Examining the BBC’s claim of Palestinian support for the two-state solution

Back in May, in a report concerning Palestinian rejection of the as yet unpublished US peace initiative, BBC News told its audiences that:

“It is unclear whether the [US] plan will be based on the so-called “two-state solution” – a long-standing formula for resolving the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem a shared capital.

The Palestinians and most of the international community support this approach in principle, while the Israeli leadership is cooler towards it.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has been promoting the theme of Palestinian support for a two-state solution at least since December 2016 – while amplifying the PLO’s interpretation of that shorthand.

“In addition to avoiding the obviously inconvenient fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the two-state solution which the BBC claims they “support”, the BBC’s implication that there is one unified Palestinian voice which supports the two-state solution is clearly inaccurate and misleading. […]

…the BBC’s wording does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.”

So what really is the approach of the PLO/Fatah/Palestinian Authority clique to the idea of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? Earlier this month the University of Chicago’s ‘Pearson Institute’ held a conference in Berlin. One of the speakers was Husam Zomlotcurrently head of the Palestinian mission to the UK – who readers may recall gave a briefing to BBC journalists just before the Bahrain economic workshop in June and who has been a regular contributor to BBC content.

For those interested in the topic of how the PA promotes its selective narrative in the West – and the contradictions and falsehoods that lie behind that narrative – Zomlot’s contribution (from around 2:30:00 here) is worth watching in full.

But one section in particular (from 3:04:43) has gained attention on social media because it reveals what actually lies behind that BBC claim that the Palestinians support the two-state solution.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Zomlot: “OK: about the two-state solution. Let me explain something that I think is missed in the discussion. People think the two-state solution is a Palestinian demand. Wherever we go now they tell us ‘oh I know that you demand a two-state solution’. […] This really, really must end. Number one, the Palestinians…you know the two-state solution was never a Palestinian demand. It was a Palestinian concession. And it was a Palestinian concession towards becoming aligned with international [inaudible]. For Palestinians it doesn’t make sense that early on, the starting point of forgoing 78% of what was rightly yours. You don’t start there. You start somewhere else. Having said that, for us, the Palestinians, let me confirm we have two positive acceptable outcomes for the future. The first is two states on the 1967 borders [sic]. A state of Palestine, sovereign – we’re not talking about Mickey Mouse state – sovereign, independent. East Jerusalem is our capital. Not a capital in East Jerusalem. Not shared capital in Jerusalem. Not the fantasy that we will establish a capital in Abu Dis. East Jerusalem from the exact line […] and this is final by the way. It’s final. One of the biggest mistakes that people thought that us accepting and recognising the two-state solution was the beginning of our concessions. No, no, no: it was the end of our concessions. […]

The second option is one person, one vote: one democratic, egalitarian state that provides for all of its citizens regardless of your language, your religion, your colour, your height, your width. A state in the meaning of a state. And I say it maybe on behalf of my Palestinian side: we will accept either. It’s not like we are obsessed. We are obsessed about a solution. But we know that the second option is a non-starter in Israel. We know that. And you know why? Do I need to dwell on it? Because Israel see us, the Palestinians, primarily as a demographic threat. Because the dream of establishing a state of all its citizens might be generations away. Because only few months after the Israeli state…nation state law that discriminated against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and deliberately told them that they can never have the right of self-determination – it’s exclusive to Jews. In such an environment to aspire to that is really to be almost like wanting to fight a heavyweight boxer when you are unable to even defeat a lightweight. And that’s why we are more in the area of possibility than desirability and from a possibility point of view we remain to be convinced that the two-state solution is still possible. And we remain convinced that it is the best course to the immediate future.”

In other words, Zomlot is saying that although the Palestinians would prefer a more ‘desirable’ one-state option which would eradicate the Jewish state and bring an end to Jewish self-determination, they are prepared to settle in “the immediate future” for their partisan interpretation of a two-state solution which – notably – does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state because they consider all of Israel to be “rightly” theirs.

That of course is significantly different to way in which the BBC portrays the Palestinian position to its audiences. The problem is not that Palestinian officials such as Zomlot and Saeb Erekat do not get enough BBC airtime to explain their stance but that BBC journalists refrain from asking challenging but relevant questions such as why the PA’s interpretation of the two-state solution does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Related Articles:

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

A week after having briefed BBC journalists and four days after his colleague participated in two sympathetic BBC radio interviews, the PA representative in London, Husam Zomlot, was given another opportunity by the BBC to promote PLO taking points ahead of the Bahrain economic workshop.

