BBC responds to complaint about its description of Resolution 2334

As documented here at the time, the BBC’s coverage of UNSC Resolution 2334 included an item by Barbara Plett Usher broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 24th 2016.today-24-12

Listeners were told that:

“The resolution could become a reference point for further moves against Israeli policy in international forums but not for the next US administration. Mr Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, has sided with the Israeli government on this. And although the resolution is legally binding, it doesn’t spell out consequences for ignoring it – which is what the Israelis have said they’ll do.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint in which we noted that by describing the resolution as “legally binding”, Plett Usher inaccurately suggested to listeners that it was adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter rather than Chapter 6. 

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“You were unhappy Barbara Plett Usher referred to UNSC resolution 2334 as “legally binding”.

We raised with the news editor, who in turn raised it with Barbara. Barbara responds:

“I was trying to make the broad point that the resolution binds together the UN legal arguments against settlements that could be used to take action in international courts. It seemed to me obvious that if no consequences are spelled out (as I noted) than it’s clearly not a Chapter 7 resolution.”

However, she acknowledges that she could have made things clearer and could have spoken with greater clarity.”

While a resolution passed under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter could be used in an evidentiary capacity in an international court, it can be challenged and is not “legally binding”.

Whether or not the average Radio 4 listener is aware of the difference between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 resolutions and hence would not – as Plett Usher claims – have been misled by her description of Resolution 2334 as “legally binding” is of course debatable. 

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

In November 2004 the Telegraph published an editorial which opened as follows:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Barbara Plett’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

“The BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden has apologised for what she described as an “editorial misjudgement”.

She said it appeared Plett “unintentionally gave the impression of over-identifying with Yasser Arafat and his cause”.”

Twelve years on, a written version of that report by Barbara Plett is still available online in its original form.

plett-2004-art

At the bottom of the article this opaquely worded addendum appears:

plett-addendum

That, however, is apparently the sole action the BBC found it appropriate to take regarding a report deemed to lack due impartiality by the highest BBC authority at the time. 

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A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

Events at the UN Security Council received generous coverage on the BBC News website on December 23rd and 24th. BBC audiences found articles relating to Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution and reports concerning the subsequent tabling of  the resolution by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia which was approved by the UNSC on December 23rd.

December 23rd:un-sc-2334

1) Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes

2) Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements

3) UN Security Council votes against Israeli settlements Barbara Plett Usher (also appeared on BBC television channels and embedded in written reports)

4) Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end (date stamp changed

December 24th:

5) Israel settlements: Netanyahu rejects ‘shameful’ UN vote

6) Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review

The narrative promoted in those reports was uniform and conformed to existing BBC editorial policy.

a) BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the resolution related to Israeli communities on “occupied” – rather than disputed – land and that the said territory is “Palestinian”.

“Egypt has delayed a UN vote on a text condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territory after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.” (report 1)

“Israel has reacted furiously over a renewed bid to bring a resolution condemning settlements on occupied land before the UN Security Council.” (report 2)

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land is “shameful”. […]

The resolution, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.” (reports 5 and 6)

“The move comes after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.” (report 6)

b) BBC audiences were also repeatedly told that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are “illegal” and breach “international law” while the presentation of alternative views on that issue was limited to a box-ticking reference to the Israeli view with no further detail or explanation.

“The resolution submitted by Egypt called for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it said breached international law. […]

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” (reports 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)

“Barbara Plett-Usher explains the significance of the UN Security Council’s vote against illegal Israeli settlements.” (report 3)

“The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements after the US refused to veto it.” (report 4)

“It [the resolution] says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. (reports 5 and 6)

c) The reports failed to distinguish between “settlement building” and construction in existing communities, thereby giving audiences the mistaken impression that new communities are being built.

“The Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement building and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 1)

“But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 2)

“This is a vote on a resolution that condemns the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It says it’s illegal under international law. […]

“They themselves [the US administration] have been very critical of settlement building over the last year.” (report 3)

“The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (‘analysis’ from Barbara Plett Usher, reports 4 and 5)

d) One of the reports promoted the inaccurate implication that construction under the current Israeli government is exceptional. 

“And it [the resolution] says that the amount of building under this Israeli government is threatening the possibility of the creation of  Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (report 3)

e) The reports uncritically amplified the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’.

“The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.” (reports 1, 2, 4)

f) References to the parts of the resolution condemning terror and incitement were to be found in just one of the BBC’s reports. In contrast to the impression given to BBC audiences, the word ‘Palestinian’ is in fact not included in that part of the text

“French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the “key goal” of the resolution was “to preserve and reaffirm the two-state solution”. […]

“It also condemns the violence and terrorism. It also calls to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side so this is a balanced text.”” (report 2)

g) While some of the later reports included reactions from “the Palestinian leadership”, none of them informed audiences of the fact that the resolution was hailed by the terror organisations Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The Palestinian leadership welcomed the UN resolution, which was passed by 14 votes to zero, with one abstention.” (report 4)

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.” (report 5)

“A spokesman for Mr Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”” (report 6)

h) Three of the later articles (reports 4, 5 and 6) quoted the US ambassador to the UN as saying that “even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace” but none of the reports reminded BBC audiences that although Israel did indeed remove all ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005, peace was not forthcoming and the Hamas terror group continues to seek the destruction of Israel.

i) None of the reports reminded BBC audiences of the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze.

j) None of the reports provided readers with the relevant context of the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to impose an outside ‘solution’ to the conflict in preference to negotiations.

k) None of the reports provides any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

Anyone wondering why the generous coverage of this story was uniformly one-sided and failed to provide BBC audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding might find the following Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East editor (also retweeted by the BBC correspondent who contributed to much of the coverage) enlightening.

bowen-tweet-unsc

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BBC WS report on UNSC resolution endorses Palestinian narrative

On the afternoon of December 22nd (before news broke of Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution tabled at the UN Security Council) listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report (from 50:04 here) relating to that story.plett-newshour-22-12

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

JC: “The US president-elect Donald Trump has called for a UN Security Council resolution aimed at halting the building of Israeli settlements to be vetoed. The draft resolution is meant to put an end to all settlement activity by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem. Well, joining us now on the line from Washington DC is the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher. Ehm…so Barbara; this is meant to be voted on a bit later on today – is that right?”

Plett Usher responded:

BPU: “Yes; it’s a draft resolution put forward by Egypt which would say that Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the Palestinian…rest of the Palestinian territories are illegal. Now, UN resolutions already say that….eh…but there has been some push to get…ehm…it out there again and re-in…re…re-supported by the UN because of the…this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building and it is…it’s very much its policy.”

JC: “And what about the Obama administration’s policy? What do we know about its thoughts on this draft resolution?”

BPU: “The Obama administration and the United States generally has said that settlement building lacks legitimacy. It stops short of adopting the position that it is illegal under international law but Mr Obama’s administration has been very, very critical of the settlement building during his administration and he has…and some of his advisors and his officials have said it was…contributed to breakdown in the peace talks. So there’s been a lot of speculation that in the final month of his…of his term he might take some sort of step, some sort of parting shot, to put his own stamp on what he thinks Israel – Palestinian peace should look like or what the parameters might be or what the problems might be and so there’s been some speculation he might take action at the UN. Up until now…eh…the Americans have vetoed any resolution critical of Israel and the Obama administration did that too in 2011 exactly on a resolution involving settlements. But because he’s leaving, because of his contentious relationship with the Israelis, because Mr Trump is coming after him and looks like he will be changing policy or could change policy…ahm…there’s speculation that he might vote differently this time.”

JC: “So briefly, Barbara, what should we make of the president elect’s intervention?”

BPU: “It’s consistent with what he’s done so far. During the campaign his advisors…ahm…were very sceptical of a two state solution. He has appointed an ambassador as his nominee who is a hardline pro-settler…ah…views. Ahm…so I think that’s consistent with what we’ve seen.”

As we see, in that two and a half-minute conversation, listeners heard two references to “settlements” in “Palestinian territories”. The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Obviously there are no Israeli ‘settlements’ in those areas and so the use of such inaccurate terminology misleads listeners.

Israeli communities do exist in Area C and in parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan for nineteen years. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords no limits are placed on construction in those regions and their final status is to be determined in negotiations. Listeners to this item, however, were not provided with that all-important context and the language used by Plett Usher and Coomarasamy clearly endorses and promotes the Palestinian side’s political claims and narrative, thereby compromising BBC impartiality.

Listeners also heard several references to “settlement building”. Just last September the BBC News website amended similarly misleading language – which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – houses being built in existing towns and villages – most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

Plett Usher’s claim that “this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building” does not stand up to scrutiny and does not clarify to audiences the existence of what Ha’aretz earlier this year termed “an informal construction freeze”.

It is by no means surprising to see the BBC continuing to push its well-worn but unabashedly partisan mantra on the topic of ‘settlements’ – the corporation has, after all, embraced that editorial line for years. However, as this report once again demonstrates, that editorial policy hinders audience understanding of both this specific story and the issue in general.

Related Articles:

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

The return of the BBC’s political narrative on Israeli construction

 

 

 

 

Impartiality fail from BBC’s Barbara Plett

The Tweet below was sent by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett on January 14th 2016.

Plett tweet

Why Ms Plett found it necessary at this time to use her BBC branded Twitter account to resurrect an article unrelated to her field of reporting nearly three years after its initial publication remains a mystery. What is clear however is that the article promoted by Plett is about a study that is by no means “new” and which was shown at the time to be highly controversial.

The Israeli-Palestinian Textbook Study Fraud

The Palestinian Textbook Fiasco

The Whitewashing of Hate

Study on incitement ‘another Goldstone Report’

Giving incitement the stamp of approval

BBC editorial guidelines on “Personal use of Social Networking and other third party websites” state:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.” 

The promotion of a discredited study with distinct political overtones by a BBC journalist would clearly undermine the corporation’s reputation for impartiality at any time. When such promotion is done by a journalist who has already been shown to lack an impartial approach to the subject matter concerned, it is obviously all the more problematic.

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Behind a Jon Donnison recommended article

Superficial BBC reporting on emerging P5+1 deal with Iran

On March 28th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Iran nuclear talks ‘enter endgame’ in Switzerland“. Relating to the apparently imminent prospect of a framework deal between the P5+1 and Iran concerning the latter’s nuclear programme, the report is remarkably economical with regard to the content and efficacy of the deal itself, framing the issue in very generalized terms.Plett written

“After meeting Mr Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Mr Zarif said: “I think we can in fact make the necessary progress to be able to resolve all the issues and start writing them down in a text that will become the final agreement.”

He has already met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Lausanne.

Mr Fabius added a note of caution, saying: “We have moved forward on certain points, but on others not enough.” […]

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes but world powers fear it has military ambitions.

Some of the most contentious issues remain unresolved, says the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher.

Potential sticking points in the nuclear talks are thought to include the pace at which sanctions would be lifted, how long the deal will last and how much of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be open to inspection.”

Barbara Plett Usher also produced an equally anodyne filmed report on the topic which, in addition to being broadcast on BBC television news programmes, appeared on the corporation’s website under the title “Growing optimism for Iran nuclear talks“. In the synopsis to that report audiences were given an upbeat message:Plett filmed

“There is growing optimism that an agreement can be reached on Iran’s nuclear programme ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, although some critical sticking points remain.”

In the report itself, Plett Usher told viewers:

“They’re […] closing in on a deal that would prevent any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for ending sanctions on Iran.”

She added:

“Progress has been made on steps to scale back Iran’s uranium enrichment programme but how much nuclear research it will be allowed to conduct is still a contentious issue, as is the pace at which sanctions would be lifted.”

But will the deal – as Plett Usher claims – really “prevent any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon”? Aspects of the emerging results of negotiations make that statement highly questionable, as noted by other journalists presenting a far more critical and detailed picture of the negotiations than the superficial account offered to BBC audiences.

Writing in the Telegraph, Peter Foster notes that:

“…it now seems Iran will be allowed to keep 6,000 of its centrifuges, considerably more than the 500-1,500 the US originally wanted, or the 4,000 “compromise” offer Washington made a year ago.

The direction of travel is clear. Even more worryingly, the US is reportedly considering allowing Iran to keep some centrifuges at Fordow, the impenetrably hardened underground facility that Iran built in secret, and only admitted to having in 2009 after they were rumbled by Western intelligence.

Western officials soothingly say there is no need to get hung up on the details, just focus on the one-year “breakout time” that keeps Tehran at least 12 months away from being able to make a bomb and trust to the inspections regime that will alert the world long before that happens.

“Distrust and verify” says Mr Obama and yet scratch the surface of these negotiations and it is clear that there are plenty of reasons to question whether Iran will ever actually submit to the effective scrutiny on which the credibility of this deal ultimately rests.

Only this week the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that Iran has replied to just one of the 12 questions UN inspectors want answered about its nuclear past, while an IAEA report last month voiced concerns about “undisclosed nuclear related activities” including the “development of a nuclear payload for a missile.””

An editorial in the Washington Post states:

“The United States believes that, prior to 2003, Iran conducted extensive studies and tests on building a bomb and mounting it on a long-range missile — belying its claims that it has pursued nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. U.S. intelligence was long ago turned over to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, starting in 2006, have ordered Iran to cooperate with the IAEA in clarifying these “possible military dimensions.”

Twice, in 2007 and in 2013, Iran agreed with the IAEA on a “work plan” to clear up the military research issues. In both instances, it then stonewalled inspectors, refusing to answer questions or permit access to sites. After the agency sought access in 2011 to a military complex called Parchin, where warhead detonation tests may have been carried out, satellite surveillance revealed that Iran had demolished buildings and excavated ground in an apparent cover-up operation.

In frustration, the IAEA published an extensive report detailing what it already knew about the illicit bomb work and listed 12 outstanding issues. Two years later, in the hope of sealing an interim deal allowing the partial lifting of sanctions, the government of Hassan Rouhani agreed on a “step-by-step” plan to answer the questions.

But instead of implementing the plan, the regime went back to stonewalling. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told The Post’s Steven Mufson this week that Iran had provided information on just one of the 12 issues. On two others, Mr. Amano said, it had given “very limited” responses, and the remaining nine had not been addressed at all.

An appropriate response to this blatant violation of agreements would be to insist that Iran complete the IAEA work plan before any long-term accord is signed or any further sanctions lifted. Inspectors need their questions answered so that they will be able to determine later whether Iran has violated the controls on its nuclear research expected to be part of a deal. Furthermore, it is vital to establish that Tehran will deliver on its commitments and that it will be held accountable if it does not.

Remarkably, however, negotiators — including the supposedly hard-line French, who have taken the lead on the “military dimensions” issue — have reportedly agreed to let Iran’s noncompliance slide. The IAEA’s unanswered questions will be rolled over and rebundled into the new agreement, with a new time line. That means that Iran will have some sanctions lifted before it complies with a commitment it first made eight years ago.”

Members of the BBC’s licence fee paying public will no doubt be asking themselves why the two above publications – among others – are capable of providing serious analysis which really does “enhance audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” whilst the corporation which bills itself as the “standard-setter for international journalism” makes do with superficial, anodyne reporting on such a crucial topic. 

Frequent BBC favourite Falk in the news

The UN’s ‘Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights’ Richard Falk is in the news again, this time due to the call on him to resign from the post which recently came from America’s Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.

“Mr. Falk’s most recent statement, which he dramatically and recklessly included in an official UN document, … once again starkly demonstrated that he is unfit to serve in his role as a UN special rapporteur,” she said, adding: “We once again call for his resignation.”

The statement to which Ambassador Chamberlain Donahoe refers is Falk’s call for an investigation into the NGO UN Watch after that organization called for the termination of Falk’s mandate in the wake of his remarks concerning the Boston marathon terror attack which included the following:

 “The war drums are beating at this moment in relation to both North Korea and Iran, and as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.” […]

 “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”

falk 5

Of course one would have to have one’s head pretty firmly buried in the sand not to be aware of the fact that Falk’s history of inaccurate and offensive statements goes back a very long way indeed. From his 1979 New York Times puff-piece in defence of Ayatollah Khomeini, through to his claims that the 9/11 terror attacks were orchestrated by the US government,  his repeated justifications of Palestinian terror and his public support for the ‘one-state solution’ (i.e. the eradication of Israel as the Jewish state), Falk has never been far from controversy. 

That fact was well known by the BBC when Falk took up his UN position in 2008, as an article by Tim Franks from April of that year shows. 

Falk 1

In May 2008 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur interviewed Falk on ‘Hardtalk’, where he defended his use of anti-Semitic Nazi analogies.

And yet, the BBC – despite being bound to standards of accuracy and impartiality – has continued throughout the years to quote Falk on the subject of Israel extensively, unquestioningly and without properly informing its audiences of his long-standing history of bias and open animosity towards Israel. 

Here, for example, is a 2010 article by Barbara Plett which promotes statements made by Falk on the subject of “settlements”. 

Falk 2

Here is a 2012 report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell on the subject of Palestinian hunger strikers which – whilst neglecting to mention their membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – also extensively promotes statements made by Falk. 

Falk 3

And here is Knell yet again – this time in February 2013 – quoting Falk’s regurgitation of Palestinian Authority propaganda regarding Arafat Jaradat. 

Falk 4

Most recently, on June 10th 2013, the BBC published yet another article based on statements by Falk. Towards the end of that piece it is noted that “[i]n 2008, Mr Falk drew widespread criticism for comparing Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis”, but the article fails to make clear to readers the antisemitic nature of Falk’s comments and also makes no effort to explain to readers why “the US – which has also expressed concerns about Mr Falk’s alleged bias – called for his removal from the post”.  

FAlk 10 6

Why the BBC seems to feel the need to play down Falk’s long history of anti-Israel campaigning, antisemitic remarks, adherence to conspiracy theories and general offensiveness is one question. How the BBC thinks it can meet its required standards of accuracy and impartiality by unquestioningly repeating and promoting the opinions of a man it knows full well to be far removed from both of those criteria is a yet more pressing question which needs to be asked more than ever at this time. 

BBC fails to report on UN resolution to subject more minorities to violence in Syria

Almost two years ago, in January 2011, the veteran former BBC news-reader Peter Sissons wrote an article in the Daily Mail about what he termed the BBC ‘mindset’. In it, he stated:

“At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN.”

Such an attitude perhaps goes some way toward explaining the BBC UN correspondent’s resounding silence on the fact that during the past year the UN General Assembly has passed twenty two resolutions singling out Israel for criticism – and only four on the rest of the world combined. 

Notably ignored by the BBC is the fact that on December 18th – when no fewer than nine anti-Israel resolutions were passed in one day – one of those resolutions called for the Golan Heights to be returned “forthwith” to Syrian control. 

As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted:

 “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.” 

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the 20,000 or so Druze residents of the Golan Heights privately express great concern for the fate of their family members in Syria, with applications for Israeli citizenship (to which they have been entitled since Israel annexed the Golan in 1981) reaching an all-time high in recent months. 

“I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade resident who holds Israeli citizenship told the paper. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.”

“In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear — in Israel and not Syria.”

The 2,000 or so Alawite residents of Ghajar, which also came under Israeli control in 1967, already have Israeli citizenship and they are certainly no strangers to arbitrary UN declarations made thousands of miles away with absolutely no relevance to the situation on the ground. As members of the minority sect to which the Assad family also belongs, one can only guess their fate were their village to be returned to Syrian control “forthwith”. 

None of these aspects of that UN GA resolution and others were reported by the BBC’s UN correspondent. She did – however- manage to put out the following Tweet:

Plett tweet 19 12

A BBC which avoids engaging in critical thinking regarding the anti-Israel obsession of the UN and hence promotes a trite, one-dimensional view of the Middle East cannot but fail in its task to increase its audiences’ understanding of the region and the complexities of the issues its residents face. 

BBC’s UN correspondent misses item about Israel

On December 21st 2012 a session at the United Nations General Assembly dealt with recommended draft resolutions on the subject of sustainable development.  

“As it took action on 36 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions presented by the Committee, the Assembly adopted 34 of those texts without a vote and 5 by recorded vote.  Of great significance to delegations was the adoption of a draft resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development.”

One of the resolutions – on “Entrepreneurship for Development” – was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said:

“Make no mistake. The stakes before us are high. The people we empower today will become the next Einstein, the next Picasso, the next Mother Theresa of tomorrow”.

As Daniel Carmon, head of Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation wrote in the National Post:

“This groundbreaking resolution highlights the value of entrepreneurship for creating jobs in the developing world, opening up economic opportunities, and fostering responsibility in both local entrepreneurs and donor countries.” 

As the protocol of the session records:

“Turning to the draft resolution titled “Entrepreneurship for development”, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly emphasized the important role of partnerships with the private sector in promoting entrepreneurship, generating employment and investment, increasing revenue potential, developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers.”

Obviously, members of the developing world would welcome such an initiative…wouldn’t they? Well, not some it seems – if it is proposed by Israel. 

Annex II

Against:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

“The representative of Israel said he had hoped for consensus on the text, stressing that States in the Arab world especially could benefit from entrepreneurship.  Their people were demanding better lives, better economies and better governance, and did not wish to live with rampant corruption, discrimination against women and economic stagnation.  By voting against the resolution, Arab delegations were turning their backs on their own people and trying to turn back the clock on the important work of the United Nations.  It was now time to take the words of the resolution off the page and breathe life into them on the ground, he stressed, adding that the stakes were high.”

“Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described that statement as “truly strange”, given the criticism that Israel had received over human rights violations and denial of economic opportunities to people living under occupation.  Saudi Arabia’s representative defended his country’s record as a peace-loving nation, and his counterpart from Sudan said her country had not turned its back on its people, as the Israeli representative had said, but had instead turned its face towards those living under Israeli occupation.”

Strangely, I can’t seem to find a report on any of this from the BBC’s UN correspondent

Slogan rich, evidence free: BBC’s Plett ‘analyses’ Israeli planning decisions

December 20th 2012 saw yet another article in the Middle East section of the BBC News website about ‘settlement building’ – this time relating to the call by several European members of the UN SC to “immediately halt new construction” – which they seem to have failed to notice is not yet underway and is in fact a very long way from commencement. 

The report opens with the adoption of one of the favourite mantras of anti-Israel campaigners such as the PSC: [emphasis added]

“The UN is stepping up pressure on Israel over its settlement building on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

It goes on to say:

Divided Jerusalem

“Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it as part of its capital, in a move never recognised internationally.”

What the BBC neglects to inform its readers, of course, is that eastern Jerusalem was artificially divided from the rest of the city – for the first time in its history – for only 19 years prior to 1967, as a result of the Jordanian capture and subsequent annexation of certain parts of the city. That annexation was also never recognized “internationally”.

Additionally, the report states:

“Also on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

Interestingly, the BBC report not only neglects to mention that there are already people living in that area, but also that half the proposed housing units in Givat HaMatos are ear-marked for Arab residents. In addition, it does not inform its audience that one day prior to the decision on Givat HaMatos, over 600 houses were also approved – by the same planning committee – in the Arab neighbourhood of Beit Safafa. Strangely, the latter decision did not appear to irk either the UN SC, the EU or the BBC.

Givat HaMatos

The article goes on to quote a statement from the EU on the subject:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

That theme is echoed in the side-bar of ‘analysis’ by the BBC’s UN correspondent Barbara Plett in which she claims that:

“The outcry at the UN reflects a real concern that Israel’s continued settlement building could deal a fatal blow to the chances for a two-state solution of its conflict with the Palestinians.

Its announcement of new construction plans, including the possibility of a new settlement in East Jerusalem, comes just days after its declared intent to build in a parcel of land known as E-1, which would cut Palestinians in East Jerusalem off from their West Bank hinterland.”

Plett analysis

Of course both the EU statement and Plett’s matching one – whilst high on hubris – have little connection to the reality on the ground as far as geography is concerned and as reflected in different peace proposals over the years.

The 2000 Camp David proposal – rejected by Arafat – included all of the sites of today’s proposed building in Israeli territory. 

Camp David proposal

Similarly, the 2008 Olmert proposal – widely accepted by many Israelis as representing the most they can offer to the Palestinians – also includes Ramat Shlomo, Givat HaMatos and E1 in Israeli territory.

Olmert plan

It is therefore notable that the BBC – along with members of the Quartet such as the EU – now appears to ignore all previous realistic proposals and instead embraces the rejectionist Palestinian approach to the dispute. It is also regrettable – and ridiculous – that they invent alarmist canards such as the notion that building houses in areas which – under any realistic peace plan – will remain in Israel “jeopardises” and “deals a fatal blow” to the chance of a two-state solution. 

For some eminently sensible and realistic commentary on the subject, one can do no better than to turn to Yaacov Lozowick, who recently wrote on the subject:

“When it comes to E1, he said, the Israelis and Palestinians are competing to see who gets the balloon and who gets the string. Jewish West Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, Rammallah and Bethlehem are all there to stay. Whoever ends up controlling E1 will have a comfortable land corridor between their two balloons while the other side will be left with a road through the other’s territory: a string. If Israel controls E1, the Palestinians will have a north-south road through it; if the Palestinians own E1, the Israelis will have an east-west road through it.

The claim whereby Israeli ownership of E1 would make for a truncated and thus non-viable Palestinian state on the West Bank ought to be about as convincing as saying a physical barrier between Manhattan and Brooklyn and New Jersey makes Manhattan non-viable.

To be clear: I’m not arguing for or against Israeli construction on E1. I’m merely pointing out that much of the verbiage on the topic is misleading.”

In addition to the five very pertinent points made by Mr Lozowick in the rest of his article, it is possible to add one other. If we assume that a peace agreement broadly based on something very similar to the two maps above will be the eventual outcome to the current dispute, then obviously significant numbers of Israelis will need to leave their current homes and livelihoods in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Rift Valley and relocate to other parts of Israel. The current zoning and long-term planning in areas which will remain within Israeli territory under such a two-state solution agreement could therefore actually speed up its implementation rather than presenting a barrier to it. 

It remains highly problematic that the best the BBC can apparently contribute to its audiences’ understanding of the Middle East peace process is the kind of evidence-free, slogan-rich hyperbole proffered by Barbara Plett in this article.  The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

On the subject of Israeli zoning and planning decisions, the BBC is failing miserably to meet its obligation to impartiality by consistently neglecting to provide audiences with any information on the indisputably significant “strand of thought” which lies behind several past peace proposals and according to which, the existing neighbourhoods of Jerusalem with a Jewish majority beyond the ‘green line’ would remain Israeli. 

By failing to meet that obligation, the BBC also contravenes – by omission – yet another of its Editorial Guidelines:

“The BBC Agreement forbids our output from expressing the opinion of the BBC on current affairs or matters of public policy”.