Among the BBC’s Obama visit coverage we find a filmed report from March 21st by Jon Donnison entitled “Palestinian views on President Obama’s visit“, which appeared on BBC television news as well as being featured on the BBC News website.
The report begins in the Friends School in Ramallah, with the footage edited so that viewers hear a teacher saying “so Israel triples its size” as the BBC film crew enters a classroom. Two pupils are interviewed, with the second one stating:
“It’s been more than four years and nothing has changed and you saw massacres happening, especially the one in Gaza, and there was no reaction. I mean, we’re still dying here and there’s no reaction from the president of the free world.”
The Friends School in Ramallah is of course associated with the Ramallah Quakers: significant players in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and other operations designed to delegitimize Israel, and with close connections to Sabeel and PACBI among others. Predictably, Jon Donnison does not trouble his viewers with that information, just as he does not bother to correct or edit the hyperbolic claims made by his interviewee.
At 01:30 minutes into the two-minute and thirty-six second report, the BBC hauls out its old and much-used footage of Gaza in order to show seven seconds of one-sided images of explosions, with Donnison saying in the voice-over:
“They [the Palestinians] were unhappy at US support for Israel in the war in Gaza last year.”
Interestingly, whenever the BBC refers back to Operation Pillar of Cloud, it almost inevitably seems to use that same footage, without balancing it with images from the other side of the border. Donnison goes on to say:
“Palestinians say President Obama has failed to stop Israel expanding Jewish settlements. At the same time Israel has continued to demolish Palestinian property. Israel’s occupation looks no closer to ending.”
That particular parroting of undiluted PA propaganda is done against a background of context-free footage of unidentified bulldozers demolishing unidentified buildings. In a clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, there is no mention of illegal construction; no explanation of the significance of Areas A, B and C.
Donnison then goes to sit in a Ramallah café with Randa Wahbe, who he describes as being “part of a group that’s been organising protests against President Obama’s visit”. The text on the screen under Wahbe’s name says “Palestinians for Dignity”, but Donnison makes no effort to explain to viewers that the organisation, which came into existence at the beginning of last year, is composed of groups which reject the idea of the Palestinian Authority negotiating with Israel and call for a boycott of Israel.
Neither does Donnison bother to disclose to BBC audiences that Randa Wahbe works for the highly politicised NGO Addameer as its advocacy officer and that her organisation is a major player in the ongoing campaign to use the subject of Palestinian prisoners for the leverage of international pressure upon Israel.
Donnison also neglects to inform viewers that Wahbe was a founding member of Students for Justice for Palestine at UCLA and Colombia and that she was involved with Adalah-NY before moving to Ramallah. Full disclosure of Ms Wahbe’s various contributions to ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and her articles describing Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state may of course have detracted from the impression Donnison seeks to create with this interview, but nevertheless, the BBC Editorial Guidelines do stipulate that audiences must be made aware of a contributor’s affiliations.
“.. we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”
There is also a written version of Donnison’s report on the BBC News website. There, he quotes Randa Wahbe at further length, but yet again no mention is made of her political and professional affiliations.
BBC audiences are entitled to be made aware of the kind of ideologies which lie behind the opinions presented to them by the BBC in the wrapping of ‘the Palestinian street’ – not least when those opinions come from professional anti-Israel campaigners.