BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

On May 15th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for the corporation’s television news programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How will new Israel government affect two-state solution?“.Knell Har Homa

The synopsis appearing on the website includes the following statement:

“The government includes conservative, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who would fight any recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The accuracy of that statement is of course contestable – not least in relation to the stance of coalition member party Shas, which has traditionally supported the two-state solution.

If viewers thought that the title of this report indicated that they were going to get some reliable background information on the new Israeli government’s approach and policies, they were sorely mistaken: Knell’s report is just one more addition to her long record of partial and inaccurate political propaganda.

Knell opens her report as follows:

“Har Homa: it’s one of Israel’s most controversial housing projects on land the Palestinians want for their state. Here, Bethlehem is cut off from Jerusalem.”

Does Har Homa in fact cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem? A look at the map shows that the answer to that is no, with two routes bypassing Har Homa available for travel.

map Har Homa

Knell continues:

“Back in the late 1990s this is the same hill before building began. Now there are about twenty thousand Jewish residents and ahead of his re-election, the prime minister came promising to expand settlements. They’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

As ever, Knell makes no attempt to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing her viewers of the existence of opinions which contradict the BBC’s standard “illegal under international law” insert. Neither does she bother to inform them of the fact that the majority of Har Homa (Homat Shmuel) is built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948 – a fact recognized even by the PLO.

Knell goes on:

“He [Netanyahu] also said he wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state.”

That context-free representation of the Israeli PM’s words relates to an interview given to the Israeli website NRG, the full text of which can be found here. Notably, Knell also ignores the subsequent clarifications made by Netanyahu.

She proceeds to explain a map inserted into the footage:

“This is where the Palestinians seek full sovereignty: in East Jerusalem which they want as their capital, the West Bank and Gaza – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”

No attempt is made to inform viewers why war broke out in 1967 or of the legal status of the areas she describes before they were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Next, with no effort made to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the political aims of the NGO he represents, Knell introduces her first interviewee.

Knell: “In his Bethlehem office Jad Isaac monitors settlement growth. He no longer believes in a two state solution to the conflict with Israel.”

Isaac: “This is not realistic; anybody who sees things on the ground will come to that conclusion.”

Knell: “Dr Isaac faces losing his own land because of new construction in Har Homa. He tells me the International Criminal Court should act.”

Isaac: “This is the last resort. We have to go to the international justice – to the international community – to see what they say about this occupation. Displacing people, bringing Israeli citizens to live inside the West Bank – the occupied territory – is a war crime.”

Again, Knell makes no effort whatsoever to clarify to viewers that Isaac’s “war crime” claim is highly debatable to say the least. She then goes on to ostensibly present a differing viewpoint but fails to tell viewers that her next interviewee is not only a journalist, but also the former director of the political NGO the New Israel Fund.  

Knell: “On the Jerusalem side of Har Homa I get another perspective from an Israeli journalist who lives nearby.”

Ya’ari: “This whole…eh…expressions of two state solution is almost like a cover up on something different.”

Knell: “Unusually, Eliezer Ya’ari visits his Palestinian neighbours. Israel made their villages part of Jerusalem when it unilaterally extended the city’s boundaries but it views them as residents – not citizens. Mr Ya’ari thinks they should have the same political rights as he does.”

Ya’ari: “OK – we are now tangled together. What does it mean? From my point of view Israel has decided that Jerusalem – its own capital – will be a bi-national city and I don’t think that all Israeli citizens actually understand what it means.”

This is not the first time we have seen Yolande Knell deliberately mislead BBC audiences with regard to the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: she made the exact same inaccurate claim in November of last year, failing to clarify that they are entitled to apply for citizenship should they so wish and that those who choose not to exercise that right (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare. We have also seen the BBC promoting similar misinformation in additional past reports.

Knell closes her report:

“The view has changed dramatically since battles were fought over this land nearly fifty years ago and as Israel’s political landscape continues to alter even moderate voices are looking at alternatives to established peace plans.”

This is also not the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell promoting ‘alternatives’ to the two state solution, whilst failing to clarify to her audiences what that actually means. Her latest misrepresentation of this as being the approach of “moderate voices” exposes the political agenda actually being promoted in this so-called ‘news’ item.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Yolande Knell ties one-state banner to BBC mast

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What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

On the evening of February 5th an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes“.

building Jlem 5 2 main

Readers have to wade down to the tenth paragraph (out of a total of thirteen) to discover that:

“A city council spokeswoman said the plans for the apartments were approved “years ago” and that new building in Arab areas of Jerusalem was also approved on Wednesday.”

The BBC, however, is only interested in building permits in neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it defines as “Jewish settlements”.

