As usual during the festive season, BBC content on and around Christmas Eve included several politicised reports from Yolande Knell about Christmas celebrations in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.
Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ on December 23rd heard a report (from 10:00 here) about St Nicholas Day which, according to presenter Emily Buchanan “is still widely celebrated and nowhere more so than among the Christians of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala.”
During that report listeners were told by Yolande Knell that:
Knell: “Over the centuries some town’s people claim that St Nicholas has protected them, including in 1948 during the fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel and the violence of two Palestinian uprisings.”
Although her examples “over the centuries” were limited to events connected to Israel, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that during the Second Intifada Palestinian terrorists used Beit Jala as a position from which to repeatedly attack Israeli civilians in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighbourhood with gunfire and mortars.
In addition to Mishal Husain’s politicised report from the Gaza Strip, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on December 24th heard a report (from 35:41 here) from Yolande Knell in Bethlehem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Justin Webb: “Christian pilgrims from around the world will be attending a Christmas Eve mass at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity today, built on the site where they believe Jesus was born. Yolande Knell is our correspondent there. What kind of numbers, Yolande?”
Having stated that “thousands of people” were expected to visit, Knell went on:
Knell: “Tourism here has recovered from a big fall that really began in late 2015 after that series of stabbings and car-ramming attacks. According to the Palestinian tourism ministry this has been the busiest year on record for Bethlehem…”
Later on Webb asked:
Webb: “How easy is it for people to get to it if they want to?”
Knell: “Well on Christmas it does become much easier but of course…ehm…for the Palestinians this is one of their great problems especially when it comes to developing tourism as they’re very reliant on Israel…”
Having reported that Bethlehem’s hotels are fully booked, Knell went on:
Knell: “Things are pretty bleak politically for Palestinians. But the message from officials and from regular people alike is that after some tough years – remember last year there was a lot of unrest that marred the Christmas celebrations, led to a lot of parties being cancelled, after President Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without recognising Palestinian claims to the east of the city: the part that they want as the capital of their promised future state.”
Similar messaging from Knell was heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on December 24th (from 6:04 here) in a news bulletin.
Newsreader: “Thousands of pilgrims have joined Palestinians in Bethlehem for the start of Christmas Eve celebrations. A parade was held in Manger Square with carols sung in Arabic played through speakers. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report from Bethlehem.”
Having described that parade, Knell told listeners that:
Knell: “Tourism here is often hit by flare-ups in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last year many parties were cancelled after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without acknowledging Palestinian claims to the eastern part of the city which they want as the capital of their promised future state. This year the political outlook remains bleak but the message from Palestinian officials and locals alike is that this should be a joyful Christmas.”
“Church and political officials in Bethlehem and Gaza canceled all non-religious Christmas celebrations in protest over the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“We decided to limit the Christmas celebrations to the religious rituals as an expression of rejection and anger and sympathy with the victims who fell in the recent protests,” said Bethlehem’s mayor, Anton Salman. […]
Christmas celebrations were restricted to religious rituals across the Palestinian territories in protest, the official Palestine TV reported Monday.”
As ever Yolande Knell’s annual Christmas messaging obscures Palestinian actions which affect seasonal tourism in the Bethlehem area. While listeners heard of a “series of stabbings and car-rammings” in 2015 and that tourism is “often hurt by flare-ups in violence”, they were not told who instigated those events, just as they were not informed who ordered the cancellation of Christmas parties last year or of the terrorism launched from Beit Jala in the Second Intifada.