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a five and a half minute item (from 34:30 here) introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “In Bahrain tomorrow the US government’s Middle East point man Jared Kushner will begin putting into practice his long-trailed plan to bring peace. It’s taken two years to construct but already the foundations of what Mr Kushner’s father-in-law President Trump hopes will be ‘the deal of the century’ look pretty shaky. The decision to put the political questions on pause and instead concentrate on raising billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy has been dismissed by the Palestinian leadership as a bribe. That leadership won’t be in Bahrain and it refuses to engage with an American administration it no longer views as an honest broker after a series of diplomatic decisions, such as moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which have delighted the Israelis. Well this was the pre-Bahrain protest on the streets of the West Bank town of Ramallah today. [recording of shouting] ‘Trump go home’ is what they shout. Well I’ve been speaking about Jared Kushner’s plan to the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husam Zomlot.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to inform his listeners that those ‘protests’ – which in some locations included violent rioting – were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction. Listeners first discovered that Mr Zomlot does not understand the meaning of the term money-laundering

Zomlot: “A plan that does not deal with the real issues is really not a plan. Call it whitewashing, money laundering [sic], whatever you want to call it but it’s not a plan. It has nothing to do with peace. Definitely it has nothing to do with us, the Palestinians.” [laughs]

Coomarasamy: “Well the other part of it is prosperity – peace to prosperity is the slogan – and there’s a lot of money – $50 billion potentially – that the Americans would like to see distributed to the Palestinian people and to your neighbours.”

Zomlot: “This is the game of deceit. If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy. It’s condescending approach by Kushner telling us and the world that Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves. He knows what’s our interest and therefore he decides it and then he releases a plan – Kushner and his team – that does not mention the word occupation or freedom or statehood or self-determination. It seems these people all what they are thinking about is cash.”

Refraining from raising the relevant topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in creating its current economic crisis and specifically the issue of its payment of cash rewards for terrorism, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “They say that there is a second stage to this; that there will be a political part of the plan but this is…the first part is to get the cash injection you do need, after all, don’t you?”

Zomlot: “Of course cash is always needed. Of course economic support is always needed but it’s a matter of priority. Cash and economic support has been happening for over 25 years by the international community but it was for a certain purpose. It was for a certain direction which is establishing a Palestinian sovereign state. The UK has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the US, Europe and what have you and we agreed to that economic assistance. But Kushner is thinking like a real estate man, not like a statesman and he thinks that Israel takes the property and we take the cash. Now Palestine is not for sale, number one. Number two: what cash? The fifty billion is not coming to the Palestinians. Around half of it will be coming to the Palestinians over a period of ten years and half of the half of it is going to be loans that will be incurring a lot of interest. We will be heavily indebted and if you do the math then we will end up with one billion every year from the international community, which we already get – but for a programme that goes towards the two-state solution on the 1967 borders according to international resolution.”

Coomarasamy failed to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” and that Zomlot’s partisan interpretation of the two-state solution does not stand up to scrutiny. Neither did he bother to ask his interviewee why the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the principle of the two-state solution throughout the 25 years that they have been receiving the foreign aid Zomlot claims was for that purpose.

Coomarasamy: “Isn’t this though at the moment the only game in town? Don’t you need to be there at the table making your argument?”

Zomlot: “Even if it’s the only game in town, when you are certain that such a game is going to be leading to the opposite direction of your national camp, of your hundred years-old movement towards your rights, then you don’t dance on this tune; you don’t engage in this.”

Coomarasamy: “So what’s the alternative?”

Zomlot: “We have many alternatives and that’s why our president went to the Security Council last year in February and said here is the Palestinian peace plan. We want to see an international peace conference. He said name me one conflict that was not resolved by international mediation and international will.”

Coomarasamy: “If you feel that this current administration in Washington is one that simply does not have your interests at heart, it’s going in a completely opposite direction to Palestinian interests, what do you do? You cannot side-step it, can you? You have to engage in some way.”

