Was BBC News reporting of the Pope’s Christmas address accurate and impartial?

On December 25th visitors to the BBC News website’s main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page found a report presented as follows:

Contrary to the impression given by that presentation, the Pope’s Christmas address did not include any mention whatsoever of the US president or his December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC article reached by clicking on that link – titled “Urbi et Orbi: Pope calls for peace for Jerusalem” – is 401 words long. Twenty-one of those words related to the US president:

“US President Donald Trump recently announced that America recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The controversial move drew international condemnation.”

Seventy-four words were devoted to the topic of the non-binding resolution passed the previous week by the UN General Assembly.

“Last week, UN members decisively backed a non-binding resolution that said any decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem were “null and void” and must be cancelled. […]

Guatemala has said it plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following Mr Trump’s announcement.

It joined the US and Israel, and Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo, in voting against the UN resolution.

However, 128 countries backed the resolution while others abstained.”

A total of 155 words were used to provide background information – in part politically partisan and lacking sufficient historical context – concerning Jerusalem.

“Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their future capital, and all countries currently keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. […]

Jerusalem is home to sites sacred to Judaism and Islam, and because of its role in the life of Jesus, the city is also one of the holiest places for Christians.

The city’s status goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

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.”

The Papal address itself was given 151 words of coverage with one hundred and three of those words relating to Israel and the Palestinians and a mere 25 words relating to the rest of the world.

“Pope Francis has used his traditional Christmas Day message to call for “peace for Jerusalem” and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

Acknowledging “growing tensions” between them, he urged a “negotiated solution… that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states”. […]

The Roman Catholic leader gave his Urbi et Orbi speech, which in Latin means “To the city and world”, in Saint Peter’s Square.

“On this festive day let us ask the lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land,” he told the crowd.

“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders.”

The pontiff’s speech touched on other pressing international issues, from the migration crisis to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, from Venezuela to North Korea.”

BBC audiences would clearly get the impression from that report that the focus of the Pope’s address was on Israel and the Palestinians and that he merely “touched on” other issues.

However, examination of the actual 932 word address delivered by the Pope shows that while he used 118 words to speak about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he devoted 439 words to speaking about other topics including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Africa, Venezuela, North Korea, Ukraine, Myanmar, Bangladesh, children of unemployed parents, migrants and child labour.

So while 80.5% of the BBC’s coverage of the speech related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in fact that topic featured in just 21.2% of the parts of the address relating to specific countries and issues and in 12.7% of the speech as a whole.

Obviously the BBC News website cannot claim to have reported that Papal address in a manner that accurately and impartially reflects its content and its focus.

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BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

A filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell that appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 2nd under the headline “Balfour Declaration: 100 years of conflict” opened with footage filmed in what is inaccurately described as a “museum”.

In fact, that footage was filmed in the same place as two additional reports appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day: a location previously correctly described by the BBC as “a political statement”.  

The report opens:

“This exhibit shows the signing of a controversial letter which helped transform the Middle East. It’s the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour 100 years ago.”

Yolande Knell: “And this is actually the same declaration over here and then this is the key bit where it says that the government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. But at the same time, nothing shall be done which prejudices the rights of existing non-Jewish communities.”

“It meant, for the first time, official recognition for a Jewish homeland.”

Knell’s lax paraphrasing of the wording of the Balfour Declaration fails to clarify to viewers that it specifically referred to “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” rather than “rights” in general.

There is of course a third part to the Balfour Declaration: “nothing shall be done which may prejudice […] the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”. As has been the case across the board in the BBC’s ample coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary, viewers of this report were not told of the existence of that part of the document or of the ancient Jewish communities subsequently forced out of Arab and Muslim lands.

Following archive material, the film continues with some specious history that fails to clarify the Ottoman Empire’s role in the First World War or the fact that British control over the region was achieved through military action.

“During WW1, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain took control of Palestine. It had a large Arab majority but the Jewish population was growing. When Lord Balfour visited in 1925 Jewish residents welcomed him warmly. The Balfour Declaration is now seen as a major step in creating the modern state of Israel in 1948. Balfour’s text was deliberately ambiguous. But Palestinians are taught that it sowed the seeds of their long-standing conflict with Israel.”

That conflict of course began well over two and a half decades before Israel came into existence but the BBC avoids portraying it as being rooted in anti-Jewish violence.

Viewers are told that:

“The current Lord Balfour takes a special interest in the Middle East and in this centenary.”

Lord Balfour: “I think we should commemorate it rather than celebrate it. I don’t think we can celebrate while we have this friction.”

The film closes with promotion of the PA/PLO’s chosen narrative concerning the centenary.

“Now the Israeli prime minister has been invited to London for the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Palestinians are angry. They feel the UK owes them an apology for what they see as an historical injustice. The UK has rejected the call, saying it will mark the occasion with pride.”

Once again we see that the BBC’s ample coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary is focused on amplifying Palestinian messaging on the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

Multiplatform BBC amplification for anti-Israel ‘political statement’ PR campaign

 

 

BBC Radio 4 puff piece on an anti-Zionist

On October 15th BBC Radio 4 aired a half-hour long programme called “My Father’s Israel” that is described in its synopsis as follows:

“How a bitter dispute over Israel’s future split a country and divided a family. In June 1967, Israel had just won the Six Day War, defeating the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and occupying much new territory. Israelis sensed a transformation in their country’s destiny. Most were euphoric. A few were fearful. Two declarations drawn up in neighbouring Tel Aviv cafes and published on the same day symbolised this bitter divide.

