BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part two

In part one of this post we began looking at two contributions from Jane Corbin to the BBC’s extensive Balfour Declaration centenary coverage: a filmed programme first aired on BBC Two on October 31st under the title “The Balfour Declaration: The Promise to the Holy Land” (available for a limited period of time in the UK here, transcript here) and a written article that appeared on the same day in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history“.

While both reports repeated themes seen in additional BBC coverage such as incomplete presentation of the entire text of Arthur Balfour’s letter, on the other hand they did present audiences with a very rare glimpse of the grave consequences of British restrictions on Jewish immigration.

Filmed: “In 1939, the British Government bowed to the pressure of the Arab revolt, drastically restricting Jewish immigration. The immediate consequences were to be disastrous for the Jews. The timing could not have been worse. Hitler’s Final Solution was soon to come into devastating effect.”

Written: “Leo was bitterly disappointed at the British cap on Jewish immigration and I visited Atlit, one of the British internment camps, with 80-year-old Rabbi Meir Lau. He spent two weeks here when he arrived in Palestine as an eight-year-old survivor of Buchenwald extermination camp. Many other refugees were turned back – to Europe.

“It was against humanity after six years of horror,” he said, shaking his head in sorrow as we walked along the rusty barbed wire fences. “Where was the nation of the United Kingdom then? Lord Balfour would not have believed it.””

Both reports informed audiences of the Arab refusal to accept the 1947 Partition Plan but in the filmed report Corbin provided a debatable motive for the ensuing attacks by Arab states.

Filmed: “…but the Arabs would not sign up to the UN plan. All-out war followed, as Arab armies from neighbouring countries invaded in support of the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

In her written report Corbin presented a whitewashed portrayal of events:

Written: “But Arab countries refused to sign up to the UN’s plan and, in the violence on both sides that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced to flee the new State of Israel.” [emphasis added]

Corbin’s filmed report inaccurately portrayed the PLO as having begun its life as a terrorist organisation after – and because of – the Six Day War rather than three years before any ‘occupation’ existed. 

Filmed: “The occupation sparked an armed struggle by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, under its leader, Yasser Arafat. Exiled from Palestine, the PLO carried out hijackings and bombings on the international stage. They killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Israel sent hit squads to hunt down those responsible.”

Equally inaccurate was her portrayal of the Western Wall:

Filmed: “Israel insists that Jerusalem, the site of their holiest place, the Western Wall of the temple, must be their eternal undivided capital.” [emphasis added]

Her description of the al Aqsa Mosque was no less misleading:

Filmed: “The great mosques of Islam are here, too…”

Corbin presented a highly simplistic portrayal of the failure of the Oslo peace process to achieve its aim which refrained from adequately clarifying that negotiations continued after Rabin’s death and completely airbrushed the Palestinian Authority initiated second Intifada out of the picture.

Filmed: “Despite the hopes, the peace deal was quick to unravel, under pressure from extremists on both sides. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas rejected the peace deal and set out to undermine it by bombing Israeli buses. And Yasser Arafat’s security forces failed to prevent the attacks. […]

 Two years after the agreement, a Jewish extremist opposed to giving up land for peace, assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. […]

The Oslo Accords are the closest I’ve ever known to the kind of peaceful ideal that Balfour and Leo Amery had for Palestine. But for me, despite the progress made, the death of Yitzhak Rabin spelled the end of the Oslo peace process…”

Written: “The optimism created by the historic handshake on the White House lawn between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was shattered when a Jewish extremist assassinated Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO’s chairman Yasser Arafat failed to stop suicide bombings launched by the Islamist extremist group Hamas.”

In typical BBC form, Corbin amplified Palestinian messaging by telling viewers of the filmed report that there is one prime “barrier to peace”: Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

Filmed: “Well, it may not look much but I’m actually now crossing over from Israel into the West Bank where the Palestinians live. And here, an even greater barrier to any peace deal has emerged: Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. Since Oslo, Israel has more than tripled the number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. There are now more than 500,000 Israelis living in around 140 settlements. Heading north, I’m on my way to an Orthodox Jewish settlement called Tappuah. The international community considers all Israeli settlements illegal. It’s very different today than when I first came on the West Bank 30 years ago. So many more Israeli settlements on all the hills around and so many more Israeli settlers.”

While viewers of the filmed report got some insight into the issue of Hamas’ refusal to “ever recognise Israel’s right to exist” based on their conviction that Israel is “Arab” and “Islamic” land, readers of the written report saw nothing at all on that topic.

Corbin’s take-away messaging in both reports, however, completely ignored the uncompromising approach of Hamas and additional Palestinian factions as she promoted a narrative of equivalent blame for the absence of peace that completely failed to address the century-long key issue of the basic Arab refusal to accept Jewish self-determination in the region.

Filmed: “I do believe that Leo Amery was right when he thought violence wasn’t inevitable here. It resulted from the wrong political decisions. And I think that still holds true today.  For me, what’s needed is the kind of vision that Oslo brought. Strong and inspired leadership, a leap of faith on both sides. And without that, there’s a danger that time is running out. The bloodshed and intransigence will make peace impossible for decades still to come.”

Written: “Was Leo’s vision that Jews and Arabs could live and prosper together in peace doomed to failure and was violence inevitable? These were the questions I wanted to answer when I came to Israel again this time. […]

Leo never thought violence was inevitable here. He believed it was the result of wrong political decisions and the bloody and unpredictable events of history – as I discovered myself after the Oslo peace agreement.

Now there is a danger that extremism and intransigence on both sides will make peace impossible for decades still to come.”

Like most of the rest of the BBC’s Balfour Declaration centenary coverage, these two reports by Corbin promoted the narrative that implementation of that declaration was incomplete. In the filmed report Corbin even went so far as to describe its intention as “[t]he Balfour vision of Arabs and Jews living together in the same country”.

While the Balfour Declaration’s commitment to the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people was eventually realised (some might say despite the best efforts of the British mandate), Corbin made no reference at all in either of her reports to the fact that part of the territory originally assigned to that purpose was subsequently made over by the British (with League of Nations approval) to the creation of the Arab state known today as Jordan.

Another very significant omission in both of Corbin’s reports – particularly in light of her repeated references to Palestinian refugees – is the subject of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands: people whose rights were also supposedly safeguarded by the Balfour Declaration but whose existence and story has barely been acknowledged in the BBC’s coverage of this centenary.

