Corrections secured to inaccurate BBC News website maps – part one

On February 8th 2017 the BBC News website published an article by Jonathan Marcus titled “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“ which was discussed here at the time.

The original version of that article included a map:

Several days later – sometime between February 12th and February 15th 2017 – changes were made to that map:

In July 2018 the BBC News website linked to Marcus’ 2017 article as ‘related reading’.  

Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning the inaccurate map in which he pointed out that:

Kibbutz Gadot

“In the map about half way down the page it shows a triangular area to the west of the River Jordan which is shown in yellow as “occupied by Israel”.  (It is the area just to the right of where it says “River Jordan”.)  This area has been internationally recognised as being a part of Israel since the 1949 armistice agreement.  It was a demilitarised zone (DMZ) from 1949 to 1967, but still a part of Israel.  In the middle of that zone was Kibbutz Gadot, which came under frequent bombardment by Syrian forces on the Golan Heights between 1949 and 1967.  The armistice agreement by which that area became a DMZ was superseded on May 31st 1974 by the Israel Syria disengagement agreement, which created a new DMZ, which is shown on your map as the UNDOF area.”

Mr Franklin’s initial complaint was rejected by the BBC and so he submitted a second one on July 27th, to which he received a reply on October 25th.

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled ‘Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38891358) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in our response.

After considering your point further we have amended this section of the map.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The amended map now appears as follows:

No footnote has been added to advise BBC audiences who read that article anytime during the last twenty and a half months that they had been presented with an inaccurate map.

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BBC R4 discovers ‘the evolution of the kibbutz’ – a decade and a half late

One can get a good glimpse of the kind of received ideas about Israel prevalent in BBC corridors from presenter Eddie Mair’s introduction to an item (available from 40:37 here) which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme on September 29th.

“The word ‘kibbutz’ might conjure images of utopian Israeli farming communities based on socialist principles and communal ownership, idealistic young volunteers from overseas. But a kibbutz isn’t that simple anymore; many have diversified into industry. From Israel: Hugh Sykes on the evolution of the kibbutz.”

Of course in contrast to the impression given by Mair, there is actually no connection whatsoever between the fact that most kibbutzim run some sort of industrial enterprise and the reforms which took place within the kibbutz movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kibbutzim have been engaged in both agriculture and industry for decades – as the fact that the Kibbutz Industries Association was established over half a century ago indicates.

“The Kibbutz Industries Association, which was established in 1962, is the umbrella organization representing more than 250 industrial enterprises in kibbutzim, collective moshavim and regional enterprises, which are located across the country, mostly in the peripheral areas.”

Reporting from Kibbutz Gadot – where the plastics factory presented as evidence for this ‘new’ industrialisation of kibbutzim has in fact been in existence for thirty years – Hugh Sykes promotes the equally inaccurate notion that the running of kibbutzim as a business is an innovation.

Kibbutz Gadot

Kibbutz Gadot

“The crops [are] chosen according to commercial demand. Gadot, like most kibbutzim nowadays, is a business.”

“…he didn’t expect to end up working for a profit-seeking commercial business.”

“So kibbutzim have mutated into co-operative capitalist businesses…”

Of course kibbutzim always chose their crops “according to commercial demand” (what farmer does not?) and the communally owned branches of agriculture, industry or tourism were always run as profit-seeking business operations which traded with the outside capitalist world – because that was how the communities managed to support themselves.

There is plenty of journalistic material in the story of how the majority of kibbutzim (around 25% still function according to the original kibbutz model) adapted themselves to the economic and social circumstances which endangered their existence in the 1990s. That story, however, does not include promotion of the inaccurate notion that kibbutzim have recently discovered industry and become businesses.

There is also an interesting story to be told about why, when economic crisis came along, those “utopian” socialist principles touted by Eddie Mair in his introduction were ultimately found to fall short. Given recent political developments in the UK, that is a story which might have interested listeners to Radio 4’s early evening news and current affairs show – but one which received ideas similar those underpinning the introduction to this report apparently did not permit telling.