More narrative driven BBC portrayal of the ‘peace process’

The February 15th meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington DC saw the BBC vigorously promoting the theme of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration with regard to the two-state solution:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

The next day – February 16th – the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’” which included clarification from a senior official.

‘The US ambassador to the UN has said her country “absolutely” supports the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But Nikki Haley also said the Trump administration was “thinking outside the box as well”, suggesting it was open to other possible solutions.

For many years, the US has advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

But Mr Trump indicated on Wednesday he would not insist on that. […]

“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well,” Ms Haley said on Thursday, “which is – what does it take to bring these two sides to the table? what do we need to have them agree on?”‘

Despite that clarification, the BBC continued to push the theme of a ‘policy shift’ and on the same day published an article titled “PJ Crowley: Trump unveils a subtle but vital shift in US policy” on its website’s ‘US & Canada’ page as well as in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page where it has, at the time of writing, remained for eight consecutive days.crowley-art

Ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand why the two-state solution has not been realised to date, the article states:

“A playful exchange between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually said a great deal about the dim prospects of a successful negotiation with the Palestinians under current circumstances. […]

…the parties themselves are farther apart on the substance of the process – the borders of a Palestinian state, Israeli security arrangements within a Palestinian state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – than they were at the end of the Clinton administration.”

Crowley’s ‘explanation’ of that situation begins with Israeli politics. Notably he entirely erases from his analysis the relevant issues of the Palestinian terror attacks that followed the Oslo Accords, half a decade of terror during the second Intifada and the rise in missile attacks that followed Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. 

“The centre of Israeli politics has moved markedly to the right; the left that embraced the essential bargain of the Oslo process, land for peace, has receded.

The existing Israeli governing coalition is not wired to make concessions. In fact, it is pushing Mr Netanyahu to increase the settlement presence in the West Bank while accelerating construction in East Jerusalem.”

Readers are then told that:

“In 2009, the Obama administration demanded a freeze to all settlement activity. Israel reluctantly agreed, although some growth continued within settlements Israel would keep in any final deal.

Rather than accelerate negotiations, settlements became a bone of contention within them. When the 10-month settlement moratorium ended, so did direct negotiations.”

Once again Palestinian actions are erased from the portrayal given to BBC audiences. The article neglects to inform readers that the Palestinians refused to engage in negotiations throughout 90% of the ten-month long US dictated construction freeze declared at the end of November 2009. Only at the beginning of September 2010 did the Palestinians agree to commence direct negotiations and as the construction freeze’s pre-designated time frame drew to a close on September 26th, Abbas demanded its extension and threatened to end the talks if he did not get his way, with the result that on October 2nd 2010 the negotiations ended. 

Next readers of this article are told that:

“Secretary of State John Kerry tried to achieve a framework agreement during Mr Obama’s second term, but his one-year effort fell short.”

That laconic sentence of course refers to the 2013/14 round of talks that came to an end after the Palestinians had opted to reject a framework proposed by the US, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas.

The article goes on to describe Israeli construction as a “fundamental problem” for the Palestinians without clarifying that prior to Obama’s 2009 insistence on a construction freeze, they were perfectly able to conduct negotiations on numerous occasions even though building was ongoing at the time.

“Mr Netanyahu may moderate the current pace of settlement activity but he is not going to stop it. The Palestinians will continue to see settlement activity as a fundamental problem.”

The pertinent issue of the Hamas-Fatah split is addressed in this article as follows:

“The Palestinians are deeply divided. In 2006, Hamas won an unexpected majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature over Mr Abbas’ Fatah Party. The Palestinians have lacked political unity ever since.

Today, Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, is the de facto government in Gaza. Full elections have not been held in more than a decade.”

However, the fact that Hamas is not a member of the body – the PLO – that conducts negotiations with Israel is not clarified and neither is the very relevant fact that Hamas rejects the two-state solution or that Fatah rejects one of its basic requirements: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic spike in the amount of content produced by the BBC relating directly or indirectly to the topic of the two-state solution and the ‘peace process’ in general.

In common with most of that content, this article once again fails to give BBC audiences the full range of information needed to enhance their understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have yet to bear fruit. Palestinian actions, choices, policies and decisions are erased from view while the story is framed as being about a “moribund”, “fading” two-state solution which is endangered primarily by Israeli construction and – lately – by a supposed “shift” in US policy.

Clearly that framing is not the result of an aspiration to meet the BBC’s public purpose remit but by the drive to promote a politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

BBC and Sky News promote different headlines to English and Arabic speakers

Last October we documented a case in which the same story was presented with differing headlines on the BBC’s English language and Arabic language websites.

The practice reappeared on February 21st in reports concerning the sentencing of the Israeli soldier Elor Azaria.