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BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part one

 

 

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BBC’s Corbin sidesteps prime issues in Balfour reports – part one

The BBC’s extensive Balfour Declaration centenary coverage included two contributions from Jane Corbin: a filmed programme first aired on BBC Two on October 31st under the title “The Balfour Declaration: The Promise to the Holy Land” (available for a limited period of time in the UK here, transcript here) and a written article that appeared on the same day in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history“.

Both of those reports opened with promotion of a theme often seen in BBC content: the exaggerated notion of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the world’s prime dispute.

Filmed: “100 years ago, a British promise – just a few words in a letter – lit a fire in the Holy Land. The Balfour Declaration ignited one of the most bitter and intractable struggles of modern times: the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Written: “One hundred years ago, only 67 words on a single sheet of paper lit a fire in the Holy Land, igniting the most intractable conflict of modern times.” [emphasis added]

Very early on, both reports also included promotion of Palestinian talking points concerning the Balfour Declaration.

Filmed: (synopsis) “But the Palestinians and many Arabs will greet the centenary with protest and bitter accusations – they still hold Britain responsible for a century of injustice, and conflict in the Holy Land.”

Written: “While many Israelis believe it was the foundation stone of modern Israel and the salvation of the Jews, many Palestinians regard it as a betrayal.”

As has been the case across the board in the BBC’s coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary, both Corbin’s reports focused audience attentions on one particular part of the text. Coincidentally or not, it is that section of the text that has also been the focus of anti-Israel campaigners’ Balfour related propaganda.

Filmed: “Leo Amery added a sentence. ‘Nothing should be done’ he wrote, ‘which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities’. The line was intended as a safeguard for the majority population in Palestine – the Arabs. But they would interpret it as anything but.”

Written: “My mother, Olive Amery, told me stories when I was a child about this relative – a British politician involved in the drafting of the declaration. He added a sentence intended to safeguard the civil and religious rights of the majority population, the Palestinian Arabs.”

While Corbin did accurately portray that part of the letter’s text as referring to “civil and religious rights” (rather than ‘rights’ in general, as seen in much other BBC content), nowhere in either of her reports were BBC audiences told of the part of that same sentence likewise intended to safeguard “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

In her filmed report Corbin revisited a previous interviewee.

Filmed: Corbin: “Most Palestinians have certainly failed to reap the benefits of Israel’s success. Their living standards are far lower. There’s a crisis in their economy and public finances. It all stems, many Palestinians believe, from the unfair hand that Britain dealt them 100 years ago. I first met Jawad Siyam, a Palestinian activist, seven years ago, protesting against the takeover by some Israelis of a building in an Arab area of Jerusalem. For Jawad, his battle over the land today is a continuation of the struggles of his grandparents.”

Corbin did indeed meet Siyam in 2010 when he appeared in her highly problematic Panorama programme “A Walk in the Park” in which audiences heard him claim that:

“They are demolishing the houses because they want to. It’s ethnic cleansing for Silwan, for east Jerusalem. … It’s the most racist state in the world, you see. See this state? It’s the most racist state in the world. [To Israeli police:] You are the most racist people in the world!”

Since then Siyam has been featured in BBC content on at least two additional occasions but in this latest film by Corbin , beyond the tepid description “activist”, nothing was done to inform audiences of the nature of his political activities and his agenda – as required by BBC Editorial guidelines on impartiality.

In both reports Corbin visited Lifta.

Filmed: “In the violence, and after attacks by Jewish forces, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, whose homes lay within the new state of Israel, fled or were forced to flee. The village of Lifta, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, was abandoned. Lifta has lain empty for nearly 70 years. Palestinians have never been allowed to return to live here. But, every year they come back with their children and grandchildren to remember.

Written: “One of the most poignant moments for me was visiting the ruins of Lifta – a Palestinian village abandoned nearly 70 years ago – with some of the old residents.

Many Palestinians from here became refugees and have never been allowed to return to live in Lifta. But every year they come back with their children and grandchildren to remember.

Hamid Suhail was seven when he fled – now he leans on a stick as his son Nasir helps him down the overgrown rocky slopes.

“I hope the day will come when we will have the right to come back here and live in peace,” says Nasir. Hamid’s granddaughter, Sohar, is emotional as she says: “It makes me angry and sad at the same time to come here – although it is important to remember the history of these houses.””

Unsurprisingly, Corbin’s account did not make any mention of the violence against Jews perpetrated by residents of Lifta on countless occasions throughout the decades before Israel came into being. Neither were audiences told that in early December 1947, the residents of Lifta received orders from the Arab Higher Committee to evacuate the village’s women and children to Ramallah and that the village was made into a base for the Najada militia, from which attacks were launched on Jewish neighbourhoods on Jerusalem’s western side such as Kiryat Moshe, Givat Shaul and Romema.

Discussion of Corbin’s reports will continue in part two of this post.

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Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet Tony Badran takes a wider look at the Lebanese PM’s recent resignation.

“Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, ratcheted up the rhetoric this week, and stated that Saudi Arabia will treat the Lebanese government as a hostile government which has “declared war,” because of Hezbollah’s involvement in military operations in Yemen and elsewhere targeting Saudi troops and the Saudi homeland itself.

Rhetoric aside, it is in fact hard to see how Lebanon cannot be held responsible for attacks facilitated and conducted by the entity that controls the country’s government and armed forces – which is why few nations with any choice in the matter would choose to be run by a terrorist organization, especially one that is controlled by a foreign country.”

2) At Mosaic magazine, Nicholas Rostow explains “How the Balfour Declaration Became Part of International Law“.

“In 1922, the League [of Nations] duly created the mandate for Palestine and made Britain the mandatory power. To the words of the Balfour Declaration, it added the recognition already given at San Remo “to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country” and conferred on Britain the obligation to implement its declaration, thus making it, too, part of international law. The terms of the mandate were binding on all members of the League. In 1924, the United States formally concurred in this international action by means of a treaty with Great Britain.” 

3) At the Algemeiner Einat Wilf discusses a topic relevant to the BBC’s recent portrayals of the Balfour Declaration as an act of ‘colonialism’.

“The campaign waged by Palestinians and their supporters to demand that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration, a century after it was issued, betrays yet again their fundamental misunderstanding of how and why the modern State of Israel came into being. Israel is the outcome of deliberate Jewish action — not of foreign hand-outs. Israel is a country attained – not a land given. […]

For too many, the story that Jews could attain something for themselves by operating, as all peoples do, on multiple fronts — diplomatically, economically, militarily — is still so fanciful that to some, the story of Israel only makes sense if presented as a series of handouts by foreign powers with shady motivations.”

4) Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe discuss “How the Quakers Became Champions of BDS” at the Tablet.

“How did a century-old religiously based pacifist organization transform itself into one of the leading engines for the Palestinian cause? Part of the answer lies in the AFSC’s evolution, which has gone from trying to save Jews to vilifying them. Its Quaker theology has similarly gone from emphasis on the “Inner Light” that guides individual conscience to something like old-fashioned Christian supersessionism, where Jews deserve to be hated. The result is that the organization is now effectively captive to progressive Israel-hatred.”

 

 

Uncritical amplification of NGO allegations on BBC One

For some years now we have been documenting the BBC’s ‘quote and promote’ editorial policy regarding NGOs. The overwhelming majority of the NGOs given a platform in the BBC’s coverage of Israel come from one side of the political spectrum and some of them are even involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

However, the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be clarified and audiences hence remain unaware of the fact that the information they are receiving is not only consistently unbalanced but often politically motivated.

Another example of unquestioning BBC amplification of politicised messaging put out by campaigning NGOs was seen in the November 5th edition of BBC One’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ during an interview (available here) with the Israeli prime minister.

In his introduction to the interview, Marr inaccurately presented the Balfour Declaration as a personal document from its signatory rather than one stating the position of the British government of the time. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marr: “Now in 1917 the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter announcing his conversion to the idea that the Jewish people should have a national home in Israel. This Balfour Declaration is regarded as one of the founding documents of the modern State of Israel and to celebrate its centenary, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come to London where he’s been in talks with Theresa May. To some he is the arch-defender of the Jewish people. To others he’s a bellicose hardliner dedicated to expanding the very settlements seen by the Palestinian Arabs as their obstacle to peace and he joins me now. Welcome Prime Minister.”

Netanyahu: “The good part was shorter than the bad part.”

Marr: “Well let me turn to the bad part: the second bit of Balfour Declaration which does say that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Can you really say that that has been held to by your government?”

After Netanyahu explained that Israel’s Arab citizens do have civic and religious rights, Marr went on to present context-free allegation as fact:

Marr: “In Israel and in the occupied territories there are pretty gross human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch – let me read you this – ‘whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during the 50 year occupation’. And again, Amnesty International say much the same thing – ‘Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians including children in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and detained thousands of Palestinians who opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and committed with impunity’. That is not in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.”

Leaving aside Marr’s attempt to promote the ridiculously contrived notion that part of the text of a statement produced by the British government a century ago is the litmus test for the policies and actions of modern-day Israel, as we see while presenting unquestioned allegations from two NGOs as ‘fact’, he completely failed to inform viewers of the political agenda that lies behind such tendentious claims from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Later on in the interview viewers saw additional examples of the failure to adhere to BBC’s professed editorial values of accuracy and impartiality when – referring to the district of Judea – Marr told his guest that “this is Palestinian territory”. When Netanyahu spoke of the extra-judicial execution of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Marr interrupted with the jibe “you’ve shot a lot of people there too”.

The BBC’s long-standing policy of uncritical amplification of politically motivated allegations against Israel from agenda-driven NGOs such as HRW and AI clearly does not serve its declared purpose of providing “impartial news and information” aimed at enhancing audience understanding of the complex topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

The second part (see part one here) of the ‘Newshour‘ Balfour Declaration centenary special that was aired on BBC World Service radio on November 2nd began (from 30:04 here) with a reading of the declaration itself after a short introduction from presenter James Menendez.

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

Menendez: “Now to our main story today: the centenary of the Balfour Declaration – the statement by the British government pledging support for the creation of a homeland for Jews.

Menendez then introduced his next guest:

Menendez: “Well let’s get the Palestinian perspective on that declaration and its legacy. I’ve been speaking to Ahmad Khalidi, a former Palestinian negotiator, now senior associate member of St Antony’s College, Oxford University. What does he think the motivation for the deal was?”

Khalidi began by promoting the theme of ‘colonialism’ that appears regularly in Palestinian Authority and PLO messaging.

Khalidi: “There were a number of things. The first was clear British imperial interests in establishing a colony which the British would control and who they believed would be populated by a friendly Jewish Zionist population. The second was to keep the French out because the French had competing interests in the Levant and third was to gain the support of world Jewish communities, particularly in the United States as the British were interested in getting the Americans to come into the war. So they thought that if they could do this then the Jews all over the world would support the British and the allies in the war.”

Menendez: “But was there no humanitarian motivation – the desire to give the Jewish people a homeland given the level – even at that stage – of persecution in Europe even before the Holocaust?”

Khalidi: “Yes there was but it wasn’t matched by any sympathy or understanding for the fact the population of Palestine was 90% Arab – both Muslim and Christian. Second, that this population was not consulted and third that the terms of the Balfour Declaration set up no parity between the two. Balfour decided – or the declaration says – that Jews can have a national home in Palestine and recognises them as a people with national rights but it only refers to the Palestinians as the non-Jewish communities. Balfour made it very clear; he says the Zionist movement has far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit the land.”

Khalidi’s misrepresentation of the context that statement by Balfour conceals from listeners that it was actually made two years after the Balfour Declaration was issued in a memorandum addressing the question of the selection of mandatories in various regions of the Middle East and referred specifically to the debate at the time about consulting the inhabitants of the Middle East with regard to that specific question.

Menendez: “But did everyone think that though? I mean that wasn’t how it was sold to the people at the time. Weren’t there those who felt that both things were possible? That the Jewish people could have their homeland and the Arabs living there also could have a future?”

Khalidi: “Well yes; a future but you know as I keep saying this is a land that had been populated for 1,400 years by an Arab people and that the British, who were not in control of Palestine, decided that the best thing would be to hand it over to somebody else – who was not there!”

Rather than clarifying to listeners that by the time the Balfour Declaration was written Jerusalem had had a majority Jewish population for more than half a century and that Jewish communities had existed in additional towns such as Tsfat, Hebron and Tiberias for centuries, Menendez put his own wind into the sails of Khalidi’s political narrative.

Menendez: “So sort of giving away something that wasn’t theirs to give away.”

Khalidi: “They weren’t even in control of it at the time. It wasn’t theirs to give away and somebody else was there who had as much – if not more – of a claim to the land than anybody else. The Arabs were there for 1,400 years continuously, regardless of who was there before. These were the people of the land; the natives. And they were completely ignored.”

Menendez: “And in fact Winston Churchill came up with this phrase, didn’t he, ‘I don’t agree that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time’.”

That statement by Churchill of course dates from twenty years after the Balfour Declaration and according to Sir Martin Gilbert’s book “Churchill and the Jews” was made in the framework of the 1937 Peel Commission which recommendation partition of Palestine into two separate states – one Jewish and one Arab: a plan that was unanimously rejected by the Arabs. That information of course does not fit it with Khalidi’s narrative of denial of the national rights of Arabs and therefore unsurprisingly listeners were told nothing of that context.

Khalidi: “Isn’t that extraordinary? Frankly, I mean, Theresa May thinks that this is a day to celebrate with pride. I think it’s a day when the British government should hang its head in shame. It’s a day that reveals an extent of duplicity, a lack of concern for the natives of the land. OK you can say that this was the spirit of imperialism at the time. Maybe. But it doesn’t make it any better from the Palestinian point of view.”

Menendez: “But it also gave refuge to the Jews who’d been persecuted for hundreds of years. Surely that is a good thing with the benefit of hindsight?”

Khalidi: “If that could have been done in such a way that it was a consensual act where the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews had come together and agreed on a formula by which this would be mutually acceptable, that would have been wonderful. But the fact is that this is not what happened. We were not recognised as a people with national rights and to a very large extent this is still the case today.”

Refraining from asking Khalidi to clarify why those national rights were not recognised – or demanded – when the Palestinian Arabs were living under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Menedez went on:

Menendez: “And isn’t the problem at the moment that there are loud voices on both sides of the conflict who do not believe that the other side should have any right to that land – both on the Israeli side and Palestinian side?”

Khalidi: “Yes, I mean, you know, we have a formula that’s been around for decades. The sad thing is that whereas the international community put its weight behind the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, there’s never been a similar international line-up that has made any difference in terms of creating a national home or a state for the Palestinians in what remains of Palestine.”

Had Menendez been playing the role of impartial interviewer rather than facilitator of the amplification of a specific political narrative he would of course have reminded Khalidi – and his listeners – that in 1947 an “international line-up” offered the Palestinians the chance of their own state in the form of the Partition Plan but that it too was rejected by both the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states. However, Menendez closed the conversation with Khalidi at that point and went on instead to describe to listeners Palestinian media coverage of the centenary before introducing his final interviewee as “the view from Jerusalem”.

Menendez: “…I spoke to Michaela Sieff [Ziv] – her grandmother Rebecca founder of the Women’s International Zionist Organisation [WIZO]. She told me first about her grandmother’s role in those years leading up to the creation of the State of Israel.”

While Ms Sieff’s account was interesting in itself, it did not counter the historical revisionism previously promoted by Khalidi and Menendez who, when told of Rebecca Sieff’s work with Jewish women and children in Palestine asked:

Menedez: “So concern for them. Was she worried at all do you know about what would happen to the Arab inhabitants of Palestine?”

His final question steered listeners back to the theme dominating the entire item:

Menendez: “And what do you think now? I mean can you understand Ahmad Khalidi who we’ve just heard from, you know, his feelings of betrayal, feelings of resentment that Britain betrayed the Palestinians with the Balfour Declaration?”

Obviously this ‘Newshour’ special not only did very little indeed to contribute to audience understanding of the topic of the Balfour Declaration but its blatant promotion of a partisan political narrative based on historical revisionism failed to meet the BBC’s professed  standards of accuracy and impartiality.

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BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

Like its Radio 4 counterpart ‘Today’, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a Balfour Declaration centenary special on November 2nd.

“A century since the British government letter which endorsed a Jewish homeland. The current Lord Balfour reflects on what drove his ancestor and we hear from a Palestinian and an Israeli.”

The first part of that broadcast (from 00:65 here) was introduced by presenter James Menendez using very obvious framing. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “Well our main story today is events marking a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration. This short statement contained in a letter from Britain’s then foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, was a pledge of support for a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people. In London tonight there’ll be a big dinner hosted by the Prime Minister Theresa May welcoming her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. A moment of pride, says the British government. But for Palestinians it’s a moment of anger, a reminder of what they see as a betrayal – the failure to stick to a promise also contained in the statement: not to – quote – prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jews. In a moment we’ll hear from Arthur Balfour’s descendent the current Lord Balfour but first this report from our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Listeners then heard a slightly edited version of the report by Bateman aired earlier in the day on Radio 4, including its inaccurate references to ‘dispossession’, its odd portrayal of the Mandate for Palestine and its misrepresentation of the Balfour Declaration as referring to “rights” in general rather than specifically “civil and religious rights”. Interestingly, the part of that report in which Israeli historian and MK Dr Michael Oren pointed out that “the national aspirations of Arabs were widely realised in places like Syria and Iraq” was edited out of this version.

Following that, Menendez spoke to Lord Roderick Balfour, asking him first about his childhood memories of the Balfour Declaration before posing the question:

Menendez: “And what are your reflections now a hundred years on? I mean was it a grave mistake do you think with the benefit of…the wonderful benefit of hindsight?”

After Lord Balfour had described his ancestor’s letter as an “incredibly humanitarian gesture” citing the Holocaust, Russian pogroms and the persecution of Jews “all over the place” – including in Arab lands – Menendez remarked:

Menendez: “It wasn’t even Britain’s gift to give then because it was still under Ottoman control more or less, wasn’t it?”

He later went on to falsely imply that there is a consensus on the topic of one part of the Balfour Declaration while – as was the case across the board in BBC coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary – ignoring the same text’s statement that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice […] the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

Menendez: “And yet there is this second half of it that, you know, sometimes forgotten. This line about it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. And clearly the thinking now is that hasn’t been honoured, that part.”

With Lord Balfour having made his views amply clear in the past, there can be no doubt that neither Menendez nor the programme producers who invited him would have been surprised by his response.

Balfour: “Yes, I think my views on that are very well-known and I’m not popular with certain sections of the Jewish community precisely because I adhere to the fact that a lot of the actions really do go against that tenet of the declaration. And I would also say in that, you know, you have soft language like sympathy, best endeavours. I mean these are not promises; these are pretty woolly terms. But that sentence – it being clearly understood – that is a very strong…the tone changes when it goes into that.”

Menendez closed the interview with promotion of the bizarre notion that the British people should have some sort of collective ‘feeling’ about a letter written a century ago.

Menendez: “Just one final thought about how Britain and British people should feel about it. I think the Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken of – rather than celebration – I think she spoke of pride. I mean is that how Britain should feel about the declaration now? Should we feel proud of what was written down then, what was declared?”

The second part of this programme’s Balfour Declaration centenary special will be discussed in part two of this post.

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MEMO Balfour event participant hosts BBC Radio 4 discussion on Balfour Declaration

 

 

 

MEMO Balfour event participant hosts BBC Radio 4 discussion on Balfour Declaration

A journalist known for his promotion of the notion of a secretive ‘pro-Israel lobby’ allegedly influencing British politics who regularly writes for one media outlet linked to Hamas and participated in a Balfour Declaration/Israel bashing ‘conference’ organised by another outfit with Hamas connections might not seem like the ideal presenter for an item discussing the Balfour Declaration centenary aired by a broadcaster supposedly committed to ‘impartiality’.

Nevertheless, Peter Oborne did present the October 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Week in Westminster’ and that programme included (from 22:03 here) “reflections on the letter which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel, 100 years ago”.

One of the other people ‘reflecting’ was MP Stephen Kinnock who last December accepted an award from the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ as thanks for his support during its campaign for UN accreditation. Mr Kinnock’s views on Israel have long been clear: shortly after the conflict of summer 2014, for example, he wrote the following:

“This devastating onslaught on Gaza has triggered yet another humanitarian crisis, and that’s what’s creating headlines in the here and now. But it is also possible that it has inflicted such damage on Gaza’s already crippled infrastructure that it will become an unliveable place well before 2020. You just can’t help wondering whether the Israeli government factored this into its calculations when it opted to launch such a wide-ranging attack on the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

Kinnock is also on record as an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign but Radio 4 listeners were not informed of that fact before they heard him promote it in this item – introduced by Peter Oborne as follows:

Oborne: “Parliament did note one other momentous event last week: the centenary of the famous letter from foreign secretary AJ Balfour in 1917 which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. A hundred years on and this declaration is as contentious as ever. Tory MP Robert Halfon and Labour’s Stephen Kinnock took part in this week’s debate and afterwards they came into the studio. How does Robert Halfon view the centenary?”

Halfon: “Well I thought it was an incredibly important moment in British history as well as in terms of the creation of the State of Israel. I thought it was another example of why Britain is a truly great country. The Jewish people should have a homeland and had a right to return to their homeland and it was an incredible moment both – as I say – in the history of the Jewish people but also in the history of our country.”

Oborne: “Stephen Kinnock.”

Unsurprisingly, Kinnock’s response reflected PLO messaging on the topic of the Balfour Declaration – although in contrast to much other BBC coverage of the centenary (see ‘related articles’ below), listeners did at least get to hear an accurate portrayal of the text’s reference to “civil and religious rights”. However, Kinnock’s promotion of context-free, spurious and misleading linkage between the text of the Balfour Declaration and what he described as ‘violations’ – including the unsupported notion of ‘illegal’ trade – predictably went completely unchallenged by Oborne.

Kinnock: “Well, I think it’s very important as well to remember the crucial phrase in the Balfour Declaration: ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’ and..err…I think the conclusion we have to draw is that that sentiment has simply not held and has been repeatedly violated by Israeli governments down the ages. We now see vast expansion of illegal settlements, violations of human rights, businesses trading illegally out of the occupied territories of the West Bank and all that is undermining peace and undermining security. We know that we can’t have one without the other so my intervention in the debate was very much in the hope that we could see a change in attitude and behaviour from the Israeli side, which I think is the key to any kind of forward progress in this.” [emphasis added]

Halfon: “It’s worth remembering that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East: one man one vote. There are Arab MPs in the Israeli Knesset. It’s worth remembering that it is a place of refuge, a place of scientific advancement. It’s been a place of tolerance; it’s one of the few places in the Middle East where gay people live normal lives…”

Oborne [interrupts]: “If you could try answering Mr Kinnock’s question that you haven’t yet addressed, which is the Balfour Declaration certainly achieved the Jewish homeland but what about the point about looking after the non-Jewish people – in the phrase of the Balfour Declaration – who were already there?”

Halfon: “If you originally remember, when Palestine, which had the British mandate, was carved up the vast majority of it became Jordan: 77% of it. The rest – smaller, much more small part of that; smaller than the size of Wales – was given to the Jewish people. The Arabs refused to accept that in 1948. We had the war in 1948, we had the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War. Israel has faced the threat of terrorism almost every day since its existence and despite that, is a democracy, has been prepared to make significant moves towards peace. It should be a place that should be celebrated and supported by the United Kingdom and anyone who believes in freedom and democracy.”

Oborne: “Stephen Kinnock.”

Kinnock: “I think all the Palestinian people are asking for is to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

Oborne: “Would you like a change in British government policy – a different kind of pressure on Israel if you come to power?”

Listeners then got to hear what may be a preview of the policy of a government under Mr Kinnock’s party. They were not however provided with any background information concerning the goals of the BDS campaign promoted by Kinnock and his factually baseless references to Judea & Samaria as “illegally occupied” were not challenged by Oborne.

Kinnock: “Yeah. I think what certainly one of the things we must do is contribute to the campaign for any business that is located in the illegally occupied West Bank to be sanctioned; that British companies should not do any trade with those businesses and this also means indirectly; through – for example – financial institutions. There’s quite a lot of British money going into financing a lot of commercial activity going on in the illegally occupied West Bank. So I think that would be a very good start.”

Halfon: “The settlement issue; all those things will come under a negotiation of a proper peace process but there should be a Palestinian state – something I believe in – but the Israelis are right to say we want a Palestinian state but we also need to be sure that we will be free from terrorism and attacks from Islamist groups, from Hamas and so on.”

Oborne: “Anyway, let me wrap things up, gentlemen, by drawing attention to the fact that the 2nd of November will be the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. I’ll ask each of you in turn whether you agree with the prime minister that this is a matter for celebration. Robert Halfon.”

Halfon: “Absolutely. I think it’s a very special moment that should be celebrated.”

Kinnock: “No. I think it’s a matter of regret because the phrase in there which is absolutely critical that the interests of non-Jewish communities will be protected has been violated countless times.”

No-one familiar with the views of Peter Oborne and Stephen Kinnock would have expected to hear an accurate and impartial discussion of either the Balfour Declaration centenary or Israel in this item. The problem, however, is that Radio 4 listeners were not made aware of the “particular viewpoint” of the contributors as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require.

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BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part four

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part four

The fourth item (see the first here, the second here and the third here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary that was aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs show ‘Today‘ was an interview (from 02:36:33 here) with the Palestinian Authority’s Manuel Hassassian conducted by the programme’s co-presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain’s introduction to the item included the exaggerated claim that the Balfour Declaration “shaped the map of the Middle East”.

Husain: “A letter written a hundred years ago that shaped the map of the Middle East; seen by Israelis as the foundation stone for their country and by Palestinians as the beginning of a disaster. We’ve been marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on the programme this morning. After hearing from Israel’s deputy foreign minister earlier, we’ll be talking to a senior Palestinian in a moment.”

After listeners had heard – for the first time in the programme – a reading of the Balfour Declaration in full, Husain continued by upgrading the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Husain: “With us in the studio is Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to the UK: effectively the Palestinian ambassador. […] We’ve been hearing the Israeli view already this morning that this is a moment of celebration for them. What do the words of the Balfour Declaration mean to you?”

Hassassian opened with promotion of a crucial element in the Palestinian narrative: the notion of Jews as European ‘colonialists‘. That falsehood went completely unchallenged by Husain.  

Hassassian: “This letter that Arthur Balfour has published…had published in the past, it’s a one sentence with 67 words that meant the destruction and the destitution of the Palestinian people. Bringing the Jews from Europe to Palestine, you know, that in itself, you know, was a crime against humanity. This is how we look at Balfour because today, when we go back retrospectively 100 years, we have seen how this letter had been…had become part and parcel of the mandatory rule of Great Britain over Palestine in facilitating the Jewish immigration and in creating a national home for the Jews without any respect to the political rights of 95%; then the Palestinians who were the majority…”

As was the case in the first three items in this programme (as well as in much of the BBC’s additional coverage of the centenary – see ‘related articles’ below), Husain then misrepresented the part of Balfour’s letter that referred to “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”.  

Husain: “Which…which are included in that letter, the second part of which does acknowledge that nothing in what has been said about Jewish…the creation of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine should prejudice those rights. But from what you are saying it sounds as if your objection is to the first part as well: the creation in the first place of a home for the Jews in Palestine.”

Ironically, Hassassian then clarified to listeners what the BBC has put much effort into concealing before promoting some highly dubious ‘history’.

Hassassian: “And to the second part because it meant only the civil and religious rights. It did not mention the political rights and the Palestinians have fought the Arabs with the allied in order to get the promise of an independent Palestine.”

Husain: “Your objection to the first part of that – the creation of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine – that is at the heart of the creation of Israel.”

Hassassian: “Yes.”

Husain: “So you are…you are opposed to the existence of Israel today?”

Hassassian then advanced the inaccurate notion that the “second part” of the Balfour Declaration meant the establishment of a “Palestinian state”.

Hassassian: “Today it’s a different reality. We are talking about the second part which was not fulfilled – i.e. the independent Palestinian state. Now in 1988 we have made our painful historic concession in recognising the State of Israel. We have embarked on the peace process. We have signed the Oslo Accords. We have recognised the State of Israel on 75% of the land. Today we’re not talking about, you know, the extermination of Israel. What we’re talking is about the fulfilment of the second part of this Balfour Declaration.”

With Husain making no effort to clarify to listeners that some Palestinian factions do indeed have “the extermination of Israel”at the top of their agenda, he went on:

Hassassian: “Instead of celebrating and marking and adding insult to injury, I think we Palestinians would have expected the moral and historic responsibility to be shouldered by this government and to apologise to the Palestinian people and to go ahead in the execution of the second part by recognising the State of Palestine.”

Husain: “You mean the British government?”

Hassassian: “Yes ma’am.”

Husain: “And the foreign secretary Boris Johnson has spoken about that second part – the protection of the non-Jewish communities of the area that was then Palestine – as being unfinished business. So there is a recognition of what you are saying. “

Husain’s portrayal of the article by Johnson to which she refers is inaccurate: the British foreign secretary did not say “that second part” of the Balfour Declaration was “unfinished business”. He did however refer to “the vision of two states for two peoples” as proposed in the 1937 Peel Commission report – a proposal that listeners were not told was rejected by the Arabs at the time and again on repeated occasions.

Hassassian: “Well that recognition is equated to hollow promises. We have been hearing this for the last several years. That the…the recognition of the fact that there should be a two-state solution, that they are against settlement building and which is true: the British government has taken a stand – a firm stand – by accepting and voting for Resolution 2338 [sic – actually 2334]. But by the same token we haven’t seen any concrete action plan. No pressures have been put on Israel. No BDS on Israel products, you know…”

Husain: “The boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Hassassian: “The boycott…yes and sanctions. We haven’t seen any concrete action. It’s talking the talk but not walking the walk. We do appreciate what Mr Johnson has said. We do appreciate the position of the British government when it comes to the support of a two-state solution but we don’t see any action. Look at the situation in Palestine. The two-state solution is slipping because of the continuous building of settlements by the Israelis.”

Failing to challenge the specious claim that the two-state solution is endangered by Israeli construction and making no effort to clarify to listeners that the building there is takes place in existing communities rather than – as Hassassian implied – new communities being built, Husain continued by raising a topic rarely discussed on BBC platforms: Palestinian responsibility. She refrained, however, from using the word terror and under-represented the number of victims of Palestinian terror.

Husain: “Right. Well let’s talk about the Palestinians’ own responsibility; about Palestinian actions that have been seen particularly since the Oslo Accords which you mentioned were signed. The Palestinian Authority was set up in 1993. Between 1994 and 2005 hundreds of Israelis died in attacks that were carried out by Palestinians and the numbers only came down after Israel built its security barrier…or wall. What that means is that the basic premise of Oslo – the exchange of land for peace – was never honoured and Palestinian violence is part of that.”

Hassassian: “I am really shocked at your question because you have negated the fact that thousands of Palestinians have died at the hands of the Israelis and that this apartheid wall is a political statement and it’s not for security reasons because they wanted to change the facts on the ground by building more settlements and carving Palestinian land. Why did they build this apartheid wall ten kilometres deep into the West Bank and not on their borders of 1967?”

None of those falsehoods promoted by Hassassian was even remotely challenged by Husain who went on:

Husain: “Mr Hassassian, we’ve talked already on the programme this morning to the Israeli deputy foreign minister and we’ve talked about the situation in the West Bank. I’m asking you to acknowledge the deaths of Israelis because of Palestinian attacks.”

Hassassian: “You…you…we have also to expect the acknowledgement of the Israelis for the death of thousands – and not hundreds – of Palestinians. I don’t think this is a fair statement. For us to acknowledge the death of hundreds of Israelis who are occupiers, who have been, you know, uprooting us from our land…”

Husain: “They were civilians. They were civilians, they were children on buses – just one example – that were targeted.”

Hassassian: “And there were…and we have hundreds… thousands of children have been killed by settlers and by the what’s so-called the IDF forces. I mean why do we talk about one side and not the other side? We are the occupied. We have the right to resist. We have the right to establish our own independent state. Why do we equate the occupier with the occupied? Is this a fair statement? It’s not a fair statement. We have the right to resist because we have the inalienable right for self-determination.”

Husain: “But listening to you it seems to me that the chances of peace, the chances of a process that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state, is further away than ever.”

Hassassian: “No. My position as Palestinian ambassador [sic] is to promote the two-state solution. I personally have always believed that political accommodation and negotiations is the only way out of this quagmire. I believe that no military solution will ever be a solution. I believe that convulsive violence breeds more violence.”

Husain made no effort to question Hassassian regarding his claim that he promotes the two-state solution even though he is on record as promoting a very different ‘solution’.

“The Palestinian Ambassador to UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, said ideally he would prefer a one-state solution but pragmatically and politically the two-state solution is the best option that the Palestinians could realistically achieve. Although, he said even that seems to be rather impossible under the current political climate.” September 2016

“Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative in the UK, condemned the Balfour Declaration. He said the Palestinians had been denied the right to self-determination and their basic human rights “due to the pledge by Great Britain to the Zionists”.

He said the Palestinian “right of return” was a “sacred right” and that the “non-Judaisation of the state of Israel is our red line”.” November 2013

“There is no two state solution. Democracies don’t fight each other. If Israel is a democracy I would claim that the Palestinians are also a democracy. If democracies cannot fight each other then why not have one state?; one man, one vote.” January 2013

“Ladies and gentleman, there is no two state solution left. We have to look to other, what I call, ingenious ideas and look outside the box and the only thing that comes to my mind is very simple; there is only one solution, which is a one state solution.November 2012

Hassassian continued with yet more falsehoods and context-free claims that went completely unchallenged:

Hassassian: “We have done our share as Palestinians in order to promote peace. But look at Israel? What did Israel do? Since the Oslo agreement they have quadrupled the building of settlements. They have killed many thousands: two wars against our people in Gaza. So where is the intention of peace on the other side? On the occupier that claims to be a democracy?”

The final part of the interview was devoted to the topic of the Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation with Husain raising the issue of the significance of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel in the context of its potential participation in a Palestinian unity government and Hassassian claiming that the Palestinian Authority is “trying to bring Hamas on board in a political programme that will recognise the State of Israel”.

Notwithstanding Mishal Husain’s atypical question regarding Israeli victims of Palestinian terror, this lengthy interview – over ten minutes long – obviously primarily provided a platform for yet more amplification of PA/PLO messaging concerning the Balfour Declaration centenary.

In all, listeners to the ‘Today’ programme on November 2nd heard over thirty-three minutes of coverage relating to that topic during which the part of the Balfour Declaration relating to the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” was misrepresented no fewer than six times. They did not, however, hear even one mention of the part of the same text that states that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice […] the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

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Weekend long read

1) At the Jewish Chronicle, Henry Kissinger looks at the Balfour Declaration’s broader context.

“What made the Balfour Declaration so consequential? The period was shaped by the deterioration and collapse of dynastic empires. The 1912 Chinese revolution which overthrew the Qing dynasty initiated the process. The Ottoman Empire was described as the “sick man of Europe,” as it moved toward its collapse. By the time the war ended, the Tsarist, Austro-Hungarian, and German dynasties had also disappeared.

The modern international state system, inaugurated by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, sought to establish the state as the fundamental entity of world affairs. Dynasties are based on a concept of loyalty to a family. States reflect a legal concept. They function as legal entities and express a legitimacy. The transition was gradual. The Great War can be seen as a last contest between dynastic empires.”

2) An article by Dave Rich that was published by Ha’aretz last year is worth revisiting this week.

“The idea that Jews use their financial clout to influence politics and the media for nefarious purposes lies at the heart of modern anti-Semitism. Often, the terms ‘Jewish’ and ‘Zionist’ are interchangeable in these storied fantasies. Put the phrase “Zionist influence” into Google and your computer screen fills up with the paranoid fantasies of conspiracy theorists – and anti-Semitic cranks.

But the conflation of the two terms, and the assumption of the malign influence of both, has not always been confined to the fringes. During the early 1970s, it made an appearance in the heart of British foreign policy making when the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) embarked on a secret research project under the title of “Zionism and its influence in USA and Western Europe.””

3) The BESA Center has published an interesting paper by Professor Efraim Karsh concerning Arab and Turkish reactions to the Balfour Declaration at the time of its issue.

““100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. This paved the road for the Nakba of Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land.”

So claimed Mahmoud Abbas at last year’s U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting in what constitutes the standard Palestinian indictment of the November 1917 British government’s pledge to facilitate “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” provided that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

It is an emotionally gripping claim, but it is also the inverse of truth. For one thing, Britain did consult its main war allies, notably U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, before issuing the declaration, which was quickly endorsed by the contemporary international community, including the leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement, and aped by the Ottoman Empire.” 