One, now seen as hugely significant in shaping Israeli history, declared that ‘The Land of Israel is now in the hands of the Jewish people’. It was signed by more than fifty members of the country’s leading cultural and political elites. It encouraged the wave of settlements that would arise in the territories which Israel had recently occupied. The other declaration, concocted by two friends over an espresso, warned that the Israeli victory was a ‘fateful’ moment, and that holding onto occupied territories ‘will make us a nation of murderers and murdered’. It was signed by just 12 people.

These heretical views, published in a leading daily newspaper, prompted intense criticism and its signatories were called traitors to the Zionist cause. Some received threats of violence, amongst them Shimon Tzabar, who was one of the authors. In this programme, his son Rami explores what this moment of dramatic change meant for Israel, and for his family. He travels to Tel Aviv and talks to those involved in making the two declarations, as they recall the extraordinary atmosphere surrounding them.

This is also a personal story, as Rami discovers the consequences of his father’s passionate actions. After ostracism in Israel, his father went into exile in London (where Rami was born), and continued his campaigns with weapons of art, satire and unshakeable faith in his cause. The cost for the family was high.

Arguments still rage today about Israel’s actions and destiny – an argument within Israeli society, within the international community and among individuals. This programme reveals, in one dramatic story, the roots of that argument, and how it reverberated so strongly across a family’s life.”

Neither in the programme’s trailer, its synopsis nor in the programme itself are audiences informed of the relevant fact that the narrator and producer Rami Tzabar is a BBC employee.

The programme itself is likewise dogged by omission. At no point are listeners told that Shimon Tzabar – who is described as “playful, profound and …just a little bit annoying” – was a member of the Communist  Party of Israel (Maki). Later on, while in conversation with one of two of the featured co-signatories to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration” – Moshe Machover (who was recently expelled from the UK Labour Party and is still doing the anti-Zionist rounds) – Rami Tzabar describes his father as a “naughty boy” and a “thorn in (the) side” of “the establishment” without bothering to mention his association with the extreme-left anti-Zionist group ‘Matzpen’.

Omission likewise plagues the programme’s portrayal of the event that led to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration”. Listeners hear nothing of the background and context to the Six Day War or the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

“Jerusalem – always hugely symbolic in the region – was a divided city between 1948 and ’67; the east controlled by Jordan, the west by Israel. But with victory the city was united once more.”

Neither does Rami Tzabar make any mention of the attacks launched upon Israelis before the Six Day War – for example from the Golan Heights – which are crucial to the understanding of his commentary at 14:32.

“What’s so surprising about the greater land of Israel petition is that these are not the people you tend to associate with the settlement movement today: the religious parties. These were poets, philosophers, artists, writers. Zionists, of course, but secular ones, many aligned with the centre left Labour movement. And though the settlement project would later be led by religious groups, then it was rooted in the elites of the political mainstream.”

While Shimon Tzabar is described by his son as an “exile”, a reading of his own writings later clarifies that his departure from Israel was self-imposed.

“At the beginning of December 1967 I left my wife and my son in Tel Aviv and embarked on a Turkish liner at Haifa and sailed to Marseilles. I had no intention of leaving Israel for good. I just wanted to do something, to carry on the fight against the occupation abroad and then to return home.”

Listeners even hear a cheap stereotype when Rami Tzabar describes his parents as being:

“…argumentative, of course, but that’s Israelis for you.”

Towards the end of the programme Rami Tzabar tells listeners that his father designed a “new flag” for Israel featuring a tank instead of the Star of David and that he was sued for copyright infringement after publishing a “Michelin guide to Israeli prisons”. Tzabar neglects to tell listeners that the full title of that booklet was “Guide to Israeli prisons, jails, concentration camps and torture chambers” or that in it, his father promoted Nazi analogies

Framed as a ‘family story’, this one-sided, romanticised account makes no effort to explain to Radio 4 listeners why Shimon Tzabar’s demand for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the land taken during the Six Day War was so unpopular with a nation that had at the time been under existential threat throughout the nineteen years of its existence.

More mainstreaming of BDS on BBC Radio 5 live

The BDS campaign’s (failed) crusade against a concert by Radiohead in Israel began to receive BBC promotion five months before its scheduled July date and similar reporting was also seen just before and after the event took place.

Two months on, the topic was resurrected during a long interview with Radiohead drummer Phil Selway in the September 5th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme “Afternoon Edition”.

The interview begins at 01:06:17 here and the relevant section commences at 01:48:03. Presenter Colin Paterson raised the topic thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Paterson: “Radiohead made a lot of headlines around the world in quite unexpected circumstances this year with your show in Israel. You were playing a gig – closing your world tour in fact – in July in Tel Aviv. And in April there was actually an open letter from a whole variety of names written to you asking you not to go, like the film director Ken Loach, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd – very outspoken – Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, the actress Maxine Peake and it went on and on and on. How did Radiohead feel when that open letter was written?”

Paterson made no effort to clarify that some of the people he mentioned are veteran and virulent anti-Israel activists and, as was the case in all the previous reports on this topic, listeners were not informed exactly what the BDS campaign is really all about and that it seeks to bring about an end to Jewish self-determination by means of delegitimisation. 