Zomlot: “We met Mr Trump himself four times. We met his team, and I was included, more than 32 times. We engaged at full at the most senior level. We have been genuine, transparent, constructive, positive and hopeful. What we learned in every turn that this is a deceitful team; that they have one plan and one plan only which is the endorsement and the legitimisation of Israel’s colonial expansion and the delegitimisation of the Palestinian national project and international legitimacy. Why would they close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington at the height of our engagement? Because they don’t see the Palestinians as a people. Why would they close the consulate general – the United States of America consulate general that was established in 1844? Because they don’t see us as a nation and they want us to be only part of Israel, part of the Israeli internal discussion. So now we are only a section in the American embassy to Israel. It’s clear what’s their intention. We cannot be just engaging for the sake of engaging.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question Zomlot’s falsehood concerning “colonial expansion” and neither did he clarify that the PLO mission in Washington was closed because the Palestinian Authority instigated moves that contravene US legislation. Likewise, Zomlot’s inaccurate framing of the reasons behind the merger of the US consulate with the US embassy in Jerusalem went unchallenged by Coomarasamy.

And so, as we see, yet another Palestinian official was given unchallenging air-time on BBC radio in order to promote his talking points while yet another BBC interviewer carefully avoided any mention of relevant but inconvenient topics such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority rewards for terrorism, Palestinian rejection of previous peace proposals, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which renders Zomlot’s claims regarding a Palestinian “national camp” commitment to the two-state solution meaningless.

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

 

 

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

Ahead of the US initiated economic workshop in Bahrain next week (which the Palestinian Authority claims to have ‘foiled’), PA and PLO representatives in London have been rather busy.

In addition to organising meetings with the Minister of State for the Middle East, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Labour party leader, RUSI, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, CAABU and others, the PA representative in Britain, Husam Zomlot, also met with “senior BBC correspondents and journalists”.

Husam Zomlot – who just last month marched next to a Hamas affiliated activist at an anti-Israel demonstration in London – is a fairly regular participant in BBC content. While we do not know what he told BBC journalists at that meeting, we do know that BBC audiences have been repeatedly misled by his blatant falsehoods and inaccurate claims in the past.

photo credit: ITIC

“Israel’s colonialism”

“…their siege, their colonisation, their daily theft of our resources and land and their daily murder of our families and babies and women.”

“…they pulled out of Gaza to lay siege on the people of Gaza for all these years and turn Gaza into the dark ages…”

“There are no basic goods and commodities…[in the Gaza Strip]”

“…the original people, the natives, the Palestinians…”

“…another ethnic cleansing like they did in 1948.” 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’: insights into presenter intervention on inaccurate claims

“…we reject violence and we promote non-violence.” 

“We are religious about non-violence. We roamed the world for years upon years to try and provide our people with non-violent way of achieving their rights…” 

“…a Palestinian bus driver with two young sons was hanged in his own bus by again another most likely Israeli-organised terror groups…”

“We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem.”

“…every other week we have a theft of our land…”

“…every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques…”

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: World Service’s ‘Newshour’ – part two

“…the Netanyahu government have been murdering the two-state solution via this phenomenal expansion of settlements everywhere in the occupied Palestinian territory…state.” 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ special edition from Jerusalem – part one

“…it took us so many years to get to that national equilibrium here in Palestine; to establish a national consensus on the two-state solution and on accepting, recognising Israel on 78% of our land.”

Challenged and unchallenged claims in a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview – part one

“According to the Oslo Accords Israel should have withdrawn from all the territories it occupied in 1967 and in fact what happened after was the deepening of the occupation and the spread of colonial settlements and the besiegement [sic] of the people in Gaza.” 

“Let me give you some numbers very, very quickly about the economic disparity because of us having to work in Israel – not, by the way, by choice but by coercion. You know our population is around 12.7 million.” 

“It’s our own water that they consume, most of it.”

“Some groups that are privileged and others that are disprivileged [sic] and discriminated whether by means of occupation or by means of colonisation or by means of apartheid.”

“…if this means we will continue to be treated as slaves in our own land and we continue to put up against some people who argue that God is estate agent and God chose some people at the expense of others.”

Challenged and unchallenged claims in a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview – part two

It is hence highly unlikely that Zomlot’s ‘briefing’ to BBC journalists “on the current situation in Palestine” will contribute anything of value to the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting.

