BBC contributor on ME links up with UK Hamas supporters

Next month an organisation linked to Hamas (which is of course proscribed by the EU and in part by the UK) will hold an event titled ‘Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on’ at the British Library in London.

“The 1917 Balfour Declaration is widely regarded as one of the most formative and far-reaching documents in the modern history of the Middle East. It was the cornerstone of the Zionist project to transform Arab Palestine into a ‘Jewish state’. The Declaration and subsequent events changed not only the demographic map of the region but also its political, social and military configuration as well.

Join Middle East Monitor on the 7th of October at the British Library in Central London to learn more about and discuss the declaration, how it came about, it’s [sic] legal standing and consequences, and to look at Britain’s role in the continued oppression of Palestinians.”

The fact that ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO) is organising such an event comes as no surprise: it is after all the Hamas-linked outfit that invited Raed Salah to the UK in 2011 and it includes among its staff seasoned anti-Israel activists such as director Daud Abdullah (also connected to the PRC) and senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt of ‘Interpal‘. 

Neither is the line-up of speakers at this latest MEMO event much of an eye-opener: no-one familiar with the Hamas-sympathetic anti-Israel scene in the UK would be shocked to find names such as David Cronin, Clare Short and Peter Oborne on the list.

Nevertheless, one name on that list should raise eyebrows – not because he has unsurprisingly agreed to speak at an event run by a group known to be linked to Hamas but because the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activist academic Avi Shlaim is also a fairly regular (but inevitably inadequately introduced) BBC contributor on Middle East affairs and has even in the past been consulted as an ‘expert’ at the later stages of the BBC complaints procedure.

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The BBC and the myth of the ‘twice promised land’

h/t SF

In our recent review of BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration we noted that one of the backgrounders available online states that:balfour-in-timeline-1917

“During this period of change, three key pledges were made.

In 1916 the British Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, had promised the Arab leadership post-war independence for former Ottoman Arab provinces.

However, at the same time, the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between war victors, Britain and France, divided the region under their joint control.

Then in 1917, the British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour committed Britain to work towards “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, in a letter to leading Zionist Lord Rothschild. It became known as the Balfour Declaration.”

Similarly partial portrayals of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence are found in additional material produced by the BBC – for example in an article from May 2016 by Jim Muir on the topic of the Sykes-Picot agreement and in an article by Kevin Connolly from July 2015. In May 2015 listeners to BBC World Service radio were told by historian-cum-political activist Avi Shlaim that:

“…Britain’s behavior during the First World War is a prime example of pure opportunism because in the course of fighting the First World War, Britain was desperate to gain allies and it made three major promises that were contradictory and couldn’t be reconciled and this should have been clear during the war. The first promise was to Hussein the Sharif of Mecca – to support an independent Arab kingdom under his rule in return for mounting an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. The second promise […] is the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. This was a secret agreement between Britain and France to carve up the Middle East between themselves at the expense of the Arabs. And the third and most famous promise was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which Britain undertook to support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. So Palestine was the twice-promised land – first it was promised to Hussein the Sharif of Mecca and then it was promised to the Zionists.” [emphasis added]

In an ‘educational’ feature about the First World War produced in September 2014 and presented by BBC News diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall, BBC audiences are told (in section 5) that “British diplomats made a series of seemingly contradictory promises to potential allies” before being presented with portrayals of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour Declaration.

mcmahon-corr-on-iwonder

As has been previously noted here on several occasions, Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937 that the claim according to which “Palestine was the twice-promised land” is incorrect.

McMahon letter Times

That point had earlier been clarified in the British government’s White Paper of 1922.

“With reference to the Constitution which it is now intended to establish in Palestine, the draft of which has already been published, it is desirable to make certain points clear. In the first place, it is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October, 1915, from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty’s High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sherif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty’s Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge.” [emphasis added]

One must therefore ask why the BBC – committed as it is to accurate and impartial journalism – continues to enable promotion of the politically motivated myth of ‘contradictory promises’ relating to the area later assigned to the Mandate for Palestine.