4) At the Fathom Journal, Lyn Julius discusses “The Suez Crisis and the Jews of Egypt“.

“On 29 October 1956 the colonial powers Britain and France colluded with Israel to attack Egypt in order to reverse President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal, a western strategic interest and the gateway to India and the East. In their analyses of the Suez Crisis as the final hurrah of old-style European colonialism, historians and journalists often fail to consider the human impact on thousands of Jews who found themselves peremptorily expelled from Egypt.

Jews like Lilian Abda. She was swimming in the Suez Canal when Egyptian soldiers arrested her. Abda was charged with trying to relay information to Israeli forces advancing across the Sinai Peninsula on 29 October 1956. ‘I was brought in my bathing suit to the police station,’ she recalls. ‘The next day they expelled me and my entire family from the country.’”

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part three

The third item (see the first here and the second here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary that was aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs show ‘Today‘ was an interview (from 01:32:28 here) with Israeli deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely conducted by the programme’s co-presenter Nick Robinson.

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

Robinson: “Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Downing Street today. The Israeli prime minister’s official residence back home is known simply as ‘Balfour Street’. That name: a recognition of the role of the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour who, a hundred years ago today, declared Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land. I’ve been speaking to Israel’s top diplomat – deputy foreign minister Zipi [sic] Hotovely about the significance of this day.”

After listeners heard Hotovely describe the Balfour Declaration as the beginning of international recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination and its wording as “very precise” in stating that the Jewish people should have their homeland, Robinson stepped in with yet more inaccurate paraphrasing of its text.

As was the case in the previous two items in this programme as well as in many additional BBC reports on the same topic (see ‘related articles’ below), he erased the all-important words “civil and religious” from his portrayal of the statement “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Robinson: “It was precise in another way though, wasn’t it? The second half of what’s called the Balfour Declaration said nothing shall be done which prejudices the rights of the people already living in that area. That is unfinished business, is it not?”

Hotevely replied by clarifying that all Israeli citizens have equal rights and quoting the Declaration of Independence on that point. Robinson interrupted:

Robinson: “Those are the people living in Israel proper but of course there are many people living under Israeli occupation on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. They do not have equal rights, do they?”

At no point throughout this item were listeners informed that the people to whom Robinson refers are not Israeli citizens and that vast majority of Palestinians living in Judea & Samaria do so under the rule of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B as defined under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

While Hotovely was answering that question, Robinson – adopting an increasingly aggressive and patronising tone – interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Let’s be clear: when you deny the notion of occupation you are denying something recognised by every government round the world. You are denying something recognised by the United Nations, which all say that Israel is occupying land after the 1967 war and there should be the prospect at least of a Palestinian state there.”

As Hotovely tried to point out that the Palestinians rejected the 1947 Partition Plan, Robinson interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Yeah but we’re talking about your idea. You’re saying that it is not occupied. In what sense…well forgive me…let’s deal with what you said. In what sense is it not occupied?”

Hotovely’s response referring to the ancient Jewish connections to Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem was again interrupted by Robinson:

Robinson: “Well let’s go back to Balfour. Let’s go back to what he said. […]

Nobody said that Jews don’t have a connection with them. The land is occupied after a war. Now Balfour; let’s go back to him.”

Hotovely appears to have tried to raise the topic of the Six Day War at that point but Robinson interrupted her again with an even more inaccurate paraphrasing of the declaration’s text.

Robinson: “Forgive me. Let’s go back to Balfour. The Balfour [sic] said nothing should be done which prejudices the rights of the Palestinian people. Now you’ve got children. Imagine they were Palestinians living on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. Are you really saying that they would have the same rights as your children have?”

Just a few words into her reply, Robinson yet again interrupted:

Robinson: “That wasn’t the question.”

When Hotovely raised the point that there is no occupation or settlements or Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and that the area is nevertheless under the control of a terrorist organisation, Robinson interrupted once more.

Robinson: “OK. Let me go back to Balfour one more time if I could. The British government said […] OK; so the British government…it is the British government’s position that there is unfinished business in the Balfour Declaration. Your prime minister is in the UK today and will be celebrating the Balfour Declaration. It is the British government’s position that only half of Balfour has been delivered. Let me just put the same question to you again. You have children. Imagine they were Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. Would they have the same rights was my question. And the answer – you know – is no, they would not.”

Hotovely then spoke about Palestinian incitement and “schools and squares” named after terrorists that glorify violence against Jews but was again interrupted.

Robinson: “Well as you know there are many children who don’t believe that and many schools that don’t teach it. Let’s talk about the future if we could, minister, because that’s what matters now.”

Hotovely’s response to that interruption included the observation “it doesn’t seem like you’re shocked from [by] the idea that young children are being raised on this legacy of terrorism” but Robinson continued with yet another ‘question’ to which he also provided the answer.

Robinson: “Has Israel now abandoned the goal set by so many of a so-called two-state solution? In other words; of Israel living alongside and in peace with a Palestinian state. From everything you say, you have.”

Hotovely’s attempts to reply were repeatedly interrupted.

Robinson: “What’s your policy though? What’s your policy?”

Robinson: “So there will be no Palestinian state?”

Robinson: “Let me ask what you think the future is rather than your view of the Palestinians. Is your view of the future then a larger Israel incorporating what you call Judea & Samaria – what other people call the occupied West Bank – with second class Palestinian citizens live [sic] there? Is that your vision?”

After Hotovely’s reply to that question (and without it being clarified to listeners that her personal political views on that topic are not the majority view in Israel) Robinson continued by asking whether her three year-old and one year-old daughters have “Palestinian friends”:

Robinson: “Well let me ask you finally and personally – do you, do your family, do your children have Palestinian friends?”

Hotovely managed to say that her brothers live in Judea & Samaria and use the same facilities as Palestinians before Robinson interrupted yet again:

Robinson: “They have friends?” […]

He then proceeded to lecture his guest.

Robinson: “Well going to a Palestinian shop is not the same as having friends. The reason I ask you the question is peace needs hope. What the Balfour Declaration did was to give the Jewish people hope. What hope are you offering to the Palestinian people?”

One cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the sole aim of this aggressive, patronising and ultimately tediously uninformative interview was to amplify yet again the BBC’s chosen political message that the Balfour Declaration is ‘unfinished business’ by means of inaccurate representation of its text.

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