In his reply to that question Phil Selway noted that he and his colleagues feel that a cultural boycott “potentially is divisive”. Co-presenter Sarah Brett then asked whether the whole band was “all of a mind” and after Selway confirmed that it is and pointed out that the show included Israeli and Palestinian musicians, he went on:

Selway: “…the nature of our audience there as well is of a very liberal-minded…and you don’t want the liberal voice to be isolated. Well, we didn’t.”  

Following a question from Paterson as to why, of all the performers that played in Israel this summer, Radiohead “was singled out” (to which Selway replied that he does not know), Brett interrupted her guest with a statement relating to his previous answer in which she appeared to question the idea that there are liberal-minded people in Israel.

Brett: “Because people have a different version of what liberal means maybe than you do and they, you know, maybe love Radiohead and had a bit of difficulty with the decision. Do you see what I mean?”

Selway: “Ah, yes I do…”

Brett: [interrupting again] “They might have seen themselves as coming from where you’re coming from for a long time and then suddenly you do this and that’s not…you’re not coming from where they thought you were coming from. Do you understand?”

Radiohead has of course played in Israel on several prior occasions and Selway pointed out that the band members did not view their decision to appear in Tel Aviv in July as “a surprising position”.

In the next question Paterson asked “how weird did it feel to have Roger Waters from Pink Floyd writing editorials in Rolling Stone against Radiohead?”.  In his reply to that question, Selway once again pointed out that the band does not agree with the “issue of a cultural boycott”.

Brett then closed that part of the interview, seemingly claiming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most contentious issue on the planet.

Brett: “And if there’s anything – you know, as history has taught us – that divides people it is that particular question. Anything on that particular subject is incredibly emotive and divisive for people.”

For years now the BBC has been mainstreaming and amplifying the BDS campaign (in this example with a bit of added ‘celebrity’ name dropping) without clarifying to audiences what that campaign aims to achieve. Two years ago the corporation even stated that it is not its job to provide such information. Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions about Radiohead’s response to pressure to boycott Israel if they are not given the full information concerning that boycott campaign’s ultimate aim.

Related Articles:

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ picks up the baton of BDS campaign amplification

Scottish BDS activists who protest Radiohead also promote Holocaust denial (UK Media Watch)

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke responds to Ken Loach’s pro-BDS op-ed in the Indy (UK Media Watch)

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen resurrects the ‘Arafat was poisoned’ canard on Radio 4

Episode 14 of the ongoing BBC Radio 4 series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was devoted entirely to Jeremy Bowen’s portrayal of Yasser Arafat.

“The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen looks back over the life of Yasser Arafat. Thousands of his supporters turned out when the Palestinian’s body was flown back into Ramallah on the West Bank. “Love him or hate him, he was Mr Palestine,” says Bowen. “In death as well as in life he was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence – much more than a politician.” The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s view was that Arafat was ‘ a murderer and a pathological liar’.”

Originally broadcast on June 15th under the title “Guns and Olive Branches“, the programme now opens with notification that “this programme has been edited since broadcast” – but BBC audiences are not informed what that editing entailed and the BBC’s ‘corrections and clarifications‘ page does not include any related information.

The programme begins with Bowen’s recollections from November 2004 and an interpretation of Arafat’s sartorial propaganda that unquestioningly endorses the notion that the State of Israel is actually “Palestine”. [all emphasis in italics in the original]

“Even his keffiyeh – his black and white headscarf – carried a message. Arafat always wore it pushed back behind his left shoulder and down the front of his chest on the right, broad at the top, tapering down to the south: the shape of Palestine.” [emphasis added]

Listeners repeatedly hear Bowen refer to a Palestinian “struggle for independence” with just one brief and inadequately explained reference to the fact that the said “struggle” was actually intended to wipe Israel off the map and with no mention made of the absence of any claim to “independence” during the nineteen years that Palestinians lived under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation.

“Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians since the 1960s, was one of the world’s most famous or notorious people – depending on you view of Palestinian nationalism. Love him or hate him, Yasser Arafat was Mr Palestine.”

“In death as well as life, Arafat was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence; much more than just a politician.”

“Yasser Arafat’s position as the human embodiment of Palestinian hopes for independence were [sic] sealed in 1974 when he was invited to address the United Nations.”

“Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 and spent most of his childhood in Cairo. He fought in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and went on to found Fatah – a group that wanted to destroy what it called the colonialist, Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

“His [Arafat’s] last three years, spent under siege by Israel in the wrecked Muqata in Ramallah, made him even more of a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence and freedom. Palestinians still don’t have a state.”

Listeners also hear repeated references to an ‘unequal’ conflict – with no explanation of the fact that the Palestinians were junior players in a wider conflict between the Arab states and Israel.

“Other, more cautious Palestinians called Arafat a madman at first because of his desire to take on the much stronger Israelis.”

“His critics said a wiser leader might have finished the job. But a wiser man might not have started such an unequal fight.”

Bowen erases the Arab League’s role in the creation of the PLO.

“Egypt’s president Nasser had founded the PLO to control Palestinian nationalists. Arafat used it to unite Palestinian factions, to campaign for international recognition and most of all, to fight Israel.”

Throughout the item Bowen refrains from describing Palestinian attacks against Israelis as terrorism in his own words and promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ myth.

“Many Israelis regarded Arafat as an unreformed terrorist. They blamed him for decades of attacks, including the suicide bombs that had killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in his last few years.”

“Arafat was a prime mover behind many attacks. Fatah and other Palestinian factions shot, bombed and hijacked their way into the headlines. In 1972 Fatah gunmen calling themselves Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the Munich Olympic games.”