BBC WS radio promotes Avi Shlaim’s historical misrepresentations – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, on May 31st Oxford professor Avi Shlaim appeared on the panel of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour Extra’. There – unhindered by host Owen Bennett-Jones – Shlaim was given a platform from which to promote assorted inaccurate and politically partisan versions of Middle East history as well as the risible notion that the root cause of the absence of peace, security and stability in the entire region is the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition, the BBC platform was used to mainstream to millions of listeners around the world the notion that the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East is by dismantling the Jewish state and denying Jews the right to self-determination.OBJ radio

No less insidious was Shlaim’s idealisation of Jewish life in Iraq – all the more pernicious given Shlaim’s title of ‘historian’.

“My family had lived in Iraq all these years. There were very good harmonious relations between Jews and Muslims in Iraq. The Jewish community was very well-integrated. We were Jewish Arabs. We spoke Arabic. We had no interest or understanding of Zionism. Zionism was a European idea and a European project and very few Iraqi Jews had any interest in going to live in a Jewish state in Palestine. But then there was the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Iraqi army fought against the Israelis in that war and there was a wave of hostility towards the Jews in all the Arab lands, including Iraq. Life became insecure and unsafe in Iraq and we moved to Israel in 1950 along with about one hundred thousand Iraqi Jews because there was a backlash after the Arab defeat in 1948 against the Jews. That’s why we ended up in Israel – not out of commitment to the Zionist project.”

So according to Shlaim the historian, all was sweetness and light for Jews in Arab lands in general and Iraq in particular until the Arabs lost the war they initiated against the newly declared Israeli state in 1948. One might have thought that a historian would have remembered to mention the one of the most important events in the Iraqi Jewish community’s modern history – the Farhud of 1941 – especially as that event’s anniversary was marked just one day after this programme was broadcast.

Of course anyone familiar with Avi Shlaim’s record will be well aware of the fact that more often than not his political views – along with his self-awarded role of “judge and jury” – shape his accounts of history and his portrayal of Zionism as “a European idea and a European project” in this broadcast is a classic example of Shlaim’s seemingly unlimited ability to ignore inconvenient facts such as the First Aliyah wave of immigrants from Yemen and the event – the Farhud – which signalled that relations between Iraqi Jews and their neighbours were not quite as “harmonious” as Shlaim would have listeners believe.

The trouble with this BBC programme is that the vast majority of those listening to the radio show will not be familiar with the prolific political activities of the learned professor and will not be able to apply the necessary context of his underlying agenda to the ostensibly neutral and academic analysis he provides. And of course the real issue is that Owen Bennett-Jones and his BBC colleagues made no effort whatsoever to provide audiences with the information necessary for them to appreciate that any application of context and critical thinking was required at all.

BBC WS radio promotes Avi Shlaim’s historical misrepresentations – part one

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 1st were presented with an article in its features section by Owen Bennett-Jones titled “Middle East map carved up by caliphates, enclaves and fiefdoms“. There, they found the reasons for the past four or so years of violence and turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa explained as follows:OBJ written

“There are many explanations for the winds of change sweeping through the Middle East.

Depending on their point of view, analysts cite the failure of Arab nationalism; a lack of democratic development; post-colonialism; Zionism; Western trade protectionism; corruption; low education standards; and the global revival of radical Islamism.” [emphasis added]

Readers who ventured to the end of Bennett-Jones’ piece discovered that it is based on an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour Extra’ – titled “Borders, Oil and Power in the Middle East” – which he hosted on May 31st. What they are not told in the written article is that the main reason for the bizarre appearance of Zionism on his list of “explanations” for the ongoing violence in the Middle East is the inclusion of Oxford University’s Avi Shlaim on Bennett-Jones’ guest list for that programme.

According to its synopsis the fifty-five minute programme supposedly set out to discuss the following topics:

“The map of the Middle East, established after World War One almost 100 years ago, is crumbling. Islamic State militants now control large parts of Iraq and Syria including the border region that divides the two countries, and their territorial ambitions have not ended there. Is Islamic State permanently re-drawing the map, or can the traditional regional powers retain their dominance? What are the consequences for the people who live within those borders and for control of the region’s vast mineral wealth?”

Those familiar with Avi Shlaim’s political activism (albeit often thinly disguised with an academic veneer) will not have been surprised by his ability to repeatedly bring the focus of the programme back to his pet topic of Israel. Listeners may have been equally unsurprised to find that the programme’s host and editors indulged his hobby, particularly after the tone was set in Bennett-Jones’ introduction.

“…this week looking at the future of the Middle East. Syria, Yemen, Libya and parts of Iraq are in violent chaos. The status of Gaza and the West Bank remain contested. The Arab Spring has failed. Some of its leaders face the death penalty and the forces in the ascendant: theocrats, rebels, nationalists, gangsters, arms dealers and opportunists. What on earth is going to happen?”

From around 04:30 listeners heard the following supposedly objective and academic account of the background to the topic under discussion from Avi Shlaim.

“…Britain’s behavior during the First World War is a prime example of pure opportunism because in the course of fighting the First World War, Britain was desperate to gain allies and it made three major promises that were contradictory and couldn’t be reconciled and this should have been clear during the war. The first promise was to Hussein the Sharif of Mecca – to support an independent Arab kingdom under his rule in return for mounting an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. The second promise […] is the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. This was a secret agreement between Britain and France to carve up the Middle East between themselves at the expense of the Arabs. And the third and most famous promise was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which Britain undertook to support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. So Palestine was the twice-promised land – first it was promised to Hussein the Sharif of Mecca and then it was promised to the Zionists. And after the end of the war the chickens came home to roost. The Arabs demanded an independent Arab kingdom – not a system of mandates – and the Zionists, who at the time of the Balfour Declaration were only 10% of the population, laid a claim to the whole of Palestine. So Britain – through its imperialist diplomacy – created a new order, a new political system – territorial system – which lacked legitimacy. The borders lacked legitimacy, the rulers who were imposed on the local Arabs by the colonial powers lacked legitimacy. So the whole mark of the post-World War One territorial and political system was that it was illegitimate….” [emphasis added]

No attempt was made by Owen Bennett-Jones to balance Shlaim’s predictably selective presentation of events by mention of all-important additional factors such as the creation in 1921 of the Emirate of Transjordan (ruled by one of Hussein’s sons) out of land previously designated for the Jewish National Home. Neither was it clarified to listeners that no mention was made of Palestine in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence or that as was reported in The Times in 1937 – Sir Henry McMahon later clarified:

“I feel my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein.”

The most striking aspect of Bennett-Jones’ failure to relieve listeners of the misleading impressions provided by Shlaim, however, is that the BBC had every reason to be capable of anticipating exactly how he was going to frame the issue because he had done it before on BBC Radio 4 in October 2013. No less interesting is the fact that despite Shlaim’s obvious and repeatedly expressed enthusiasm for Kurdish independence as promised in 1920, Bennett-Jones refrained from asking him why in his opinion the Treaty of Sèvres should be considered any less “illegitimate” than the Balfour Declaration or the Sykes-Picot Agreement.OBJ radio

From around 16:35 listeners were further misled by the following statement from Shlaim:

“It seems to me that the post-World War One territorial order, for all its shortcomings and limitations that I talked about before, had one merit and that is it set out very clear international borders and despite all the turmoil of the last century, all the violence, all the conflicts, these borders still stand – with one exception: the border between Israel and Palestine. But all the other borders are almost sacrosanct.”

Of course it is inaccurate and misleading to suggest that a “border between Israel and Palestine” existed under “the post-World War One territorial order”.

