On May 15th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for the corporation’s television news programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How will new Israel government affect two-state solution?“.
The synopsis appearing on the website includes the following statement:
“The government includes conservative, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who would fight any recognition of a Palestinian state.”
If viewers thought that the title of this report indicated that they were going to get some reliable background information on the new Israeli government’s approach and policies, they were sorely mistaken: Knell’s report is just one more addition to her long record of partial and inaccurate political propaganda.
Knell opens her report as follows:
“Har Homa: it’s one of Israel’s most controversial housing projects on land the Palestinians want for their state. Here, Bethlehem is cut off from Jerusalem.”
Does Har Homa in fact cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem? A look at the map shows that the answer to that is no, with two routes bypassing Har Homa available for travel.
“Back in the late 1990s this is the same hill before building began. Now there are about twenty thousand Jewish residents and ahead of his re-election, the prime minister came promising to expand settlements. They’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”
As ever, Knell makes no attempt to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing her viewers of the existence of opinions which contradict the BBC’s standard “illegal under international law” insert. Neither does she bother to inform them of the fact that the majority of Har Homa (Homat Shmuel) is built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948 – a fact recognized even by the PLO.
Knell goes on:
“He [Netanyahu] also said he wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state.”
That context-free representation of the Israeli PM’s words relates to an interview given to the Israeli website NRG, the full text of which can be found here. Notably, Knell also ignores the subsequent clarifications made by Netanyahu.
She proceeds to explain a map inserted into the footage:
“This is where the Palestinians seek full sovereignty: in East Jerusalem which they want as their capital, the West Bank and Gaza – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”
No attempt is made to inform viewers why war broke out in 1967 or of the legal status of the areas she describes before they were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.
Knell: “In his Bethlehem office Jad Isaac monitors settlement growth. He no longer believes in a two state solution to the conflict with Israel.”
Isaac: “This is not realistic; anybody who sees things on the ground will come to that conclusion.”
Knell: “Dr Isaac faces losing his own land because of new construction in Har Homa. He tells me the International Criminal Court should act.”
Isaac: “This is the last resort. We have to go to the international justice – to the international community – to see what they say about this occupation. Displacing people, bringing Israeli citizens to live inside the West Bank – the occupied territory – is a war crime.”
Again, Knell makes no effort whatsoever to clarify to viewers that Isaac’s “war crime” claim is highly debatable to say the least. She then goes on to ostensibly present a differing viewpoint but fails to tell viewers that her next interviewee is not only a journalist, but also the former director of the political NGO the New Israel Fund.
Knell: “On the Jerusalem side of Har Homa I get another perspective from an Israeli journalist who lives nearby.”
Ya’ari: “This whole…eh…expressions of two state solution is almost like a cover up on something different.”
Knell: “Unusually, Eliezer Ya’ari visits his Palestinian neighbours. Israel made their villages part of Jerusalem when it unilaterally extended the city’s boundaries but it views them as residents – not citizens. Mr Ya’ari thinks they should have the same political rights as he does.”
Ya’ari: “OK – we are now tangled together. What does it mean? From my point of view Israel has decided that Jerusalem – its own capital – will be a bi-national city and I don’t think that all Israeli citizens actually understand what it means.”
This is not the first time we have seen Yolande Knell deliberately mislead BBC audiences with regard to the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: she made the exact same inaccurate claim in November of last year, failing to clarify that they are entitled to apply for citizenship should they so wish and that those who choose not to exercise that right (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare. We have also seen the BBC promoting similar misinformation in additional past reports.
Knell closes her report:
“The view has changed dramatically since battles were fought over this land nearly fifty years ago and as Israel’s political landscape continues to alter even moderate voices are looking at alternatives to established peace plans.”
This is also not the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell promoting ‘alternatives’ to the two state solution, whilst failing to clarify to her audiences what that actually means. Her latest misrepresentation of this as being the approach of “moderate voices” exposes the political agenda actually being promoted in this so-called ‘news’ item.