[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Ritson: “Bethlehem – regarded as the birthplace of Jesus – typically sees a tourism boom at Christmas and this year looks like it could be one of the busiest in recent memory. But as a Palestinian town in the West Bank, Bethlehem is also feeling the economic effects of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Barbara Plett Usher reports from the holy city.”
Bethlehem of course came under complete Palestinian Authority control exactly twenty-four years before this item was aired, in December 1995. Listeners heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism which made security measures necessary but the BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence.
Plett Usher: “There’s an enormous Christmas tree in Manger Square, sparkling with many, many, many lights and the place is packed with people coming for the opening of the Christmas fair. Lots of kind of anticipation, excitement, Christmas cheer. This is really when Bethlehem comes into its own. This is really Bethlehem’s time of the year. There’s plenty of good cheer. Tourism is a bright spot despite dark times for the Palestinian economy.”
Plett Usher avoided informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s economic woes are largely self-inflicted and that they are the result of its insistence on paying salaries to terrorists and their families.
Plett Usher: “Across the square in the Church of St Catharine’s [sic] a procession of priests in a cloud of incense is descending to the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born. This happens every day but this Christmas is special because they have a piece of the manger – a gift from the Vatican. It’s a tiny splinter but a big boost for Bethlehem’s Christians, decimated by waves of emigration.”
Plett Usher made no effort to enhance her audience’s understanding of the context to those “waves of emigration”.
Obviously unable to distinguish between concrete and cement, Plett Usher went on to promote the false notion of Bethlehem being ‘squeezed’ by security measures for which she once again failed to provide any context.
Plett Usher: “Tourists vastly outnumber the Palestinian Christians. They roll into the little town of Bethlehem past what Israel calls its security barrier – the towering cement wall, as residents call it – as part of a system of controls that’s squeezing Bethlehem into an ever-shrinking space. That doesn’t stop the tide of visitors but many know more about the past than the present.”
Listeners then heard Plett Usher badgering a tourist in order to promote her own political activism while advancing the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.
Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”
Tourist: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”
Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”
Tourist: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”
Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”
Tourist: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”
Plett Usher: “Yes.”
Tourist: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then that so it’s about the future as well.”
Refraining from informing listeners that it is located on land purchased by Jews before 1948, Plett Usher then visited a ‘conflict tourism industry’ site in the Deheishe refugee camp. Listeners were of course not informed why ‘refugee camps’ still exist in an area under Palestinian control for nearly a quarter of a century.
Plett Usher: “Not everyone can avoid the politics or wants to. So this is Deheishe refugee camp. Ahmed has come to take me to his Airbnb. Ahmed Fararja is renting a room near Bethlehem to a young Slovenian student, Clara Suroneg [phonetic]. She’s the latest adventure tourist to respond to his advertisement offering an alternative kind of holiday.”
Clara: “The refugee camp is actually like a…they’re all connected between each other, you know, all the people know each other and in the end of the day you see that you really think in the same ways but you come from two different places in the world.”
Plett Usher: “It’s that connection to the world that Ahmed is looking for.”
Ahmed: “You know the people here are not…most of them are not allowed to go outside and especially to the outside world and they see the outside world in your eyes.”
No effort was made to counter that propaganda by informing listeners that thousands of Palestinians “go outside” every day. Plett Usher closed her report with another politicised portrayal of Bethlehem’s economy.
Plett Usher: “There’s a children’s choir now in Manger Square. Business is really booming here this year. But you never know; next year could be a bust. When you can’t control your own space, things are very fragile. The one constant is faith. The faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen.”
Once again we see the BBC indulging its own political activism by exploiting Christmas to produce blatantly partial reporting which hinders audience understanding of the topic.