Towards the end of the programme (at around 41:30), Bennett-Jones informs listeners that the discussion will “look ahead to what’s going to happen to various groups in the Middle East”. If listeners thought that they were finally going to get to hear some information about the situation of Christians, Yezidis, Druze, Armenians, Baha’is or any of the many other Middle East minorities unmentioned so far, they would have been disappointed. Instead, a full five minutes is spent discussing the topic introduced by Bennett-Jones at the start of that segment.

OBJ: “…on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; is it right to say that when we talk about borders changing  – Professor Shlaim made the point that the Israel-Palestine situation is one of the few fluid situations in terms of borders – but does it connect with the rest of the Middle East or is that dispute….”

At that point Bennett-Jones is cut off – apparently by some over-enthusiastic editing – but listeners do hear BBC regular Rosemary Hollis telling them that:

“…having a number of Palestinian scholarship students as I do, they see this chaos in Iraq and Syria and this hideous machine called IS as potentially the only game changer that might ultimately call all the borders into question in a way that might benefit the Palestinians. Otherwise they see their future as miserable and they see Gaza as a place where you die slowly and, as of 2020 when life is unsustainable in Gaza according to the UN, you die more quickly – if there’s not another Israeli-Palestinian war in the meanwhile.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, life expectancy in the Gaza Strip in 2014 was 74.64 years – higher than that in one hundred and thirteen other countries or territories and higher than that for males in Blackpool or Glasgow, which BBC audiences would of course be unlikely to hear described as places “where you die slowly”.

Following that (from around 45:25), listeners hear Avi Shlaim telling them that there will be no peace or stability in the Middle East until Jews lose their right to self-determination.

“To answer your regional question, I don’t think that Israel-Palestine is a separate discrete conflict. It’s part of the whole Middle East set-up and it’s the most fundamental and lasting and enduring conflict in the region and there can be no peace, no stability and no security in the Middle East until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. How can it be resolved? I used to be a great supporter of the two state solution but […] it is no longer viable. Why is it not viable? Because Israel, under right-wing governments, has systematically destroyed the basis for a two state solution. And therefore today I support and advocate a one state solution: one state which is for all its citizens with equal rights for all its citizens be they Arab or Israeli, Muslim, Christian or Jewish.”

No attempt is made by the programme’s host to inform listeners of the significance and consequences of the ‘solution’ to all the Middle East’s troubles as put forward by Shlaim and likewise no effort is made to relieve them of the ridiculous notion that ISIS jihadists are slaughtering Yezidis, Kurds and Christians (among others) and Bashar al Assad is killing his own people because the Arab-Israeli conflict has yet to be resolved.

Amazingly, this is what passes for objective, impartial, factual and accurate analysis of the Middle East as far as the BBC World Service is concerned, but Avi Shlaim’s historical misrepresentations had not finished there – as we shall see in part two of this post.

Multiple breaches of editorial guidelines in Sharon report by BBC’s Paul Adams

Like the rest of the media, the BBC has had ample advance time in which to prepare parts of its coverage of the death of Ariel Sharon. It is therefore interesting to look at how that time has been spent and what pre-planned messages the BBC wishes to communicate to its audiences.

The BBC News website ran a live page with the rather clumsy title “As it happened: Ariel Sharon dies” on January 11th.

Sharon As it happened page

Featured prominently on that page is a filmed report which was clearly made in advance and is more than seven minutes in length – and which also appeared on BBC television news programmes and in addition elsewhere on the BBC News website – by BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Adams

Sharon Paul Adams filmed

The report opens with Adams narrating.

“The king of Israel to his followers, the bulldozer to admirers and detractors alike. Ariel Sharon’s turbulent story and contradictions spanned more than sixty years of Israeli history. In and out of uniform he was always a warrior but what did he achieve and had he lived, what more did he have in mind for Israel and the Palestinians?

He was certainly decisive, provided the decisions were his. In 1973 he crossed the Suez Canal and helped to defeat the Egyptian army. It was risky, unorthodox, perhaps even crazy.”