 

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

A demonstration organised by groups including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa and the Muslim Association of Britain took place in London earlier this month. As documented by the ITIC:

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas – and Muslim Brotherhood – affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches [Great Return March – Ed.]. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Also among the speakers at that event was Glyn Secker of (among others) ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – a group frequently featured in BBC content. Secker was briefly suspended by the Labour party last year due to participation in a Facebook group promoting antisemitic material. As reported by the Jewish News:

“The “National Demonstration for Palestine: Exist! Resist! Return!” march – attended by several Labour MPs, including Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon – had placards claiming that “Israel provokes antisemitism”. […]

Glyn Secker, secretary of the Anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour, told the demonstrators that the 119 Labour MPs who were “friends of Israel” a “fifth column in the Labour Party led by [Dame Margaret] Hodge and [Tom] Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement.”

Claiming that the Zionist Federation was “embracing” the neo-Nazi English Defence League, Secker told the crowd gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place: “What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?

“Here’s a warning to the [British] Jewish leadership, while you foment your campaign of allegations of antisemitism against [Jeremy] Corbyn and the left to silence Israel’s critics, while you cry wolf month after month, year after year in the Labour Party and remain blind to the explosion of the far-right and Islamophobia, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” 

He added: “You serve to protect the poison that would destroy both our freedom and yours. Well brothers and sisters, we are on the side of the Palestinians. We are on the side of the freedom marchers of ghetto Gaza.””

Although that demonstration took place literally on the BBC’s doorstep, we have been unable to find any English language coverage of it.

However four days later, on May 15th, the BBC Arabic website published an article which opened:

“Today marks the seventy-first anniversary of the Nakba, the name given by Palestinians and Arabs to the humanitarian tragedy of the displacement of a large number of the Palestinian people from their homes and the destruction of most of their political, economic and civilisational features following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1984 [sic].”

The article went on to tell readers that Palestinians “continue to live in refugee camps” – but not why – before showcasing a number of posts on social media which “stressed the right of return” – but with no explanation of what that actually means. Among the Tweets chosen by the BBC was one from professional anti-Israel activist Ben White.

Referring to the ‘Great Return March, the article told readers that “60 people were killed in last year’s major rally, coinciding with the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem” – but not that the majority of them have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending (which, interestingly, did not publish an English language version of this article on its BBC News website blog) had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified.

“But things changed for her in 2012 when she visited the West Bank and witnessed the “inhuman treatment” of Palestinians by Israelis, especially in the city of Hebron.”

“The “Palestinian cause” has become a symbol of all forms of injustice and injustice in various parts of the world. Those who defend any just cause anywhere in the world must support the Palestinians in the face of Israeli injustice and aggression.”

“I was ignorant of what was going on there, but I started to research, read and listen to people, and I concluded that what was happening was terrible, but that it was racist.”

“Alicia considers that what is more important than demonstrating on Nakba Day or other occasions is “to engage in the campaign to boycott Israel. This is a method that has proved successful with apartheid in South Africa and will make a big difference to the Palestinian cause.”

BBC Trending also had no qualms about promoting antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

At the beginning of 2018 BBC Arabic had a weekly reach of 43 million people. Apparently the BBC is quite happy for such an antisemitic statement to be promoted to that audience.

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The potential designation of the Muslim Brotherhood – covered by the BBC at the end of last month – is the topic of a discussion held at the FDD available both as a transcript and on video.

“As the administration and Congress consider designating Muslim Brotherhood groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, FDD hosted a breakfast event on May 17 to discuss the options, criteria, and implications of any U.S. government actions. The conversation was be moderated by Nancy Youssef, national security correspondent at The Wall Street Journal, and featured Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at FDD; Samuel Tadros, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; and Amy Hawthorne, deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).”

2) The ITIC reports on the demonstration held two weeks ago in London.

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas- and Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

3) At the INSS Oded Eran discusses “Concerns for Jordan’s Stability”.

“In the first years after the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the common assessment was that the Hashemite Kingdom was able to cope with the challenges it confronted, despite the various internal and external political pressures, including the demographic pressure created by the wave of refugees from Syria. However, cracks in this image of stability have begun to emerge, and there are increasing indications that the developments in the country could lead to a serious undermining of the regime, with long term strategic ramifications. The destabilization process could, for example, be sparked by protracted mass demonstrations, some of them violent, a loss of control over the situation by security forces, and a loss of the palace’s control over parliamentary decisions.”

4) Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld examines “Antisemitic Cartoons in the Anti-Israel Media” at BESA.

“Media that frequently incite against Israel often slip into publishing antisemitic cartoons.  A case in point is a recent cartoon in The New York Times that dehumanized Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by depicting him as a dog. Antisemitic cartoons have appeared in the British Independent and Guardian, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Italian Il Manifesto, the Swedish Dagens Nyheter, the Dutch Volkskrant, and all three leading Norwegian dailies.”

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

Previously we saw how a BBC News website report on the US decision to close the PLO office in Washington DC failed to provide readers with an adequate explanation of both the legal background to that decision and the fact that the same Palestinian officials now protesting it have had nearly three years in which to study the requirements for keeping that mission open.

The September 10th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ closed with an item on the same story which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:05 here) with the following framing:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “The Trump administration is piling the pressure on the Palestinians. It’s already ended bilateral funding and also funding to the UN agency which looks after Palestinian refugees. President Trump says they’re ungrateful and should return to the negotiating table with Israel. And today the US ordered the closure of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington. The US State Department said the Palestinians were refusing to engage with the US over peace efforts. US National Security Advisor John Bolton also touched on the topic in his speech excoriating the International Criminal Court. He said the US decision to close the mission in Washington was a result of the court’s insistence on investigating Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

In contrast to Marshall’s claim, the ICC’s preliminary investigations in fact came as a result of actions by the Palestinian Authority beginning in January 2015. Listeners then heard a recording of John Bolton speaking on the same day.

Recording Bolton: “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel. And today, reflecting Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the Department of State will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation office here in Washington DC and the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process and we will not allow the ICC or any other organisation to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Marshall: “So why is Mr Bolton conflating two issues: the ICC and the Palestinians? Our State Department correspondent again, Barbara Plett-Usher.

While it is obvious that Barbara Plett-Usher is aware of the history and legal background to this story, BBC World Service listeners did not hear a lucid explanation. Despite the BBC having itself reported on Palestinian petitions to the ICC – including as recently as in May – Plett-Usher disingenuously portrayed that topic as though it were a claim dreamed up by John Bolton.

Plett-Usher: “Well that’s because Congress conflated them. Congress put some conditions on the ability of the PLO to open an office in Washington, one of which was that the Palestinians could not be going after Israel in the ICC and you heard there Mr Bolton saying they were in fact trying to do that. But even then, even if the Palestinians had made such moves, the PLO office could still be allowed to operate here if the Palestinians were engaging in peace talks with the Israelis, which they are not. They’re boycotting the US attempts to revive negotiations because they see them as blatantly favouring the Israelis on core issues. But the administration used these two arguments, these two conditions put down by Congress, to close down the mission.”

Marshall: “And has this mission in Washington been useful for the Palestinians?”

Misrepresenting the title of the PLO envoy to Washington and giving a partisan interpretation of the Oslo Accords Declaration of Principles, Plett-Usher replied:

Plett-Usher: “I think it’s been more useful at some times than at others but by and large what it was, it was set up after the Oslo Accords were negotiated in ’93-’94 and this was the sort of point man point in Washington to liaise with the US administration on efforts to implement those accords which of course were supposed to result in a Palestinian state and never did. More recently the diplomats here have engaged in direct outreach to Americans – to churches, civil organisations, students and the like – trying to build support for the Palestinians, to take advantage of a decrease in support for the Israeli government policies among Americans but also including American Jews. In fact the PLO ambassador claims that that was one reason they were shut down.”

Plett-Usher refrained from mentioning reports that the PLO mission in Washington had been funding campus activity of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the US.

Marshall then went on to introduce his second contributor, failing to clarify to listeners that Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Marshall: “[…] and earlier I spoke to Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian legislator and former negotiator. What’s her reaction to Mr Bolton’s remarks?”

[48:23] Ashrawi: “This is not an act that happened in isolation. It’s part of a concerted American assault on Palestinian rights, on the chances of peace [laughs] and on any semblance of justice, on legality and solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue. And it seems to me the US is certainly doing Israel’s bidding and is trying to resolve all issues by bashing the Palestinians, by punishing the Palestinians – who are already under occupation – and by rewarding Israel and granting it full immunity to act outside the law with full impunity.”

Marshall: “The United States says it’s doing this because the Palestinians are not supporting peace talks with Israel.”

Ashrawi: [laughs] That’s extremely ironic. There are no talks. There are no plans. There is no negotiating table to invite us back to: the US has smashed it into smithereens. It has decided unilaterally to give away Jerusalem to Israel which is illegal because Jerusalem is occupied territory – it is Palestinian land. It has decided single-handedly to redefine Palestinian refugees and to stop funding UNRWA which is an international organisation specifically set up to serve and protect the Palestinian refugees. It has unilaterally decided that the settlements are not illegal, that it doesn’t want the ’67 boundaries or the two-state solution. So what does it want? Right now it is busy telling the Palestinians if you do not surrender to our dictates, if you do not accept all these steps then you are going to be punished again and Israel is rewarded. So it’s extremely ironic. It’s really disingenuous to talk about peace. Actually now we are being punished because we dared ask the International Criminal Court to speed up its investigation of Israeli war crimes and as you know, settlements are a war crime by international definition according to the Rome Statute.”

Making no effort whatsoever to challenge Ashrawi’s egregious portrayal of Jerusalem as “Palestinian land”, her “war crimes” smear or her partisan interpretation of Article 8 of the Rome Statute, Marshall changed the subject.

Marshall: “Do you have any idea what the US peace plan is? Because the Trump administration says that the Palestinian leadership has condemned that plan that they haven’t even seen [Ashrawi laughs] and refused to engage the US government with respect to peace efforts in other words.”

Ashrawi: “Yes of course we refuse because we don’t need to talk about a plan; they’re implementing it. I mean anybody who has any sense – any sight – would see that the US is busy dismantling every single component or requirement of peace. These issues are very clear. So it’s not that we [laughs] are not talking peace. We have been talking peace for decades and we’ve negotiated with numerous American administrations. It’s this one that has…I think it has lost its mind. I think in this mad, hysterical defence of Israel, they just don’t make sense. They have lost their balance and it’s really serious because they’re creating a situation of tremendous volatility.”

Marshall: “How do the Palestinians now though gain their independent state? You’ve rejected the United States as a mediator; you’re not prepared at the moment to sit down with Israel. How do you achieve your political objectives?”

Ashrawi: “Well the president Mahmoud Abbas last year declared or announced an initiative about convening an international conference about the requirements of peace. There is a plan but obviously when the US has taken sides so blatantly and I think now it’s up to the international community that has to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinians and to hold Israel to account and now to hold the US to account.”

Failing to inform listeners that Abbas’ ‘international conference’ was supposed to have taken place “by mid-2018“, Marshall closed the item there, once again neglecting to clarify Ashrawi’s PLO links.

As we see, once again BBC audiences were not given an adequate account of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of the US decision to close the PLO mission in Washington. They did, however, hear Hanan Ashrawi’s political talking points, inaccuracies and distortions go completely unchallenged for four straight minutes in this one-sided presentation of the story.

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BBC News website amends inaccurate Palestinian envoy title

As noted here recently, a report published on the BBC News website on August 31st inaccurately described the PLO’s representative to the United States as “the Palestinian ambassador to Washington”.

“On Friday, the Palestinian ambassador to Washington, Hossam Zomlot, accused the US of “endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees”.

The US “is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace”, he told AFP.”

BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website pointing out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state, that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time and that Mr Zomlot describes himself as the “Head of the PLO General Delegation to the US”.  

The report was subsequently amended and the passage concerned now reads:

However, no footnote explaining the amendment has been added to the report and the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that those who read this article between the evening of August 31st and the afternoon of September 2nd remain unaware of the fact that they were given an inaccurate description of the envoy’s title.

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BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

Earlier this year BBC audiences saw quite a lot of reporting on the topic of US aid donations to the Palestinians in general and via UNRWA in particular – for example:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part two

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

That generous, if mostly imbalanced, coverage was hallmarked by the repeated failure to provide BBC audiences with information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its record or its efficiency. Significantly, BBC audiences were not provided with an explanation of why – in contrast to the UN agency which takes care of all other refugees – UNRWA does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside – even if they live in Palestinian controlled areas – or “resettlement” in third countries.

Those crucial omissions were evident again in a report originally published on the BBC News website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’, ‘US and Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on August 31st under the headline “US ends aid to Palestinian refugee agency Unrwa“.

The article opened with a three sentence description of the story:

“The United States is ending all funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, the US State Department says.

It described the organisation, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), as “irredeemably flawed”.

The US administration has “carefully reviewed” the issue and “will not make additional contributions to Unrwa,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.”

Readers then found three paragraphs of Palestinian Authority condemnation of the decision followed by two paragraphs and a screenshot amplifying comment from UNRWA’s spokesperson.

“A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later said the move was an “assault” against his people.

“Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution,” Nabil Abu Rudeina told Reuters news agency.

He added that the decision was “a defiance of UN resolutions”.

A spokesman for Unrwa, Chris Gunness, defended the agency in a series of tweets.

“We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that Unrwa’s schools, health centres, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed’,” he wrote.”

The report continued under the sub-heading “What is Unrwa?”.

“Unrwa was originally set up to take care of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The agency says it currently supports more than five million Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, including providing health care, education and social services.”

The BBC’s article went on to supposedly explain the background to the US decision under the sub-heading “Why is the US critical of Unrwa?”.

“The US disagrees with Unrwa, and Palestinian officials, on a number of issues. […]

The US and Israel also disagree with Unrwa on which Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to the homes they fled following the 1948 war.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said earlier this week that Unrwa exaggerated the number of Palestinian refugees, and needed to reform.

“You’re looking at the fact that, yes, there’s an endless number of refugees that continue to get assistance, but more importantly, the Palestinians continue to bash America,” she said.

The state department says the US is contributing a “very disproportionate share of the burden of Unrwa’s costs”.

It complains of a business model and fiscal practices, linked to an “exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries”, which is “unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years”.”

Interestingly, the BBC chose not to report that the US State Department statement also included the following:

“We are very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business. These children are part of the future of the Middle East. Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future.

Accordingly, the United States will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today’s Palestinian children with a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow.”

Once again BBC audiences did not see an explanation of the changes to UNRWA’s mission over the years which have created the situation in which the number of people registered as refugees has grown rather than diminished in 70 years.

“In 1950, its first director told the General Assembly that the “agency has decided that a refugee is a needy person, who, as a result of the war in Palestine, has lost his home and his means of livelihood.” His definition made no reference to descendants.

Not until 1965, fifteen years after its creation, did an UNRWA commissioner-general decide, against objections from the United States government, to create “an extension of eligibility, subject to need, to the third generation of refugees (that is, to children of persons who were themselves born after 14 May 1948).” […]

In 1982, or thirty-two years after its creation, UNRWA took another step forward by extending eligibility to all generations of descendants. It did so by obtaining a General Assembly resolution instructing UNRWA “to issue identification cards to all Palestine refugees and their descendants” without any limitation on how many generations of descendancy this practice would continue. […]

UNRWA went still further in 1992 by adding a provision that those descendants of Palestine refugee males who “are eligible to register for UNRWA services” and are registered with UNRWA, should be “referred to as Registered Refugees or as Registered Palestine Refugees though they do not meet UNRWA’s own standard of having lived in Palestine prior to May 1948.””

Neither did readers get any information concerning the relevant topic of the Arab League’s politically motivated refusal to integrate Palestinian refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Egypt or the UN’s abandonment of that target.

“In November 1951, UNRWA’s second director, John Blandford, Jr., proposed a three-year, $200 million program to reintegrate 150,000-200,000 refugees into their Arab host countries. Blandford’s plan was endorsed by U.N. General Assembly resolution 513 of January 26, 1952, which tasked UNRWA “to explore with the governments … their assuming administration of reintegration projects at the earliest possible date.”  Seven years later, the concept was reaffirmed by U.N. secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld, who called for the “reintegration” of refugees “into the economic life of the area.”

For its part, Washington was a foremost advocate of the reintegration program as evidenced by various State Department plans and proposals, including those in May 1949, May 1953, July 1957, March 1959, and June 1960. To this must be added the 1954 Anglo-American Alpha Plan, a plan proposed by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles as well as a bold initiative by Secretary of State Christian Herter and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower in June 1960.

But since 1960, successive administrations have ignored or forgotten the reintegration idea, and U.S. allocations of funds to UNRWA have been devoted to maintaining the few surviving refugees and their much more numerous descendents in unsettled conditions, turning them into a growing source of conflict. […]

And so UNRWA abandoned its original mission of relief extension and conflict resolution, evolving into an agency for the perpetuation of unsettled claims against Jerusalem for millions of persons born in the years after the founding of Israel in 1948.”

Likewise, the BBC did not attempt to explain to its audiences why some 2 million people who hold Jordanian citizenship are still defined as ‘refugees’ by UNRWA or why a similar number of people who live in areas under the control of either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas also continue to hold that status.

Readers of this report did however see a further six paragraphs of Palestinian messaging under the sub-heading “What does the Palestinian side say?” including uncritical amplification of statements from a person inaccurately described as “the Palestinian ambassador to Washington”.

“On Friday, the Palestinian ambassador to Washington, Hossam Zomlot, accused the US of “endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees”.

The US “is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace”, he told AFP.”

With the BBC once again having failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for understanding of this story, readers would of course be unable to objectively assess Zomlot’s claims regarding the UN agency’s highly debatable role in contributing to “the prospects for future peace”.  

On September 1st that report was replaced by a subsequent one which will be discussed in part two of this post.

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

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BBC News reports one story about a PLO envoy, ignores another

On December 31st 2017 an article was published on the BBC News website’s main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “Palestinians recall envoy to US“. BBC audiences found just 46 words relating to that headline’s subject matter.

“The Palestinians have announced they are recalling their envoy to the United States for “consultations”, weeks after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. […]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki was recalling the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) envoy Husam Zomlot, Palestinian news agency Wafa said.”

The rest of that 228 word article included a one-sided view of the US announcement:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not accept any US peace plan in the wake of Mr Trump’s move.

Protests and clashes broke out in the Gaza Strip after the announcement.

A UN resolution calling on the US to cancel the decision was backed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly.

Thirteen Palestinians have died in violence since Mr Trump’s announcement, most killed in clashes with Israeli forces. […]

On Sunday Mr Abbas called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the Palestinian people”.

The BBC did not inform readers that Abbas’ remark was made at a rally marking the anniversary of the founding of Fatah in 1965. 

In addition, audiences found the standard context-lite BBC background on Jerusalem:

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied the east of the city, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks. […]

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Although the PLO envoy’s recall was from the outset described as temporary, the very next day – January 1st 2018 – the BBC News website published another article relating to the same topic under the title “Trump’s Jerusalem move: Palestinian envoy sent back to Washington“.

“The Palestinian envoy to the United States says he is returning to Washington after just one day of “consultations” over President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Husam Zomlot said he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas privately.

He was instructed to return to Washington “immediately”, he said. […]

In a Facebook post on Monday Mr Zomlot, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) envoy, said he would be returning to the US after spending time “with loved ones”. […]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said on Sunday that talks between Mr Zomlot and Mr Abbas were arranged to “set the decisions needed by the Palestinian leadership … regarding our relations with the US”.”

Readers again found one-sided presentation of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“On Sunday, Mr Abbas said he would not accept any US peace plan following Mr Trump’s announcement.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US announcement on 6 December led to protests and clashes in the Gaza Strip.

A UN resolution calling on the US to cancel the decision was backed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly. […]

Thirteen Palestinians have died in violence since Mr Trump’s announcement over the US view of Jerusalem, most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Mr Abbas has called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the Palestinian people”.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Husam Zomlot was however not the only PLO envoy to be recalled at the end of December. According to the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the envoy to Pakistan was recalled following protest from India after he appeared at a rally on December 29th.  

“The Palestinians have withdrawn their envoy to Pakistan after he appeared at a rally with a radical cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Palestinian envoy Walid Abu Ali shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, at Friday’s rally, which was held to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. […]

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, including Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. […]

In a statement Saturday addressed to India, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the envoy’s participation “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism” was “an unintended mistake, but not justified.” It said the envoy has been recalled.

India had lodged a protest with the Palestinians earlier Saturday, calling the envoy’s association with Saeed “unacceptable.””

In contrast to the generous coverage of the temporary recall of the PLO envoy in Washington, visitors to the BBC News website did not find any reporting whatsoever on the story of the recall of the PLO envoy in Pakistan on either general or relevant regional pages.

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