“Israeli officials have given final approval for 558 new apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”map Jlem HH PZ NY

That politically motivated and inaccurate choice of terminology deliberately misleads BBC audiences by creating the mistaken impression that such neighbourhoods are populated exclusively by Jews. That, of course, is not the case: thousands of Arab residents of Jerusalem – among them some who have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship – live in a variety of Jerusalem neighbourhoods, including those which the BBC elects to define as “Jewish settlements”.  

So why does the BBC – the organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues” – deliberately mislead its audiences in this manner? One clue to that puzzle may come from another statement included in this article:

“An estimated 200,000 settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, alongside 370,000 Palestinians.”

If the BBC were to inform audiences of the fact that Arabs – and not just Palestinians by the way, but also Israeli Arab residents of Jerusalem – live in certain areas added or returned to the city after 1967, then the labelling of residents of neighbourhoods such as Gilo, French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev as “settlers” would become very complicated. 

Like the Guardian – which advises its employees only to use the term “settler” for Israeli Jews –  the BBC has adopted the position that “settlers” can only be of one religion/ethnicity, with its style guide including the following curious advice to BBC journalists:

“It is normally best to talk about “Jewish settlers” rather than “Israeli settlers” – some settlers are not Israeli citizens.”

In other words, as far as the BBC is concerned, two families – one Arab and one Jewish – living next door to each other in the same apartment block in Gilo would be defined as “settlers” – or not – purely on the basis of their religion/ethnicity. 

Such categorization on the basis of religion/ethnicity is obviously both offensive and problematic. Hence, the BBC seems to have decided to circumvent the issue by pretending that all residents of the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it – for political reasons – chooses to define as “settlements” are Jewish and by concealing the fact that this is not the case at all from BBC audiences.

That undoubtedly makes life a lot easier for BBC journalists, allowing them to present a ‘black and white’, ‘right and wrong’ picture in which Jewish Jerusalemites who buy or rent an apartment in Pisgat Ze’ev are “settlers” who are in breach of the BBC approved version of “international law”, but Arab Jerusalemites who do the same do not exist. Likewise Palestinians, as the BBC defines them, who take up residence in areas west of the 1949 Armistice lines are not deemed worthy of note by the BBC and are certainly not defined as “settlers”. Neve Yaakov

This policy also allows BBC journalists to promote statements from Palestinian officials, such as the one by Hanan Ashrawi included in this particular report, whereby the construction of homes in specific parts of the city is described as detrimental to the current talks between Israel and the PLO, but construction approved by the same planning committee in other neighbourhoods over the 1949 Armistice line is not. 

Whilst this approach may well simplify matters for BBC journalists – and lay the groundwork for future BBC claims of a breakdown of the peace process due to “settlements” – it actively prevents BBC audiences from reaching informed opinions on the subject. In 2011 the combined population of the three Jerusalem neighbourhoods in which the particular building tenders noted in this report are located (Har Homa, Neve Ya’akov and Pisgat Ze’ev) was some 37,000. No realistic appraisal of any potential agreement between Israel and the PLO would see these neighbourhoods become part of a Palestinian state, but BBC audiences remain ignorant of that fact.

Instead, whilst continuing to completely ignore issues such as PA sanctioned incitement and glorification of terrorism and the rise of terrorist incidents in Judea & Samaria since the latest round of talks began, the BBC keeps audience attention focused on the chimera of building and “settlements” as an “obstacle to peace” – in a manner and language remarkably similar to the tactics adopted by the Palestinian Authority.

BBC audiences need accurate and in-depth information about Jerusalem if they are to be able to participate in the debate regarding any future agreements between Israel and the PLO. Not only are they currently not getting that information from the BBC, but the information they are being given actively prevents them from forming a realistic, fact-based picture of the city, its residents and the issues under discussion.

Related Articles:

 Don’t Divide Jerusalem: The Curious Case of Beit Safafa  (Yaacov Lozowick)

BBC correspondent compares anti-terrorist fence to Berlin wall, fails to mention terrorism

h/t DA

It is with tedious regularity that we find ourselves addressing here the subject of breaches of accuracy and impartiality guidelines in the programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ which is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (10.97 million listeners per week) and on the BBC World Service (192 million listeners). 

The programme’s latest edition – broadcast on Radio 4 on October 31st and scheduled for broadcast on the World Service on November 4th – includes an item by Andreas Gebauer of the BBC World Service. The item can be heard here from 11:32 or here

FOOC R4 edit

FOOC WS edition

The synopsis to the World Service edition of the programme reads as follows:

“A story of the divisions between people – and another of how they can begin to crumble. Seeing the “separation barrier” which separates Israeli from Palestinian settlements in the West Bank brings back childhood memories of Berlin’s Wall for Andreas Gebauer. The two were built for completely different reasons – yet their psychological impact can be oddly similar.”