The report then cuts to archive footage of Sharon speaking in 1973.

“Without madness I don’t believe that anybody would have done it. To believe that you can do it during one night – a certain element of madness should be there.”

Back to Adams:

“His maverick style infuriated his superiors but his men loved it and him.”

The film then shows Avi Dichter speaking.

“Yeah, very popular. I remember as a combatant of twenty-one years old during the Yom Kippur war in ’73 we were very motivated to go, to follow the leader, to follow the commander and we knew that if you follow Ariel Sharon, you’ll – at the end – you’ll find your destination. You are not going to get lost.”

The report then cuts to Pathe archive footage from 1953 in which the announcer is saying:

“The tiny village of Qibya on the Israel-Jordan border is in ruins…”

Adams cuts in:

“But there was a dark, brutal side too, from retaliatory raids on Palestinian villages in the 1950s to the devastating assault on Beirut thirty years later, culminating in the massacre of Palestinian refugees at the hands of Israel’s Lebanese allies.”

So, in the opening minutes of the film audiences have heard “crazy”, “madness”, “dark” and “brutal”, but with absolutely no context provided regarding the Egyptian attack which began the Yom Kippur war and ended up with Israeli forces crossing the Suez Canal, no mention of the Fedayeen raids on Israel and no explanation of the PLO’s presence in Lebanon and its attacks on civilians in northern Israel which brought about the first Lebanon war.

The film then cuts to footage of Sharon pointing to a map and saying:

“We had a problem here; how to keep in our hands…”

Adams cuts in:

“Throughout it all, Ariel Sharon was passionate about the land, often to be found like this – map in hand – explaining the significance of holding on to territory captured in 1967.”

Again, no context is provided as to why the Six Day War broke out: as far as Adams is concerned, all BBC audiences need to know is that Israel captured territory. He goes on:

“To Jewish settlers he was a hero, telling them to grab every hilltop while they could.”

The film then features an interview with Yisrael Medad who is labelled on screen as “Spokesman Yesha Council of Jewish Communities”.

“He pushed, he manipulated, he exploited every opportunity to make sure that as many Jews as possible were living in as many locations throughout the territories that we now administer after the ’67 war.”

Adams goes on:

“But Sharon’s attachment to the land was less spiritual, more strategic. Giving this up was simply too risky.”

Undated footage is then shown of Ariel Sharon saying:

“Israel is against having a Palestinian state and the government – all the government – were against having a Palestinian state here because of the dangers.”

Next to be interviewed is the old BBC favourite Rashid Khalidi who, despite the BBC’s supposed commitment to “summarizing the standpoint” of interviewees, is labelled on screen simply as “Professor Rashid Khalidi , Author – ‘Brokers of Deceit'” and with absolutely no reference to his activism and political agenda. Khalidi says:

“The evil done by the settlement process from the very beginning of the occupation in ’67 – but put on steroids by Sharon from when he was Minister of Agriculture in 1977 – ah – I think will be with us for a very, very long time if not permanently. It has changed the face of Palestine.”

So, audiences have now been led towards an emotion-based view of settlements – and by inference, the people who built and live in them – as doing “evil” and led to believe that there is an entity called “Palestine” which has been “changed”. Adams then lets slip his mask of BBC impartiality even further. [emphasis added]

“For years this colonisation of occupied territory set Israel at odds with its closest ally, the United States. It saw settlements as an obstacle to peace. But violence, Sharon countered, was a much greater obstacle. With suicide bombs claiming dozens of lives and America pursuing its ‘War on Terror’ after 9/11, Sharon’s argument was simple: we’re all in this together.”

Along with the inaccurate description of “colonization”, here we see Adams transform a campaign of terrorism orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership into amorphous, disconnected “suicide bombs” and the true number of casualties downplayed by a factor of hundreds. Adams goes on:

“But he did something more: he got George Bush to agree in writing that some settlements would never be removed.”