“Some Palestinians believed they were winning the argument that their cause was just. Other Palestinians said the armed struggle – terrorism in Israeli eyes – meant they could no longer be ignored.”

Listeners hear context-free references to the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war and the first Lebanon war.

“His [Arafat’s] first attacks in the mid-1960s weren’t more than pin-pricks. But his moment came in 1967 in the months after Israel inflicted a crushing defeat in only six days on the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.”

“The Middle East was boiling. The Palestinian-Israel conflict was at a new pitch and there was a full-scale war in 1973. Israel narrowly came out ahead.”

“They [Israel] invaded Lebanon in 1982 where the Palestinians had established what amounted to a mini-state.”

Bowen misrepresents the first Intifada as ‘non-violent’, erasing from audience view the Israelis murdered during that period of PLO orchestrated violence as well as some 1,000 Palestinians executed by their fellow Palestinians – with Arafat’s approval.

“What changed everything was entirely unexpected. In December 1987 an Israeli truck collided with a car, killing 4 Palestinians. Protests exploded into a full-blown uprising: the Intifada. Images of Palestinian children taking on tanks with stones went around the world and became a symbol of the oppression inherent in the occupation.”

“Palestinian rage and frustration exploded again in 2000 but this time there were armed clashes and unlike the first Intifada, the Palestinians lost the propaganda battle when suicide bombers killed many Israeli civilians.”

Bowen’s portrayal of the Oslo Accords era erases the Palestinian terrorism that immediately followed the signing of the agreement and fails to inform listeners of Arafat’s role in the pre-planned second Intifada terror war.

“But Israel and the Palestinians signed an historic peace deal and Arafat was allowed to live in the occupied territories.”

“The peace process was flawed for both sides but for a few years there was a lot of hope. Then the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist who wanted to kill the chance of peace as well.”

A recording of Saeb Erekat speaking in 2004 which further gives listeners an inaccurate impression of Arafat’s role in the campaign of terrorism that surged in the autumn of 2000 was selected by Bowen for inclusion in this programme..

Erekat: “I’m afraid if Mother Theresa were to be our president, Nelson Mandela were to be our prime minister, Martin Luther King to be our speaker and Mahatma Gandhi would be our chief negotiator, the Israelis would find a way to link them to terrorism and some voices in Washington would echo that. The question wasn’t Arafat.”

Throughout the item Bowen repeatedly promotes a romantic image of Arafat as a charismatic “revolutionary”.

“As Israelis settled into their occupation of the West Bank, Arafat took the fight to them, moving around in disguise and organising hundreds of attacks. Israel hit back in 1968 with a major military operation at the Karameh refugee camp in Jordan which had become a big Fatah base. […] The battle established Arafat’s legend. He was on the cover of Time magazine and the young revolutionary gave countless interviews.”

“For the first time posters of Arafat started appearing wherever there were Palestinians. They’d never had a leader with his charisma. By the summer of 1969 Arafat was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

“Arafat swaggered into the General Assembly in New York wearing combat fatigues and sunglasses. He delivered his most famous lines: ‘I come to you bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom-fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand’. Arafat repeated that last warning three times. He was offering Israel a choice: peace or war.”

“The General Assembly gave him a standing ovation though among Arab leaders Arafat had plenty of enemies. He’d wanted to carry a pistol into the hall to make his point and had to be persuaded that an empty holster would do just as well. I remember the outrage among Jewish friends at my school in Cardiff that he’d even been allowed to speak. For Israelis, Arafat was an arch-terrorist and his olive branch was a joke.”

“Arafat was caught between his obligations under the peace process – satisfying the Israelis and the Americans – and his self-image as a revolutionary focusing the frustration and anger of his people.”

“It was always strange being in the same room as one of the most famous faces in the world. His legend was always there with him to be deployed at all times for his dream of Palestine. If being the human form of so many people’s’ hopes was a burden – and it must have been – he didn’t show it.”

Bowen’s own view of Arafat is further clarified at the end of the item.

“Back in 2004 outside the hospital in Paris where Arafat was dying, I felt that for all his weaknesses, his unique position as the father of his nation gave him a strength that genuine peace-makers would miss.

Recording Bowen: Yasser Arafat may have been part of the problem over the years but he’s also been part of the solution as well. And when he finally goes, his enemies – the Israelis and the Americans who’ve tried to isolate him – may find that far from it being easier to reach some kind of stability in the Middle East, it may even be more difficult.”

Bowen completely whitewashes Arafat’s cultivation of the culture of personal and organisational corruption that hallmarked the Palestinian Authority under his rule, as well as his funding of terrorism.

“Arafat preferred yes-men to straight talkers, tolerated corruption and he wasn’t much interested in the nitty-gritty of building a state. But for most Palestinians he was a national icon.”

Similarly, Bowen whitewashes Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement and glorification of terrorism.

“Abbas has never had Arafat’s charisma and even though he’s condemned Palestinian violence many times, the current Israeli government says he’s not a partner for peace.”

One of the more egregious parts of this programme comes towards its end when Bowen resuscitates an old canard:

“Some say Arafat was poisoned by Israel. His body was exhumed and tests found high levels of radioactive Polonium in his remains. The results were not conclusive but most Palestinians are convinced.”

As Bowen knows full well, those “high levels” of Polonium were pronounced by experts who tested them to be “of an environmental nature”. Both the French and Russian investigating teams ruled out foul play and the investigation closed two years ago, with the French prosecutor saying “there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. 