The synopsis of the Radio 4 edition states:

“Andreas Gebauer finds parallels between Israel’s security barrier and the Berlin wall which he first saw as a young boy”.

Kate Adie’s introduction of the Radio 4 version begins thus:

“Israel this week released twenty-six Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal connected to the latest peace talks between the two sides. The Israeli prime minister has been telling his parliament he’s making a real effort to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians. Precisely what’s been discussed isn’t being revealed. The Palestinians are known to be concerned about the four hundred mile-long separation barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to prevent – it says – attacks being launched against its citizens. Seeing it has reminded Andreas Gebauer of another wall; the one that divided Berlin and his native Germany.”

In other words, rather than taking the opportunity provided by the recent release of convicted terrorists to impart some insight to BBC audiences as to how the families of their victims regard this event, the BBC chooses to use it as a hook upon which to hang yet another pernicious ‘opinion piece’ on one of Israel’s means of preventing exactly such acts of terror, promoting the meme of the ‘Berlin wall’ comparison so often employed by anti-Israel activists. 

Adie’s claim of a “four hundred mile-long separation barrier Israel has built in the West Bank” is clearly inaccurate. The anti-terrorist fence has not been completed and the sections so far constructed – 69% of the project as of August 2012 – are 491.9 kms (305.6 miles) long. Neither is the fence “built in the West Bank” as Adie claims. Its route is determined by security and topographical considerations with most of it situated on the 1949 Armistice lines.

As is all too often the case, Adie’s snide insertion of the words “it says” implies to listeners that the rationale behind the fence’s construction is to be doubted and conceals from them the long-known facts proving its effectiveness.

“A comparison of the above data shows a decrease of slightly more than 90% in the number of attacks: from an average of 26 attacks a year before the fence, to three attacks after erection of the anti-terrorist fence. This means a decrease of more than 70% in the number of Israelis murdered: from an average of 103 slain per year before the fence to 28 after erection of the fence. Similarly, this means a drop of more than 85% in the number of wounded: from an average of 688 a year before the fence to 83 wounded per year after it was built. ”

Andreas Gebauer begins his piece with the biblical story of the fall of the walls of Jericho, but soon moves on to pastures political.

“Now, a new wall has gone up in Canaan. It snakes its way across hills, follows motorways, hugs buildings, cuts through roads and farms. In the hilly countryside it stands out; an ever-present reminder of the unresolved Middle East problem.”

Apparently not aware of the fact that Canaan ceased to exist in the Iron Age, Gebauer is obviously equally oblivious of the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict is – as the past three years have amply demonstrated – far from being “the unresolved Middle East problem”. He continues:

“Of course I knew it would bring back memories of the Berlin wall which I’d first seen as a young boy. When you stand next to it, as I did east of Jerusalem, the similarities are eerie. The same prefabricated slabs, the same watch-towers, even the graffiti – some angry, some witty. Only this wall seems to be much higher – eight meters, I later find out – more than twice as high as the Berlin wall.”

Gebauer does not bother to point out to his listeners that less than 10% of the anti-terrorist fence is actually a wall, with the vast majority being a chain-link fence. Neither does he clarify that the sections which are constructed of concrete slabs are designed to prevent snipers from shooting at civilians – an issue which East Germany did not need to take into account when its wall was constructed for entirely different reasons. Gebauer goes on:

“To most Palestinians it’s impenetrable: not only to would-be attackers, but also to the mass of Palestinians looking for work. The few Palestinians that are allowed to cross it may have to wait for up to four hours at the checkpoint.”

Gebauer’s historical difficulties continue: he airbrushes from his account the establishment of the Palestinian Authority under the terms of the Oslo Accords twenty years ago by suggesting that residents of PA controlled areas “looking for work” should have free access to areas in which they neither reside nor are citizens. In fact, the number of Palestinians allocated permits to work in Israel is currently at its highest since the start of the second Intifada in 2000. 48,000 permanent permits and 3,000 temporary permits are allocated to Palestinians and a further 27,000 work in industrial zones or communities in Judea & Samaria. During the month of Ramadan this year, over 200,000 Palestinians were issued with permits to visit Israel and in the first half of 2013, 4,545,854 Palestinians crossed into Israel. 

According to Gebauer, however, those numbers represent a “few”.

Gebauer then recounts a personal anecdote before continuing:

“So, much bigger was their [the German people] surprise when a few years later they saw a new wall go up just east of Jerusalem. Not dividing the city, but keeping out its Palestinian hinterland. The Israeli economy may be doing well, but that Palestinian hinterland is clearly suffering. Bethlehem, just a few miles from Jerusalem, shows all signs of massive unemployment, stagnation and squalor.”

