Eder. There, ten Arabs were gathered in one big room; these were the owners of the land. Each one of the owners present received his part in cash payment and signed his agreement to sell his part of the land of Migdal Eder (“Settlements that were Abandoned”, by Ben-Zion Michaeli, 1980).

Migdal Eder was the first Jewish settlement to be built in Gush Etzion. My grandfather and his friends were Orthodox Jews from Jerusalem who were interested in the land of Migdal Eder. The Jewish settlement was built with impressive personal and community efforts. It came to an end during the riots of 1929. The lives of the residents were saved thanks to a few friendly Arab neighbours but the settlement was robbed and totally destroyed. The settlement Migdal Eder existed exactly in the place where today Gush Etzion Junction is located. Gideon Levy is lying.”

Our colleague Hanan Amiur at Presspectiva added:

“The land at the junction was legally purchased by Jews nearly 90 years ago. The Jewish settlement in Gush Etzion began in 1927, exactly at Gush Etzion Junction, in a settlement called ‘Migdal Eder’. At that time 924 dunams in the place where today the junction is located were purchased by Orthodox Jews from Mea Shearim, from the ‘Memory of David’ association.

Two years later during the riots of 1929, the settlement was abandoned; set alight and destroyed by the Arabs. At the beginning of the thirties a private investor called Shmuel Holtzman bought the land from the ‘Memory of David’ association as well as thousands more dunams of the surrounding land and that brought about the development of Gush Etzion from the area of the junction itself to the surrounding areas on all sides.Kfar Etzion

In the place where today stands the kiosk next door to the garden centre at the junction, Holtzman built a clinic in 1932 for his son Uriel who studied medicine in France so that he could provide medical care to the residents of the area; Jews and Arabs alike. In 1936, with the outbreak of the Great Arab Revolt, the settlement was abandoned again and seven years later, in 1943, the people of Kfar Etzion resettled the Jewish lands and rebuilt (for the second time out of three) Gush Etzion.

The hand-written document below is the list made by Holtzman and his partners and on it are the names of the Jewish investors who bought the lands at the junction and in the surrounding area. It appears in Holtzman’s notebook […] which is to be found today in the archive at Kfar Etzion.”

List Hanan

Gush Etzion of course came under Jordanian occupation during the War of Independence.

“At the outset of the conflicts in 1947, Gush Etzion consisted of four settlements: Kfar Etzion (the first settlement in the area, founded in 1943), Masuot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim and Revadim. On January 14, 1947, an army of more than 1,000 Arabs, led by Abdul-Khadr Husseini, attacked the settlements. While the 450 settlers were able to repulse the attackers, the settlements were devastated, in need of reinforcements, and vulnerable to a future attack. […]

Gush Etzion was again the center of conflict in May of 1948, when, for a period of three days, residents of Kfar Etzion were able to hold off a large Arab army headed for Jerusalem. Eventually, despite surrendering to the Arab army, 240 residents of the kibbutz were massacred, another 260 were captured, and the settlement was razed.”

Nineteen years later Israel regained the area in the Six Day War.

Unlike Gideon Levy, the BBC is obliged to provide its funding public with journalism which will enhance their “awareness and understanding of international issues”. The repeated promotion of the trite and facile narrative of ‘occupied land’ not only obviously defeats that object and hampers the ability of its audiences to reach informed opinions on the topic but also denies them insight into the complex and fascinating history of land purchased by Jews nearly a century ago, conquered by Jordan and then regained by Israel. 




BBC mum on Zionist Union party’s shift on two state solution

BBC coverage of the March 2015 general election in Israel featured no small amount of messaging along the following lines:

“Voters know that the Zionist Union – the name chosen for the alliance between Yitzhak Herzog’s Labour Party and Tzipi Livni’s movement Hatnuah – would approach the prospect of talking to the Palestinians about a “land-for-peace” deal with more enthusiasm than Mr Netanyahu.” (source report discussed here)

“Everyone knows, of course, that the Israeli right, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is at best sceptical about the prospect of a peace deal with the Palestinians, while the left under Yitzhak Herzog is much keener on the kind of constructive engagement that would keep the White House and the State Department happy.”

“A Herzog-led government might have been a more comfortable partner for the US State Department and for European governments interested in reviving talks.”

“Mr Netanyahu had vowed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, while Zionist Union expressed support for a two-state solution and promised to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.” (source reports discussed here)

Given that portrayal of Yitzhak Herzog and his party as ‘the peace option’ less than a year ago, one might have thought that Herzog’s recent statements concerning the prospects of a two state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would have been of interest to the BBC.Herzog  

“Issac Herzog, leader of the opposition and chairman of the center-left Zionist Union party, said Wednesday that the two-state solution is not a realistic option in the near future.

“I don’t see a possibility at the moment of implementing the two-state solution,” he told Army Radio. “I want to yearn for it, I want to move toward it, I want negotiations, I sign on to it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now.” […]

In a move that many considered a sharp turn to the right for the leader of the Zionist Union — a party comprising the stalwart center-left Labor and Tzipi Livni’s dovish Hatnua — Herzog said he saw the need “to complete the security barrier around all of the settlement blocs.””

Herzog’s party has since endorsed his views but to date BBC audiences have yet to be informed of this significant change of approach from the Israeli centre-Left and why it came about.  

Related Articles:

Elections 2015 – a postscript on BBC framing of Israeli elections over 23 years

Elections 2015: was the BBC’s coverage impartial?