Nevertheless, the man whose job description is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” dishonestly promotes the notion that “the results were not conclusive”, thereby suggesting to BBC audiences that long-standing but entirely unproven Palestinian messaging on that topic may not, after all, be baseless propaganda.

Once again, Jeremy Bowen’s standards of adherence to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality are on full view in this programme – together with some revealing insights into his own views of a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

BBC ME editor recycles his ‘Israeli Right killed the peace process’ theory

 

 

 

BBC World Service history programmes on the Six Day War – part two

The second part of an account of the Six Day War on the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ was broadcast on June 8th (and repeated in the World Service programme ‘The History Hour’ on June 12th).

Titled “The Six Day War – A Jordanian View“, the programme’s synopsis reads as follows:

“In 1967 East Jerusalem was under the control of Jordan and Captain Nabih El Suhaimat was stationed there. In early June he and his soldiers fought in vain against Israeli paratroopers. But they lost control of the Old City and he was forced to flee Jerusalem in disguise. He has spoken to Zeinab Dabaa about the Six Day War.” [all emphasis in bold added]

That inadequate and evasive portrayal of course fails to inform listeners that the reason Jordan ‘controlled’ parts of Jerusalem on the eve of the Six Day War was because 19 years earlier it had invaded – and subsequently occupied and illegally annexed – territories designated as part of the homeland for the Jewish people at the San Remo conference in 1920.

Zeinab Dabaa’s introduction to the programme was similarly uninformative:

“Today we are going back to June 1967 and the Six Day War in the Middle East. In the second of two programmes about the conflict, I’ve been speaking to a former Jordanian army officer who tried to defend East Jerusalem which at that time Jordan controlled.”

Likewise her subsequent reference to that topic:

“Ever since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, East Jerusalem – including the Old City which contains some of Islam and Judaism’s most holy sites – had been under the control of Jordan.”

Dabaa’s presentation of the background to the Six Day War included a vague and unexplained reference to “escalating tension”.

“It was on the 5th of June 1967 after months of escalating tension that the Six Day War began. The Israelis effectively wiped out the Egyptian air force on the first day of fighting. It was the beginning of a series of bitter defeats for Egypt, Syria and Jordan.”

A rare reference to the actions of terror groups was presented in partial terminology and without any explanation of what those groups were supposedly ‘resisting’ at a time when ‘occupation’ did not exist:

“By the mid-60s Palestinian resistance groups supported by Egypt and Syria were carrying out regular attacks on the Israeli border. This was followed by Israeli reprisals and a gradual build-up of Arab military forces around the border. Then, on the 30th of May 1967, King Hussein of Jordan and President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt signed a joint defence agreement. During the signing ceremony, Nasser said ‘our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel’.”

However, completely absent from this programme’s presentation of the factors that caused the Six Day War were Soviet disinformation, Nasser’s expulsion of UN peacekeepers from Sinai, the subsequent massing of Egyptian troops in the peninsula and Egypt’s closure of the Straits of Tiran.  

Moreover, not only was the Israeli prime minister’s appeal to Jordan not to join the conflict erased from the picture given to World Service listeners but the fighting in Jerusalem was inaccurately portrayed as having been initiated by Israel.

Dabaa: “On the day the war started Captain Suhaimat and his company did their best to defend the Mandelbaum Gate into all Jerusalem.”

Suhaimat: “The fighting began at 11:25 am. The Israelis attacked us with light weapons.”

Dabaa: “But on Tuesday the Israelis started to intensify their attack.”

In fact, as Jordan’s King Hussein documented himself in his 1969 book, the Jordanians had been attacking Israel for several hours before any Israeli response came.

“It was now 9 A.M. on Monday, June 5, and we were at war.

Riad [the Egyptian general who commanded Jordanian forces] increased our fire power against the Israeli air bases by directing our heavy artillery – long-range 155’s – on the Israeli air force installations within our line of fire. Our field artillery also went into action, and our Hawker Hunters [British-supplied fighter jets] were ready to take part in the combined operation with the Iraqi and Syrians. […]

… we received a telephone call at Air Force Headquarters from U.N. General Odd Bull. It was a little after 11 A.M.

The Norwegian General informed me that the Israeli Prime Minister had addressed an appeal to Jordan. Mr. Eshkol had summarily announced that the Israeli offensive had started that morning, Monday June 5, with operations directed against the United Arab Republic, and then he added: “If you don’t intervene, you will suffer no consequences.”

By that time we were already fighting in Jerusalem and our planes had just taken off to bomb Israeli airbases. So I answered Odd Bull:

“They started the battle. Well they are receiving our reply by air.”

Three times our Hawker Hunters attacked the bases at Natanya in Israel without a loss. And our pilots reported that they destroyed four enemy planes on the ground, the only ones they had seen. […]

At 12:30 on that 5th of June came the first Israeli response to the combined bombing by the Jordanians, Iraqis and Syrians.”

Listeners also heard of displaced Palestinians – but not of the fact that the Arabs living in the areas occupied by Jordan in 1948 and illegally annexed in 1950 had been given Jordanian citizenship.

“On the 10th of June 1967 the war ended. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either displaced from their homes or found themselves living under Israeli control. Israel now controlled much more territory including the Golan Heights, the Sinai desert, the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem.”

Both these BBC World Service history programmes supposedly provide audiences with information intended to enhance their understanding of historic events. Clearly the many omissions of important background in both these episodes, together with the second programme’s presentation of an inaccurate account of the timeline of fighting in Jerusalem, severely hinder listener understanding of the Six Day War.

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BBC World Service history programmes on the Six Day War – part one

 

 

BBC World Service history programmes on the Six Day War – part one

The edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ that was broadcast on June 7th 2017 (and repeated in the same station’s programme ‘The History Hour’ on June 12th) is titled “The Six Day War – An Israeli View” and is described as follows in its synopsis:

“On 7 June 1967, Israel captured the whole of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, including its most holy site, the Temple Mount that is revered by both Jews and Muslims. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Arik Achmon, one of the first Israeli paratroopers to enter the old city that day and reach the Western Wall.”

In among her conversation with Arik Achmon, presenter Louise Hidalgo provided listeners with background to the story, some of which – to the programme’s credit – BBC audiences rarely hear. However, other parts of that background information were incomplete and unhelpful.

Hidalgo opened the programme thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Today we go back to the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbours: a war that reshaped the Middle East. During those six days, Jordan, Egypt and Syria lost control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. But perhaps the Israelis’ most symbolic victory came in Jerusalem: the city revered equally by Jews, Muslims and Christians. “

While one can question the use of the word ‘equally’ in that portrayal, Hidalgo’s subsequent presentation of the significance of Temple Mount was accurate.

“The old walled city contains one of the world’s most holy sites, the Temple Mount. Haram al Sharif in Arabic, Har Habayit in Hebrew.”

“…this [the Old City of Jerusalem] was home to this hugely revered site the Temple Mount; the Jews’ holiest site – the site of the first and second temples – and the Western Wall where, until then, Jews hadn’t been able to pray. And also so important to Muslims: the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.”

Hidalgo’s presentation of the causes of the Six Day War included an important – yet rare – reference to the underlying Arab refusal to accept the existence of the Jewish state.

“By 1967 Israel had existed for almost 20 years but its Arab neighbours refused to accept it. The rhetoric was becoming more and more bellicose.”

While the Egyptian-Jordanian defence pact was mentioned by Hidalgo and Arik Achmon spoke of the build-up of Egyptian forces in Sinai, no mention was made of Nasser’s expulsion of UN forces from Sinai or of the casus belli – Egypt’s closure of the Straits of Tiran. Also absent from Hidalgo’s portrayal was Levi Eshkol’s appeal to Jordan not to join the hostilities which, had it not been rejected, would have meant that Jerusalem would not have been included in the fighting.

“On the 30th of May President [sic] Hussein of Jordan and the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser signed a defence agreement.”

“Early on Monday the 5th of June Israeli jets attacked the Egyptian airforce.”

Commendably, Hidalgo made a rare reference to Israel’s actions after the war ended:

“Those six days gave Israel not just control of the whole of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount for the first time, they also gave it control of territory many times larger than its own size. After the war the Israelis gave administrative control of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian Islamic Trust – or Waqf. Years later they’d also give back Sinai to the Egyptians.”

However, presentation of the relevant background information concerning the 1948 Jordanian invasion of territories designated as part of the homeland for the Jewish people at the San Remo conference in 1920 and the subsequent 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem was – as is usually the case in BBC content – decidedly evasive and unhelpful to audiences.

“Since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 it [the Old City of Jerusalem] had been controlled by Jordan but on Wednesday the 7th of June 1967, Israel captured it.”

“This city line since 1948 had divided Jordanian controlled East Jerusalem – which included the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways and its holiest site Temple Mount – from the west of Jerusalem which the Israelis controlled.”

“No Israeli soldier had set foot in the Old City, had they? Israel had lost its only foothold there, the Jewish Quarter, in the 1948 war…”

The following day’s edition of ‘Witness’ – which also told the story of the fighting in Jerusalem during the Six Day War but from the point of view of a Jordanian soldier – will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s Six Day War messaging continues on R4’s ‘Today’

The June 8th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included an item (from 47:53 here) by Tom Bateman which is very similar to the written report he had published on the BBC News website four days earlier.

Listeners first heard presenter Sarah Montague give the following context-free account of the Six Day War: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Montague: “President Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East may have revived some hope, however fragile, of a renewed peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It comes at a significant moment. This week, from the 5th of June, this week marks 50 years since Israel launched an overwhelming strike against three of its neighbours: Egypt, Syria and Jordan. It believed those countries were planning an invasion. The Six Day War, as it became known, reshaped the region. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman’s been speaking to some of those who remember it.”

To the tune of an Israeli song, Bateman begins his report with a highly airbrushed portrayal of the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “In the summer of 1967 ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ sang of Jewish longing for the city then divided between Israeli and Jordanian control.”

Listeners then hear part of Bateman’s previously promoted interview with Meir Shalev.

Shalev: “Before 1967, when I was eight and nine and ten, my father used to take me along the border line inside the divided Jerusalem and used to tell me ‘you will grow up, you will become a soldier and you will fight over this city’.”

Bateman: “Israeli author Meir Shalev was almost 19 – the same age as his country – when war broke out. He found himself in the north fighting Syrian troops.”

Shalev: “Most of the country felt threatened. Some were even panicked by the possible prospects of this war. People were talking about the possibility of Israel being destroyed and us being exiled or killed.”

After an archive recording of a news bulletin, listeners hear from another of the interviewees that appeared in Bateman’s written report – Jordanian pilot Mahmoud Erdisat.