The film then features an interview with another of the BBC’s favourite historians – Avi Shlaim – who is also presented on screen in a manner which does nothing to “summarise” his anti-Zionist “viewpoint”: “Professor Avi Shlaim, Oxford University”. Shlaim expands on Adams’ previous point by edging audiences towards conspiracy theories of Zionist influence and power.

“The letter that George Bush wrote to him is his greatest achievement because he asked for an American commitment to support Israel’s negotiating  position in writing and he got it in writing and he was very proud of that letter from Bush. He called it a second Balfour Declaration. So under the influence of Ariel Sharon, George Bush reversed American foreign policy.” [emphasis added]

Adams continues:

“But Sharon was pragmatic too. If giving up land was risky, he saw that sometimes holding on was worse. The forcible removal of nine thousand Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip was, for him, a small price to pay for no longer having to take account of Gaza’s one and a half million Palestinians.”

The film then cuts to another interview with Yisrael Medad who is presented as before.

“Too many of us today will not remember the good days, but only remember the bitterness of the fact that he failed us at a moment that we thought we had someone in a position of power to assure our future forever.”

Erasing from his account both Israel’s efforts to make peace during the Oslo years and the Palestinian leadership’s response to those overtures in the form of the second Intifada, Adams goes on:

“But Ariel Sharon didn’t consult the Palestinians either – he was too busy fighting them. Yasser Arafat was an enemy to be surrounded and humiliated in his head-quarters. With no peace partner, he said, we have to take decisions ourselves. The wall – or separation barrier – was one of them. Initially for security, but a clear statement too of where a future border might be drawn; cutting off even more Palestinian territory – part of Sharon’s enduring legacy.”

There’s that “Palestinian territory” again – with no mention whatsoever of Area C or Final Status negotiations. There too is what has become the BBC’s standard yet obvious misrepresentation of Sharon’s initial opposition to the construction of an anti-terrorist fence.

The film then returns to Avi Shlaim who – in contravention of BBC editorial guidelines – is once again presented to audiences only by the title of the academic institution at which he works.

“Despite Sharon’s disappearance from the political scene, ah, his legacy looms very large in Israeli politics because he was the architect of a new national consensus which was based on unilateralism.”

Shlaim of course provides no evidence for his bizarre claim of a “national consensus” and has apparently never heard of Ehud Barak’s 2000 unilateral disengagement from southern Lebanon. Adams continues: [emphasis added]

“Eight years on, an energetic American Secretary of State shuttles this way and that, trying to breathe some kind of life into the peace process. Israel’s current prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is, if anything, more hawkish. But should he be grateful to his old rival?”

One can but hope that BBC audiences do not share Adams’ selective amnesia with regard to the Bar Ilan speech.

The film then returns to a once again misrepresented Rashid Khalidi:

“One now sees Secretary Kerry trying to impose on the Palestinians things that are part of the Israeli position; things like acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact there are some reports that Kerry is trying to impose this on all the Arab states. Ah..so I think that Sharon began a process back in the early 2000s of pulling the United States away from a nominal position as an honest broker. This – you could argue that this has been done before – but certainly since Sharon and since that 2004 letter, it’s become more noticeable and unfortunately I think maybe it’s become a permanent part of the landscape of negotiations.”

There we have audiences primed yet again to accept that notion of a mysterious – and apparently totally irresistible – Israeli influence on a United States of America which, if one chooses to believe the BBC’s preferred historians, is unable to think for itself or decide on its own foreign policy.

Adams concludes:

“Two strokes a month apart brought an abrupt end to Ariel Sharon’s long, eventful career. We simply do not know what his next move would have been. His first term in office was characteristically decisive. Israelis from the Right and the Left seemed willing to follow his lead, but the West Bank was always going to be infinitely more complicated than Gaza: far more settlers on much more strategic land. His plans would almost certainly have been too much for them; too little for the Palestinians. And in the years since it’s only got harder.”