Visitors to the BBC’s English language website found an article titled “Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker” and while the word terrorism was absent from the report, the opening paragraph also used the term “attacker”.

“An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker in a high-profile case that split opinion across the country has been jailed for 18 months.”

In contrast, the word “attacker” did not appear in the headline of the Arabic language version of same story which was published on the BBC Arabic website under the title “Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for killing wounded Palestinian”.

azaria-english-arabic-bbc

Sky News also produces content in both English and Arabic and it too presented the story with differing headlines for different target audiences.  The headline of the English language version of the story read “Israeli soldier jailed for 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker” while the article in Arabic was titled “Lenient sentence for the Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian.”

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Related Articles:

BBC headlines for same story differ according to target audiences

BBC’s double standard terror terminology on view again

BBC News disregards Sinai missile attack once again

On the morning of February 20th two missiles fired from Egyptian territory hit southern Israel.No news

“Two rockets fired from the Sinai Peninsula struck an open field in southern Israel on Monday morning, the army said.

No one was injured and no damage was caused by the missiles, the army said.

The rockets hit the Eshkol region, which borders southern Gaza and the northeastern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

A police bomb disposal unit found one of them near the community of Naveh, near the Egyptian border. A second sapper team was on its way to the location of the other rocket, police said.”

The attack was later claimed by ISIS.

Once again, that incident did not receive any BBC coverage.

Since the beginning of the year three missile attacks against Israel have taken place – one from Gaza and two from Sinai – none of which have been reported by the BBC’s English language services. Throughout 2016 just one of ten attacks received BBC coverage in English.

missile-attacks-2017-table

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to ignore Gaza missile attacks – in English

BBC News again ignores a missile attack on Israel

BBC’s double standard terror terminology on view again

On the afternoon of February 21st the lead stories on BBC News website’s main homepage, World page and Middle East page were presented using the same headline:

“Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing”

BBC News website homepage

BBC News website homepage

BBC News website 'World' page

BBC News website ‘World’ page

BBC News website 'Middle East' page

BBC News website ‘Middle East’ page

That headline failed to inform BBC audiences that the person killed was a terrorist and that information was likewise absent from the sub-heading on all three pages which told readers:

“Victim’s father calls sentence a “joke” in a case which split opinion in Israel on the use of force”

Although it is impossible to know how many of the people who read that headline clicked on the link to the article, those who did found a report which – in typical BBC style – refrains from using the terms terror, terrorist or terrorism in its portrayal of an Israel-related story. 

“An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker in a high-profile case that split opinion across the country has been jailed for 18 months.” [emphasis added]

In contrast, visitors to regional pages of the UK section of BBC News website on the same day did find such terminology used in the headlines and text of domestic stories.

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terror-uk-art-2

Once again we see that the claims concerning “consistency” and “impartiality” made in the BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism‘ do not hold water.

Related Articles:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

 

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

BBC reporting on the topic of the perennial electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip has long been noteworthy for its failure to inform audiences of the full background to that crisis.

The latest example of that style of reporting was seen at the beginning of this month in Tim Franks’ radio report from Gaza for the BBC World Service and it was also evident in two BBC News website reports published a couple of weeks earlier.gaza-power-crisis-2

The Times of Israel recently published an interview with the Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip which once again highlights the fact that BBC audiences are being serially denied the full range of information necessary for understanding of this topic. 

“Qatar’s special envoy to Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi, said that he maintains “excellent” ties with various Israeli officials, and that in some case it is Palestinian officials who are holding up efforts to better the lives of residents of the Strip. […]

Al-Amadi said he planned to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Sunday regarding an agreement that would help solve the Gaza energy crisis.

He said that while Israel has agreed to take part in the deal, the Palestinian Authority has been holding it up.

“We proposed the establishment of a technical committee, free of politicians, that would be responsible for handling Gaza’s energy problem. The committee would be composed of experts from Gaza, [Qatar], the UN, and UNRWA; and they would manage Gaza’s energy affairs,” said al-Amadi.

“This is a very serious matter that should help you in Israel as well, since these are your neighbors that are without regular electricity and water flowing to their homes. The Israelis understand this and are helping, but there are other parties that are not” — namely, the PA.

“We are talking about a three-staged plan: The first stage deals primarily with solving the problem of payment for fuel,” he said, noting that there’s been a longstanding dispute between Hamas and the PA on that front.

“[For] the second or intermediate stage,” al-Amadi continued, “we are talking with Israel about the construction of a power line between Israel and Gaza that would help with the power outages.

“The long-term stage concerns the supply of gas to the Strip in a manner that would increase the output of the power plant, thus allowing for more power in Gaza. Gas costs one-fifth of the price of the diesel currently operating the power plant,” al-Amadi concluded.”

And yet, the BBC continues to tell its audiences that the Gaza power shortages are rooted in Israeli actions rather than in the long-standing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

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gaza-power-quote-2

 

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

On February 15th visitors to the BBC News website came across two articles telling them that the new US administration had changed that country’s policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says:

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift. […]

For decades successive US governments have backed a two-state solution – the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state that lives side-by-side with Israel.

But on Tuesday, an unnamed senior White House official suggested the US would support any form of final peace deal reached between Israel and the Palestinians, retreating from its long-term insistence of a two-state formula.” [emphasis added]trump-policy-change-art

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution:

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [emphasis added]

The BBC was of course not the only media outlet to promote that theme but, as Yair Rosenberg explained at the Tablet, it is not fact-based.

“Yesterday, President Donald Trump made a fairly straightforward statement about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was promptly inflated into a geopolitical earthquake by much of the media. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians-if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

As I noted at the time, this formulation did little to alter American support for the two-state solution in practice, since both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not “like” the one-state solution:

[D]ecades of polling shows that while Israelis and Palestinians narrowly support a two-state outcome, they are decidedly opposed to a one-state endgame, which many see as a recipe for strife and civil war. Most recently, a joint 2016 survey by Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 68% of Palestinians oppose the one-state solution, as do 64% of Israelis.

Thus, given Trump’s own qualifications, his words functionally did nothing to change traditional U.S. support for the two-state solution as the preferred solution of both parties. As Ilan Goldenberg, a former Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator under John Kerry, put it, “One state is being overhyped in this instance as long as Trump keeps talking about what works for both parties.” But you wouldn’t know this from reading some of the breathless reports that followed Trump’s initial statement on Wednesday.”

Rosenberg also analysed why the media – including the BBC – got this story wrong.

“The press, however, has been primed for a major Trump shift on Israel policy since day one, and has been interpreting events through that distorting lens. Searching for a dramatic sea change that simply has not arrived, reporters latched onto Trump’s largely anodyne comments about two states as confirmation, only to have their preconceived notion quickly dashed on the rocks of reality.

Of course, Trump may well decide to withdraw U.S. support for the two-state solution at some point in the future. But there is no evidence that he has done so. The histrionic hubbub surrounding his recent comments, then, should serve as a cautionary tale for media outlets about the power of narrative assumptions to overtake the actual facts.” 

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

We have on many occasions documented the use of imprecise language in BBC reports which results in audiences being given inaccurate impressions of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Last September the BBC News website corrected one such article but the phenomenon remains widespread.

On February 2nd the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.” [emphasis added]

As the Jerusalem Post noted in its coverage of that February 2nd announcement:

“This would be the first new government-authorized settlement in the West Bank since the establishment of Revava near Ariel in 1991, when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister.”

On February 6th the BBC’s Middle East editor told listeners to BBC Radio 5 live that:

“Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses in existing communities and the establishment (so far not even on paper) of a “new settlement”.

Nevertheless, the day before that announcement was made, listeners to the February 1st edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ heard Owen Bennett Jones use the inaccurate term “new settlements” to describe the announcement of building in existing communities (from 50:22 here).newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Bennett Jones: “…And there is another big development we need to mention today. The Israeli government has announced thousands more housing units for settlers on occupied territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the evacuation of an outpost. Let’s hear now from Yolande Knell.”

Following Knell’s report of the evacuation of Amona, Bennett Jones continued: [emphasis added]

“And that was Yolande Knell from Amona and we’ve still got Tim Franks on the line. So all these new…ah…new units, housing units, new settlements and then that news from Amona – is any of this tied to the new president in the United States or is it all driven internally?”

Franks: “It’s both, Owen, because I mean the case over Amona has been dragging on for years. They were talking about evicting people from Amona when I was posted here and that was some years ago. Ahm…but undoubtedly all the announcements of thousands of new…eh…eh…eh…homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – yes; the Israeli government feels liberated by the…eh…the incoming Trump administration…”

It really should not be difficult for the BBC to ensure that its journalists are aware of the difference between construction in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages and “new settlements” and that they use precise language to describe the story they are reporting in order to prevent audiences from repeatedly going away with inaccurate impressions. 

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

h/t AO

In late December 2016 the BBC News website published an article that included an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?”

The original version of that explanatory insert amplified the Palestinian interpretation of the two-state solution as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967:

“A “two-state solution” to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the declared goal of their leaders and many international diplomats and politicians.

It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine on pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.

The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia and the United States routinely restate their commitment to the concept.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“…the BBC told its audiences that various international bodies and countries are ‘committed’ to that concept when in fact the UN, the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity support “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords of course include borders and Jerusalem.

Noteworthy too is the fact that the BBC’s portrayal of the two-state solution does not include the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples” – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.”2ss-trump-art-15-2

Later on, a change was made to the wording of that insert:

“At some point somebody at the BBC News website apparently realised that the phrase “on pre-1967 ceasefire lines” is problematic and in version 10 of the article that paragraph was changed to read:

“It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.” [emphasis added]”

On February 15th the later version of that insert reappeared in two BBC News website reports:

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution

The following day it was found in two additional articles titled Israel-Palestinian conflict: UN warns Trump over two-state reversal” and “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’“.

2ss-insert

The BBC’s decision to reuse that insert in the same format raises additional points.

1) The claim in the first paragraph that the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of Palestinian leaders is inaccurate and misleading because it does not clarify to BBC audiences the repeated refusal of Palestinian Authority leaders to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – a necessary condition for fulfilment of the concept of “two states for two peoples”. That claim also of course conceals the fact that Hamas and additional Palestinian factions reject the two-state solution outright. 

2) The reference to ‘East Jerusalem’ conceals the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:

“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”

As we see, an insert ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand the concept of the two-state solution in fact fails to provide the full range of information necessary for that aim to be achieved.

The BBC and book bans – real and imagined

Readers may recall that in late 2015 and early 2016, various BBC radio programmes misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

A BBC Watch complaint on the topic was eventually upheld.book-ban

Recently a Middle East author really did have a book banned. However, the writer is Palestinian and the government department that ordered the ban is part of the Palestinian Authority. Coincidentally or not, BBC audiences have heard nothing of that story.

“Palestinian Authority Attorney General Ahmad Barak announced on Monday that he was banning the distribution of a new novel on the grounds that it contained “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular minors.”

The book, Crime in Ramallah by Abbad Yahya, reportedly contains explicit sexual content, including masturbation.

The attorney general’s office stated that all copies of the novel would be seized because the book “breaches both international treaties and Palestinian press and publication ordinance.””

In addition, the author apparently faces an arrest warrant.

“In a telephone interview, Yahya told The Associated Press that he was visiting Doha when he learned of the ban and the arrest warrant, published by the official governmental news agency. He said he is now stuck in the Qatari capital, fearing he would be arrested as soon as he returns home.

“I don’t know what to do. If I go back, I will be arrested, and if I stay here, I can’t stay far from my home and family,” he said.”

Oddly, the media organisation that gave so much coverage to a non-existent ‘book ban’ while citing unfounded concerns of “political interference in Israeli culture” does not appear to be interested in reporting this actual Palestinian Authority banning of a novel.

 

 

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

Earlier this month we documented the BBC’s promotion of a map produced by the political NGO B’Tselem in three separate BBC News website reports.

Since then the same politically partisan map has also appeared in an article titled “Israel passes controversial law on West Bank settlements” published on February 7th, in an article titled “Rights groups challenge Israel settlements law in court” published on February 8th and in an article titled “Trump urges Israel to ‘act reasonably’ on settlements” which appeared on February 10th.

In addition, the same map has been added to the BBC News website backgrounder titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” which first appeared in late December 2016.

The backgrounder was subsequently amended in January 2017 to include a link to the website of the political NGO ‘Peace Now’ and a map of Jerusalem produced by B’Tselem and UNOCHA which had been found in previous BBC material.

Since then, that backgrounder has been amended yet again and the B’Tselem/UNOCHA map of Jerusalem has been replaced with two versions of the new one produced by B’Tselem. In addition, the section previously titled “What difference will Donald Trump make?” has been retitled and rewritten.

settlements-backgrounder-new-jlem-map

Since its latest amendment, visitors to the BBC News website have also found a link to that backgrounder promoted under the title “Can Jewish settlement issue be resolved?” [emphasis added] in numerous reports  – for example here, here, here, here, here and here.settlements-backgrounder-link-1

In other words, anyone visiting the BBC News website’s Middle East page since February 1st would have been more than likely to come across those politicised maps. The map of Jerusalem portrays places such as the Old City, Neve Ya’akov and parts of Mt Scopus as ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in those areas long before they were ethnically cleansed by the invading Jordanian army in 1948. The same is the case in the bigger map of Judea & Samaria which portrays the whole of Gush Etzion as a ‘settlement’.

The BBC News website’s vigorous promotion of campaigning maps produced by the foreign funded political NGO B’Tselem (which engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS) makes it very difficult to believe that the corporation is committed to providing its audiences with the accurate and impartial portrayal of this issue which would meet the BBC’s obligation to provide information which will enhance their “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’