Erdisat: “We were very, you know, excited that finally we get our chance to fight the Israelis and get Palestine back.”

Refraining from clarifying to listeners that Erdisat’s reference to getting “Palestine back” in fact means invading Israel and taking land which never belonged to Jordan but was designated for a homeland for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, Bateman introduces the speaker.

Bateman: “Mahmoud Erdisat – a now retired general – was training to be a fighter pilot in the Jordanian airforce.”

Erdisat: “But from the second day we came to know that the situation is not exactly what we have in mind.”

Bateman: “And how did you feel at that point?”

Erdisat: “Very bad, very bad. The consequences were so hard that it was the beginning of the end of the Arab secular state. It was a blow to the Arab nationalism.”

Listeners then hear an unidentified archive recording relating to “Arab refugees…displaced from their homes in what is now Israel” before Bateman’s next interviewee is introduced.

Bateman: “Hello, nice to meet you. At her home in East Jerusalem I met Fatima Khadir, surrounded by the ornaments she makes calling for Palestinian statehood. She was 8 when the war broke out and escaped Jerusalem’s Old City with her family, who she says were already displaced after the first Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Listeners hear a voiceover which erroneously implies that a country called ‘Palestine’ was involved in the Six Day War.

“It felt like Palestine fell in six hours, not six days. We were transferred to a camp on the border between Jordan and Saudi. We were living in terrible conditions. Harsh winters, floods and hot summers. I still feel the hurt, pain, and intolerable struggle. We lost our homes back then and we were never able to go back. I’m still hurting. We are still suffering.”

Explaining a clip from another archive recording, Bateman continues.

Bateman: “A radio reporter with Israeli troops told listeners ‘we are inside the Old City of Jerusalem’. ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ said a commander before prayers at this return to Judaism’s holiest sites. Yoel Bin Nun was among those fighting.”

Voiceover Bin Nun: “When we were at the Temple Mount my commander asked me ‘Yoel, what do you say now?’. I told him 2,000 years have passed. The meaning is that 2,000 years that the people of Israel were in the diaspora – persecuted, tortured, antisemitism – those 2,000 years were over.”

Bateman: “He believed victory came from heaven and still feels the same way, he says. He went on to become a rabbi and a significant figure in the movement to build Jewish settlements on the West Bank after its capture in 1967. The war’s legacy is different though for the writer Meir Shalev who describes returning from the conflict and confronting his father.”

Shalev: “We started arguing about the results of the war and I told my father ‘we took a bite we will suffocate on’. He was very angry with me. Now 50 years later I think Israel didn’t do much except dealing with the results of the occupation.”

Bateman closes with his take-away message:

Bateman: “The war of 1967 lasted six days. It left consequences still unresolved fifty years later.”

Like Bateman’s written report, this one also clearly aims to steer BBC audiences towards the inaccurate view that the contemporary Palestinian-Israeli conflict is entirely the product of events that began fifty years ago when – according to Sarah Montague’s context-free version of events – Israel woke up one sunny morning and “launched an overwhelming strike” that a week later turned into “occupation”. And like the BBC’s additional reports on the Six Day War, this one too is a lot more concerned with promoting a politicised narrative than it is with enhancing audience understanding of that event in history.

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A third feature promotes the BBC’s chosen Six Day War narrative 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sykes then goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sykes: “It’s finished?”

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

Sykes: “Dangerous to accept it?”

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

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

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

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

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

Muna: “Yes.”

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

Muna: “Yes. Yes – completely right.”

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

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

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

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

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

Listeners then hear a voiceover of an unidentified man saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

Eddie Mair: “Hugh Sykes reporting.”

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

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

 

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

On June 8th BBC Radio 4 listeners heard two reports from the latest BBC correspondent on a flying visit to Israel – Hugh Sykes.

The first of those reports was broadcast on the “World at One’ programme (from 14:30 here). Presenter Mark Mardell gave an introduction devoid of any context concerning the reasons for the outbreak of the Six Day War.

Mardell: “Now it’s…in Israel it’s 50 years since two major events which changed the history of the region. On the 5th of June 1967 a war began between Israel and Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Six days later Israel emerged victorious. At the end of that war a half a century ago, Israel’s occupation and settlement of Gaza and the Palestinian West Bank began.”

The 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of what Mardell terms “the Palestinian West Bank” is clearly not deemed relevant to the story. Mardell continues:

“The Gaza settlers were evacuated in 2005. Those in the West Bank – more than half a million now – are still there. Our correspondent Hugh Sykes is in Jerusalem for the World at One.”

After a recording of music playing, Hugh Sykes begins his item. Curiously (but, given BBC editorial policy, predictably) Sykes’ descriptions of the second Intifada do not include any mention of the word ‘terror’. [all emphasis in italics in the original]

Sykes: “A saxophone player on Jaffa Street [sic – Jaffa Road]. People sitting at café tables under parasols on a sunny spring day here in Jerusalem. The first time I walked here 15 years ago the shops had security guards with automatic rifles checking your bags. There was a wave of almost routine suicide bombings, many of them killing dozens of people on buses here in Jerusalem. Between 1989 and 2008 across Israel altogether 800 people were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers.”