BBC audiences learn nothing from Paul Adams’ report of Ariel Sharon the man – who lost his first wife and eldest son in separate tragic accidents and his second wife to cancer. Neither will audiences learn much about Sharon the soldier and statesman because what little cherry-picked information is provided is presented without the vital historic context necessary to understand the man and his deeds.

In fact it is all too obvious that Adams’ real aim in this pre-prepared film was not to tell BBC audiences about the life of Ariel Sharon, but to use the occasion of his death as a vehicle from which to advance a collection of myths and memes originating from a specific political viewpoint of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In that mission, he has undoubtedly reached his target. The fact that in order to do so, BBC editorial guidelines – including those on the proper presentation of interviewees – were trampled is clearly not of interest to either this particular BBC correspondent or his editors, just as long as audiences have got the ‘right’ message.

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BBC R4 presents jaundiced account of San Remo conference

 

BBC R4 presents jaundiced account of San Remo conference

BBC Radio Four is currently running a series called “Terror Through Time” presented by Fergal Keane. The instalment broadcast on Friday, October 11th 2013 was titled “Stirring the Middle East” and it can be heard here.

Stirring the Middle East

The programme’s synopsis reads:

“Fergal Keane on the British promises in WW1 that provoked conflict in the Middle East.
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War created a tangle of real and potential conflicts for world leaders to unpick.

The toughest nut to crack would be the future of Palestine. In the course of the war Britain, in its desperate quest for allies, made three apparently contradictory promises. A secret deal with France divided future control of the Middle East between the two allies, the Sharif of Mecca was offered a new Arab kingdom and support for a Jewish homeland had been given to the Zionists.

Fergal Keane explores how Britain tried and failed to untangle the knots, setting the scene for so much of the violence to come in the Middle East.”

As may be expected of an item lasting less than fourteen minutes which relies mainly upon input from anti-Zionist campaigning academic Avi Shlaim and partisan activist academic Rashid Khalidi, the programme presents a very one-sided, partial view of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine. Interestingly – in light of a recent ECU decision – the two contributors are introduced solely by their academic titles, with no “summarizing the standpoint” of Shlaim and Khalidi whatsoever. 

Listeners to the programme will not hear a full explanation of the legal status of the Mandate for Palestine issued by the League of Nations or of the fact that 77% of its intended area was later assigned to the creation of Transjordan. They will hear of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, but not that none of the letters referred to Palestine or that – as was reported in The Times in 1937 – Sir Henry McMahon later clarified:

“I feel my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein.”

Listeners will hear Keane say at 11:22:

“There were no Palestinian Arabs present at all when the final deal was reached at San Remo in 1920.”

They do not get any explanation of the fact that at the time no such separate identity as “Palestinian Arabs” was recognized – certainly not by Arab powers with their own territorial designs. Neither are they made aware that at the same San Remo conference, the foundations for Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were laid down.  

They will hear Khalidi’s politically motivated description of the Balfour Declaration as a vehicle for British imperialism and hear him claim that “the Palestinians were basically written out of the Mandate” whilst he himself completely ignores the fact that the “non-Jewish population of Palestine” referred to in the Balfour Declaration actually includes other groups besides the “Arabs and Palestinians” to whom he exclusively refers.

In light of the presentation of this politicized version of events, readers may be interested to know that the episode of this series scheduled for Monday, October 14th at 13:45 BST is titled “The Murderous Mandate”. According to the synopsis:

“In April 1947 a young French woman talked her way past the guard of Dover House in Whitehall. She told him she was desperate to use the toilet. In fact Betty Knut was there to plant a bomb at the very heart of the Empire. It proved just how far some militants were willing to go in their campaign to remove the British from Palestine.

In part six of Fergal Keane’s exploration of the changing nature of terrorism, he’s joined by historian David Cesarani and former member of the Jewish underground, Hanna Armoni, to tell the story of the dedicated groups that turned their bombs and bullets against the British occupation.”

The Murderous Mandate