Examining the rationale behind BBC policy on Israel’s capital

Over the years we have documented numerous examples of the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital city.

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

Those wishing to understand why the BBC imperiously refuses to call even the parts of Jerusalem which were not occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 the capital of Israel can find the background to that policy decision here.

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

In other words the BBC erroneously claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – i.e. UN GA resolution 181 – has some sort of contemporary relevance or validity and on that basis dictates that all of Jerusalem “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.

Despite what the now defunct BBC Trust may have chosen to believe, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, 181 was non-binding and in fact it was no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan outright and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant.

But let’s take a closer look at the BBC’s rationale. While the corporation claims that UN GA resolution 181 “calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum” it does not acknowledge that the proposed corpus separatum actually included other places too.

In other words, if the BBC cannot describe Jerusalem as Israeli territory because the city was included in a proposal which never got off the ground, then logically it should not be describing places such as Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Abu Dis and Bethlehem as ‘Palestinian’ because they too were included in that same proposal.

But is that the case in BBC reporting? Here are a few examples: [emphasis added]

In December 2018 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard that St Nicholas Day “is still widely celebrated and nowhere more so than among the Christians of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala”.

In March 2018 Radio 4 listeners heard a drama called “The Bethlehem Murders” which they were told was “Crime fiction set in Palestine” and in which the narrator was introduced as “a teacher in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine”. Another character was portrayed as living in “Beit Jala – a Palestinian Christian town”.

In November 2015 the BBC’s Lyse Doucet reported from a location she described as “a Palestinian village…the city of Beit Jala – very close to Bethlehem”.

A May 2013 report from Abu Dis by Yolande Knell told BBC audiences of “Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem”. 

In December 2012 Kevin Conolly informed BBC audiences that “Christians are…even in a minority in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem”.

So as we see, not only is the ‘rationale’ behind the BBC editorial policy of not accurately informing its audiences where Israel’s capital is located totally misguided, it is not even applied uniformly and impartially. More double standards from the self-declared “provider of news that you can trust”.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

BBC News gets Israel’s capital city right – and then ‘corrects’

BBC WS misleads on Israel’s capital city yet again

 

 

 

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