Sykes’ information – apparently gleaned from Wikipedia – of course does not tell the whole story. In just five of the 19 years cited by Sykes – 2000 to 2005 – 1,100 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks that included – but were not limited to – the suicide bombings on which he has chosen to focus. He continues:

“Since then the security barrier – the walls and the fences and the extensive checkpoints –have been put up, cutting off the West Bank; the main source of the suicide bombings. Though the counter argument is that the bombings have stopped because the Palestinians have largely stopped trying to send suicide bombers here, partly because it led to the security barrier being put up and their lives being made much more difficult. So, it’s calm here now. But this is an illusion Daniel Seidemann tells me. He’s an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem.”

Of course BBC regular Daniel Seidemann is not just a “lawyer”: he is also the founder of two politicised campaigning groups – ‘Ir Amim’ and ‘Terrestrial Jerusalem’ – both of which receive foreign funding including, in the case of the latter, from the UK tax payers listening to this programme. Despite the existence of BBC editorial guidelines stating that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be made clear in advance to audiences, Hugh Sykes makes no effort to clarify Seidemann’s political agenda and links to politicised campaigning NGOs to listeners before they go on to hear that contributor’s cliché-ridden statements.

Seidemann: “I consider the greatest threat to the Jewish people in this generation to be perpetual occupation and Israelis are in a state of clinical denial.”

Sykes: “Why is occupation a threat to Israel?”

Seidemann: “We are sipping cappuccino on the edge of a volcano. Go to my friends in Tel Aviv and ask them about occupation. They’ll say ‘occupation – what occupation?’ We live in a bubble and bubbles burst. Israel has no future if we continue to occupy. It may take 50 years, it may take a hundred years.”

Sykes: “What’s the mechanism that brings Israel to an end if you don’t disengage from occupation?”

Seidemann: “Decay, isolation, ahm…”

Sykes: “That’s all psychological.”

Seidemann: “No, no it’s not.”

Sykes: “The rest of the world doesn’t care anymore. Sympathy for the Palestinians was pretty much lost when they mounted the second Intifada and started blowing up children with suicide bombers on buses here in Jerusalem. And the rest of the Arab world doesn’t care about the Palestinians, do they? So Israel is secure, isn’t it?”

Seidemann: “Both Israelis and Palestinians are deeply traumatised people and we’re living something on an emotional overdraft. I am not telling you what will happen tomorrow morning. Look out the window, OK? In that city there are 850,000 people. 37% of them are Palestinians. This is a bi-national city and in this bi-national city one national collective has all the power and the other is politically disempowered.”

Of course even those Arab residents of Jerusalem who chose not to exercise their right to apply for Israeli citizenship (and hence the right to vote in legislative elections) are entitled to both run and vote in municipal elections in the city. Hugh Sykes however does not bother to clarify those facts relating to people who have just been inaccurately described as “politically disempowered” before continuing:

Sykes: “And more than half a million settlers now live in the West Bank. If there’s ever going to be any progress towards agreeing two nations here, a plan that’s often been discussed is land swaps, allowing more than 400,000 Jewish settlers to remain in what are now substantial high-density suburbs of Jerusalem. But this would leave 156,000 settlers in settlements which would have to be evacuated, as all the settlements in Gaza were 12 years ago but that was just 8,000 people.”

Seidemann: “It can be done. If Israel has the will and the capability to relocate 156,000 settlers, the two-state solution is alive. If we don’t – it’s dead. Israel needs and deserves recognition in order to assume our rightful place among the family of nations. And that will happen when a Palestinian embassy opens down the street here in West Jerusalem and an Israeli embassy opens in East Jerusalem. That provides as much security as another brigade of tanks.”

Obviously any serious examination of this topic would at this point go on to address the issue of what happened after those 8,000 Israelis were uprooted from their homes and livelihoods in the Gaza Strip (along with residents of four communities in northern Shomron which Sykes and his guest appear to have forgotten) twelve years ago. Such a discussion would have to address the fact that the move did not advance peace and in fact the number of terrorist missile attacks on Israeli civilians increased. It would also have to address the fact that international bodies and nations which lauded the Gaza disengagement, promising understanding should Israel subsequently have to act against terrorism in Gaza, quickly swapped that pledge with condemnation.

Sykes, however, chooses to ignore those inconvenient facts, opting instead to reinforce his messaging.

Sykes: “Daniel Seidemann. And the recent retired director of the Mossad – Israel’s equivalent of MI6 and the CIA – Tamir Pardo, said last month that the occupation and conflict with the Palestinians was – as he put it – Israel’s one existential threat; a ticking time-bomb. But there are non-negotiable absolutists on both sides here. Palestine is Palestine from the River Jordan to the sea. And this is Jewish land: God gave it to us.”

Remarkably, only the Jewish “absolutists” in Sykes’ portrayal are religiously motivated.

Sykes’ last contributor is Jerusalem Post journalist Amotz Asa-El. During their conversation listeners hear the following:

Sykes: “Does the compromise include having Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and of Israel?”

Asa-El: “I can envisage splitting it, which I’m told is simpler to do than to share.”

Nevertheless, at the end of the item Sykes inaccurately sums up that response as follows:

Sykes: “Amotz Asa-El raising the possibility that Jerusalem could be the shared capital of Israel and of a new state of Palestine.”

Obviously this report is yet another contribution to the campaign of opportunistic politicised messaging already seen on the BBC News website. It too advances a narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is exclusively rooted in the outcome of the inadequately explained Six Day War – in particular the ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ – while erasing from audience view the underlying and far older refusal of Arab states and Palestinian leaders to accept and recognise the existence of the Jewish state.

Sykes’ second report of the day will be discussed in a future post.