Again, Gebauer ignores the fact that Bethlehem, along with what he bizarrely terms Jerusalem’s “Palestinian hinterland”, is under Palestinian Authority control and responsibility – and has been for nearly two decades. He continues:

“On the hill opposite, sheltered by the wall and overlooking the countryside like a modern medieval castle, sits Har Homa – one of the many Israeli settlements that have sprung up east of Jerusalem.”

Here we once again see BBC’s partial adoption of the terminology used by the Palestinian Authority to describe neighbourhoods of Jerusalem – in this case a suburb built largely on land which was purchased by Jews before 1948. Gebauer goes on:

“They look well-built, in their gleaming white concrete, their roofs not cluttered up with black water tanks like those of the Palestinian houses. Unlike the settlements, most Palestinian towns and villages receive water for only a few hours a day.”

Yet again, Gebauer makes no attempt to explain to his listeners that the water supply to Palestinian towns and villages in Areas A and B is the responsibility of the Palestinian Water Authority according to the terms of the Oslo Accords and so any supply problems which may exist should be addressed by that body. He continues:

“When you travel through the West Bank you can’t help feeling that most of it has already been incorporated into Israel. The road numbers are Israeli. The bathing complex on the Dead Sea is Israeli. The Qumran Caves – where centuries-old Jewish scrolls were found – form part of an Israeli national park. The road along the River Jordan, with an electrified fence facing the neighbouring Kingdom of Jordan, is dotted with small Israeli settlements. The only Arab presence is a derelict barracks, vacated by the Jordanian army when it left in a hurry in 1967.”

Gebauer’s “road along the River Jordan” is route 90 – and it has an Israeli road number because, like the rest of the roads in the area, it was constructed by Israel. Between the north of the Dead Sea and the Bazaq (Mehola) crossing, Gebauer would have had to pass numerous Arab towns and villages including Jericho (population 17,000), Zubaydat, Marj Na’je, Fasa’il, Bardale, Tel Albeida and Tel Al Khama. Apparently he was unable to distinguish them from “small Israeli settlements” just as he is clearly unable to tell the difference between an electronic monitoring fence marking an international border and an “electrified” one. He goes on:

“And yet, there is a huge Arab presence, even in Israel proper. Head north to Galilee and you encounter numerous Arab villages and towns, the minarets of their mosques and the steeples of their churches shining proudly in the sun. Their residents – now more than 1.6 million – were allowed to stay after 1948, even given Israeli citizenship.”

The use of the phrase “allowed to stay” of course fails to reflect the fact that Israel’s Declaration of Independence included a specific call to Arab residents of the area at the time:

“We appeal – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

Gebauer continues:

“The wall makes a re-appearance on the way back to the airport, next to the motorway leading from Galilee to Tel Aviv. Behind it, the Palestinian town of Tulkarem. To the right, in the distance, the high-rise blocks along the Israeli coastline. This is the point where Israel proper is barely ten miles wide; no distance for a good enemy army.”

Where exactly Gebauer accessed the motorway (Route 6) we do not know, but whether it was at the Ein Tut interchange or the Ir’on interchange, he would have travelled quite a distance before having any view of the short section of the anti-terrorist fence near Tulkarem which is constructed from concrete. Apparently, the road’s proximity to Tulkarem – a town with a history of terrorist infrastructure – did little to enhance Gebauer’s understanding of the need for protection from sniper attacks and other types of terrorist activity or his comprehension of the fact that the function of the anti-terrorist fence is not to halt “a good enemy army” engaged in conventional warfare.

Route 6

Gebauer then begins his conclusion:

“Yet whether the wall is the answer to Israel’s undoubted security needs is questionable. Walls may – for a while – bring relief to a symptom; they don’t solve the problem itself.”

Ironically, Gebauer has managed to get through his entire item without naming “the problem itself” – terrorism – and he is not about to rectify that.

“The Berlin wall certainly saved East Germany from imminent economic collapse, but it didn’t rescue it in the long run, creating hardship and huge resentment in the process. Similarly, Israel’s security barrier is unlikely to be the long-term answer. It’s a blot on the landscape and doesn’t help Israel’s image.”

Apparently “image” and aesthetics trump civilian lives in Gebauer’s world.

“What’s required now are two wise and courageous politicians to emerge on both sides and fortunate circumstances. We may have to wait for a while, but so did the people of Berlin.”

Beyond its multiple accuracy failures, this broadcast is clearly no more than a politically motivated polemic which adopts both its theme and its language from the repertoires of anti-Israel campaigners. What it certainly does not do is to provide BBC audiences with any “insight” (as claimed in the programme blurb) into why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built or why its presence is still a regrettable necessity. Gebauer’s total abstention from any serious mention of the subject of Palestinian terrorism indicates that he did not intend to inform his audiences at all: his frankly repugnant ‘moral’ posturing and his co-opting of childhood memories are merely a vehicle for the promotion of an all too transparent political standpoint – in clear breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality.