BBC ME editor recycles his ‘Israeli Right killed the peace process’ theory

Part five of Jeremy Bowen’s series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on May 19th. Titled “Recipe for Disaster“, the programme’s subject matter is described as follows in the synopsis:

‘How the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin changed the region’s history, as remembered by BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. “No political killing in the twentieth century was more successful,” he argues, observing the dramatic effects on the Oslo peace process. “Perhaps there was a moment for peace, and it came, and went.”‘

Like additional episodes in the series, this programme revisits a topic that Bowen has addressed before: in this case in November 2015 when he produced an article headlined with what is for him a rhetorical question – “Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace?”. Nothing in Bowen’s approach has changed since then and his take away messaging once again leaves audiences in no doubt as to which side in the Arab-Israeli conflict killed off “hope” and “peace”.

Remarkably, Bowen’s 25 years in the Middle East have not done anything to improve his Hebrew pronunciation skills and listeners hear the former Israeli prime minister’s surname presented as ‘Ra-bean‘ throughout the programme.

The episode begins with Bowen’s personal recollections of reporting Rabin’s assassination on November 3rd 1995. From 03:58 he turns to the event itself.

“He [Rabin] was shot in the back by a Jewish extremist; a religious ideologue called Yigal Amir. […] Amir believed that Rabin was putting Jews in danger by turning land over to the Palestinians that he and the rest of the Israeli religious right believed had been given by God to the Jewish people. The prime minister had been getting a lot of flack from right-wingers in Israel, where being right-wing means opposing concessions to the Palestinians. He’d faced daily abuse, was accused of treachery and was even portrayed on posters in a Nazi uniform. Rabin’s supporters believed the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, was inciting and rabble-rousing against him.” [emphasis added]

Here is what Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter had to say on that topic two years ago:

“I don’t think Bibi sent Yigal Amir. And I don’t think Bibi thought that someone would murder the prime minister.

He understood one thing: that Yitzhak Rabin was standing in his way to becoming prime minister. But I don’t think it ever entered his mind that there could be a murder. This “pulsa denura” (death curse) comes from the darkest realms of religion – where Bibi has not been. I don’t think he ever connected to them. That is where it came from — from those rabbis that preached, preached openly, that Yitzhak Rabin had to be killed because he was going to bring upon us annihilation and disaster.” 

Bowen’s remarkably trite portrayal of the Israeli political map does not include any explanation of the fact that the land to which he refers was designated by the League of Nations as part of the Jewish homeland or that it was subsequently occupied by invading Arab armies in 1948. Likewise, completely absent from Bowen’s recollections of the atmosphere prior to Rabin’s assassination is the surge in Palestinian terror attacks that took place after the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993.

Referring to the Oslo II agreement, Bowen tells listeners that:

“People on both sides opposed what was happening. The peace rally in Tel Aviv [at which Rabin was assassinated] came as Israel was preparing to hand over the main cities and towns in the West Bank to Palestinian control. The prospect of giving occupied land to the Palestinians sent the Israeli Right into a fury.”

He then gives a highly debatable cameo of the atmosphere at the time:

“Some on the Israeli Left had worried the rally would be a flop. The Right had been making the most noise, shouting the rest of the country down.” [emphasis added]

Listeners are told that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“If Rabin had lived the Oslo process might still have failed. It had serious flaws for both sides. Some Israelis, especially on the Right, argue that plenty of Palestinians would never accept a Jewish state. They didn’t trust Arafat and looked with loathing on Hamas and Islamic Jihad; two groups that wanted to destroy Israel – not make peace.”

BBC audiences are, as regular readers know, serially deprived of information which would enable them to understand that the Palestinians themselves make it quite clear to this day that they refuse to accept a Jewish state. Bowen again refrains from providing listeners with the essential context of the intense campaign of devastating terror attacks that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were running against Israelis at the time and – as David Horowitz has documented – the effects those attacks were having on public support for the Oslo process.

“…the terrorism that had accompanied the efforts at peacemaking had eaten away at his [Rabin’s] popularity, and he was up against a potent political rival in Benjamin Netanyahu — so potent that mere months after the assassination, even as Israel reeled in horror at itself for the killing, the Likud leader was able to defeat Peres, the interim prime minister and natural heir. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Netanyahu was politically toxic, the leader of the camp from whose most radical fringe an assassin had sprung. But Netanyahu was carried to victory, by a nailbiting 29,457 votes, by those very same waves of terrorism — specifically four suicide bombings in February and March 1996 that persuaded a narrow majority of Israelis, however much they mourned for Rabin and for a country that could produce his killer, that the Oslo path, the Arafat path, was a bloody disaster.”

Bowen goes on:

“But many Palestinians accepted Israel’s existence while rejecting Oslo as a bad deal. They argued that Israel was deceiving them while it tightened its grip on the occupied territories, hugely expanding the number of Jewish settlers. Oslo was flawed but it was all they had and until Rabin was killed, it was working – just about. […] Without Rabin the Oslo peace process slowly collapsed. […] No political killing in the 20th century was more successful. Amir set out to kill the prime minister and the peace process.”

In fact, the building of new Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria had ceased with the signing of the Oslo Accords and people who went to live in the existing communities did so of their own accord; not because of any government policy. The Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the Palestinian leaders – of course do not place any limitations on construction in Israeli communities in Area C. 

Bowen tells listeners that:

“The Oslo peace process staggered on for a few years mainly thanks to the energy of American negotiators.”

He fails to inform listeners that additional agreements were signed throughout the five years following Rabin’s assassination, including (paradoxically, as far as Bowen’s theory on the Israeli Right-wing and “opposing concessions to Palestinians” goes) the 1997 Hebron Protocol and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum under the government of Netanyahu.

Conveniently and crucially erasing from the picture Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip – including the evacuation of all communities there – and with only a token, tepid reference to the second Intifada, Bowen goes on to promote the ‘settlements destroy peace’ illusion and the usual partisan BBC presentation of ‘international law’.

“A generation on, Palestinians and Israelis have changed. Palestinians are disunited. Israelis are more Right-wing. Attempts to revive the peace process have failed. Trust and hope were sucked out by escalating Palestinian violence, the built-in violence of the Israeli occupation and the growth of Jewish settlements that are illegal under international law. It’s become commonplace to argue that the chance for a two-state solution has gone because Israel has settled so many of its Jewish citizens in the occupied territories. I think that if the will was there, with clever diplomacy it could still be done. But the will doesn’t exist. On both sides the most dynamic forces are inspired by religious certainty rather than the art of the deal. Religious Zionists drive the Jewish settlement movement forward. They believe that the West Bank and Jerusalem were a miraculous gift from God and cannot be given up. Palestinians do not have good political choices. They’re desperately in need of a political reboot. Fatah, the dominant faction in the PLO is moribund. Its Islamist rivals in Hamas are badly tarnished.”

Bowen’s subsequent and closing portrayal of the Camp David summit in 2000 is equally superficial and predictably he refrains from informing listeners that Arafat’s decision to launch the pre-planned second Intifada did no less damage to the ‘peace process’ than Rabin’s assassination.

“The problems were too big, distance between them too wide. Jerusalem and the land they both wanted could not, in the end, be bargained away. The summit in 2000 ended in a disastrous failure and ushered in years of violence in the second Intifada. Perhaps there was a moment for peace and it came and went.”

Bowen’s story ends there, with no mention of the Clinton peace plan, the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the fact that Israelis elected Ehud Olmert – who ran on a platform of disengagement from Judea & Samaria – in 2006 or Olmert’s 2008 offer to the Palestinians.

Such inconvenient facts would of course detract from Bowen’s very transparent aim to steer BBC audiences towards the simplistic and inaccurate view that the Israeli Right-wing murdered the peace process, while propagating the illusion of passive Palestinians devoid of all agency or responsibility.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

A predictable view of Jerusalem from the BBC’s ‘Man in the Middle East’

BBC ‘world view’ of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations laid out by Jeremy Bowen

 

 

Weekend long read

1) As noted here earlier, in an article published on the BBC News website on May 23rd the BBC’s Middle East editor told audiences that “Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this year that President Abbas lied to Donald Trump when they met in the White House”. Jeremy Bowen did not bother to provide readers with the information that would enable them to assess for themselves the Israeli PM’s words relating to Abbas’ May 3rd claim that the Palestinians “are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace”.

Palestinian Media Watch has produced a special report documenting Palestinian Authority glorification of terrorism in the month surrounding Abbas’ Washington visit.

“…in just one month surrounding the first Trump-Abbas meeting in Washington on May 3, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and Fatah honored at least 44 terrorists who murdered 440 people. Those honored and praised included suicide bombers, bomb makers, hijackers, and planners of terror attacks. Some of the worst terrorists were honored multiple times. Abu Jihad, responsible for the murder of 125, was honored at least 10 separate times. Dalal Mughrabi, who led the bus hijacking and murder of 37 was honored at least 6 separate times.”

2) At the Tablet, Armin Rosen documents a US philanthropic fund’s financial support for organisations linked to the BDS campaign.

“Since 2013, at least $880,000 in RBF funding has also gone to groups working to advance a boycott of the world’s only Jewish state.

Supporters of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel see the RBF funding as validation for their approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It’s not just RBF. The R stands for Rockefeller,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of the pro-boycott Jewish Voice for Peace, which received a $140,000 two-year grant for general support from RBF in 2015. “I think that has particular resonance for people both in the philanthropic world and more broadly.”

RBF’s support for JVP and other pro-boycott groups, which is virtually unique among major American institutional funders, is either a sign that the movement is inching toward mainstream status on the American left—or evidence of a revealing drift within one of the most respected family foundations in America.”

3) Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi examines the question of what the loss of territory means for the future of ISIS.

“Today, we no longer speak of the Islamic State as expanding, but rather debate whether it will survive as it comes under increasing pressure on the main fronts in Iraq and Syria but also abroad: thus, in Libya, which was often assumed to be the “fallback” option for the Islamic State, the organisation’s affiliates no longer control any towns in the country.

Given that the Islamic State is now contracting, will any of it ultimately remain? Some of the Islamic State’s messaging has been devoted to this very topic, and predictably argues against the idea that loss of territory means the end of the Caliphate project. For example, in Tel Afar in northern Iraq, an Islamic State publication entitled “Caliphate will not vanish” was distributed as the Coalition campaign to retake Mosul began. The work argues that “many have forgotten that the Islamic State is not a state of land and geographic spaces, but rather the goal from it is to spread true Islam and restore jihad to the Ummah [global Muslim community] after decades of humiliation and degradation”.”

4) A video produced by CAMERA highlights the common use of the term ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ by Western media outlets – including the BBC.

 

BBC’s ME editor advances his own partisan narrative in summing up of Trump visit

BBC News website coverage of the US president’s visit to Israel was rounded off with an article by Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen titled “Trump in Middle East: Symbols but little substance” which appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page on May 23rd.

That article – written by the man whose job description is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – includes a predictably airbrushed portrayal of the Camp David summit and the Palestinian decision to initiate the terror war known as the second Intifada.

“President Bill Clinton presided over the moment in 1993 at the White House when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin exchanged a historic handshake and signed the Oslo peace agreement. At the end of his presidency in 2000, a make or break summit failed and was followed by years of violence and unrest.”

Bowen also presents an airbrushed portrayal of the Arab peace initiative of 2002, failing to inform readers that it demands full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, “occupied territories” in south Lebanon, Judea & Samaria and the parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan – including the Old City – and that its proposals on the issue of refugees are vague. He of course refrains from stating that Hamas – along with Hizballah – has rejected that plan on numerous occasions.

“But the Saudis have had their own Arab peace plan on the table for the last 15 years, offering full peace and recognition of Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

In line with previously seen BBC editorial policy, Bowen portrays the Old City of Jerusalem – including the Western Wall – as “occupied land”.

“Mr Trump became the first serving American president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest place where Jews can pray. That is being taken as support for Israel.

The wall is in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after it was captured 50 years ago and which most of the world outside Israel regards as occupied land.”

Bowen promotes false equivalence between Israel and Iran:

“In his final speech, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, President Trump also identified himself, his administration and the United States four-square with Israel.

He repeated, to lots of applause, that he would never let Iran have nuclear weapons. Israel has a substantial and officially undeclared nuclear arsenal.”

He similarly amplifies a notion of false equivalence between Israeli soldiers and convicted Palestinian terrorists:

“One pointer to a potential difference with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu came at the museum. In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.” [emphasis added]

Bowen then tells readers that:

“President Trump, in his speech, did not pick up the cue.

After making many warm remarks about Israel, which earned him standing ovations, he said he believed that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, was serious about making peace.”

Bowen does not however tell BBC audiences that while the US president’s pre-written speech at the Israel Museum may indeed not have included mention of the PA’s payments to convicted terrorists and the families of dead terrorists, that issue had already been raised during the PA president’s Washington visit earlier in the month and his speech earlier the same day in Bethlehem did allude to that topic.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice.”

Bowen goes on:

“Senior Israeli politicians and officials in the room disagree. Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this year that President Abbas lied to Donald Trump when they met in the White House.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor does not of course bother to inform the corporation’s audiences that Mahmoud Abbas did indeed lie when he stated during that Washington visit that:

“Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

Of course the BBC’s long-standing editorial policy of avoidance of meaningful reporting on the issue of the PA’s incitement and glorification of terrorism – including among children – means that audiences would be unable to fill in Bowen’s deliberate blanks.  

Yet again we see that rather than “make[ing] a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”, Jeremy Bowen in fact does the exact opposite by exploiting his position to advance his chosen political narrative. 

 

BBC ME editor’s ‘impartiality’ on view in Jerusalem

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word triumphalism as meaning “excessive exultation over one’s success or achievements (used especially in a political context)”.

That word was used by the BBC’s Middle East editor in a ‘question’ posed in a Tweet sent on May 24th showing what he termed “Religious Zionists” – rather than just Israelis – celebrating Jerusalem Day.

In contrast to Bowen’s inaccurate interpretation of the meaning of the holiday, Jerusalem Day is actually a celebration of the reunification of the city following the Jordanian occupation of parts of it between 1948 and 1967 and the resulting reopening of access to Judaism’s holy sites after nineteen years during which right of entry to those sites was denied to Jews.

Once again Jeremy Bowen provides a glimpse into the ‘impartial’ viewpoints that underpin his Middle East reporting and editing. 

A predictable view of Jerusalem from the BBC’s ‘Man in the Middle East’

On May 18th listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the fourth part in Jeremy Bowen’s series of programmes ‘Our Man in the Middle East’.

Titled ‘Jerusalem’, the programme is both rambling and predictable, with Bowen’s portrayal of the city focusing on blood, violence, religion, power and nationalism at the expense of any mention of its diversity and eclectic coexistence.

From his opening sentences onward, Bowen places the spotlight firmly and exclusively on ‘the conflict’:

“The first thing to understand about the struggle for Jerusalem is that they’re fighting over a tiny piece of land. Down there in that walled compound around the golden dome is the single most contested piece of land in the Middle East; probably the most contested piece of ground in the world.”

Following reminiscences of a poorly explained incident during the first Intifada, Bowen tells audiences that:

“The incident in Azariya was a soft introduction to the hard reality of the city of peace – which is the Hebrew translation of Jerusalem. In real life I can’t think of a city with a more blood-stained history. Tension, hatred and violence simmer alongside piety. Sometimes they’re part of it.”

Seeing as the name Jerusalem in English and other European languages derives from Latin and Greek translations of Hebrew texts, it would clearly have been more accurate for Bowen to refer to the Hebrew meaning of Jerusalem rather than “translation”.

Recalling his first trip to Jerusalem, Bowen downplays Palestinian terrorism – including international aircraft hijackings – by making a generalised and falsely equivalent reference to “violence in the Middle East”.

“When I changed planes in Zurich I saw flights to Israel had their own separate terminal [sic]. A small armoured car lumbered behind the bus to the aircraft. Violence in the Middle East had leaked into the rest of the world.”

Following archive recordings of news reports of events including the Munich Olympics massacre and the Entebbe operation, Bowen indulges himself with the claim that mere reporting from the region – rather than inaccurate or biased reporting – sparks objection.

“The tectonic plates of religion and culture come together in Jerusalem. When they move, we all feel it. Reporting the conflict between Arabs and Jews is a great way to make enemies. Many people feel connected to it even if they’ve never been to the Middle East.”

The man who once invented a new quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem goes on to provide a context-free account of “access restrictions” which again erases Palestinian terrorism and violence from the picture.

“Jerusalem is one of the most complicated issues and you can get a good idea just by walking around the walled Old City, which is what I’m going to do. I’m going in through Damascus Gate which is the main entrance for Palestinians more or less. It’s early evening so the shops are starting to close up. There’s a boy there who’s shouting out; selling bread to the Palestinians going home. There used to be more people selling things outside Damascus Gate: women who’d wear embroidered village dresses selling herbs. Now you see fewer of them these days and the reason for that is that they simply can’t get into Jerusalem and that’s because of the access restrictions that Israel has put in.”

In a section about “European imperial powers”, Bowen once again promotes his misrepresentation of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence to BBC audiences.

“In fact the British were without any humility at all, carving up the Middle East, making contradictory promises to Arabs and Jews and setting them up for conflict.”

Bowen goes on to give an inaccurate description of the Western Wall.

“So it’s dark now and the moon’s out and I’m at the place really that is the hub of it all. This is the Western Wall Plaza; the big open space going down to the…what was known for many hundreds of years as the Wailing Wall; the holiest place in the world for Jews to pray.”

The Western Wall is of course the holiest site at which Jews can currently pray but Bowen refrains from informing his listeners that Jews are not allowed to pray at the holier site of Temple Mount due to objection by the Waqf.

Delaying the start of the Muslim siege of Jerusalem by two years, Bowen tells listeners that:

“Then in 638 Arab followers of the new religion of Islam besieged the city. It was by Jerusalem’s blood-soaked standards a peaceful conquest.”

Later he recycles a visit he made to an archaeological site in 2014, telling listeners that:

“East Jerusalem was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war and it’s claimed by the Palestinians as capital of their future state.”

No further context is provided and as was the case in his original report, audiences are not told of Jordan’s belligerent occupation of part of the city in the 19 years prior to the Six Day War or that those nineteen years were the only time that the city was divided.

Quoting writers Amos Elon (whom he calls Amos Alon), Amos Oz and Mahmoud Darwish, Bowen closes the item while reinforcing his main message:

“It’s impossible in Jerusalem to disentangle religion from power.”

In summary, Radio 4 listeners heard nothing new: the same jaded themes that Bowen has promoted over the last 25 years have simply been recycled and condensed into this latest item. Deliberately short on context, downplaying Palestinian terrorism and misrepresenting history, Bowen’s report tells BBC audiences nothing of real life in a city which is much more than just part of the much wider conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen invents new quarter in Jerusalem

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

 

BBC’s Bowen on CAMERA complaint result: still ‘indignant’ after all these years

The digital edition of the Radio Times recently included an interview with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which is part of the promotion campaign for his current BBC Radio 4 series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’.

Titled “Jeremy Bowen on reporting in the Middle East: “I kept getting dreams about having to bury the cameraman”“, the article opens with context-free presentation of a story which Bowen retells at every opportunity and an unverifiable allegation:

“When Jeremy Bowen offered to relive more than a quarter of a century of Middle East reporting for a new “personal” 25-part Radio 4 series, I wonder if he had bargained for the memories it would unleash. Death, depression, and years on the road in near-constant danger have all left their mark on one of the BBC’s most distinguished correspondents. 

Today is proving particularly tough because he’s writing about Abed Takkoush, his Lebanese driver who was killed by Israeli mortar fire in May 2000 while they were covering Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Bowen, 57, suffered “symptoms of PTSD”, and retreated from the field for a time to co-host a relaunched BBC Breakfast show with Sophie Raworth. 

“It was a really, really awful event, Abed’s death and its repercussions,” he says. “His wife died not long after, sadly; she had cancer and I’m sure it was related to the grief. Some of his kids went off the rails for a while… they were teenage boys and suddenly they didn’t have a dad.” He still sometimes works with Abed’s nephews, who are also drivers.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the article, readers find the following:

“As well as being attacked physically – in 2013 he was caught in crossfire from the Egyptian military in Tahrir Square in Cairo – the veteran reporter is regularly ambushed verbally. He remains indignant about being ticked off eight years ago by the BBC Trust for breaching the corporation’s guidelines on accuracy and impartiality during his reports on the history of 1967’s Six Day War. A pro-Israel group in the US accused him of bias on 24 occasions; the BBC Trust fully or partially upheld three of the allegations.

“That was totally unjust. The complaints were made by professional complainants, including one in the United States… [who] intended to give ammunition to [the BBC’s] enemies. I was backed very well in private by the management; I wasn’t backed well enough in public by them.””

One of the two complaints which eventually reached the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee was submitted by CAMERA. The aim of that complaint was of course to ensure that BBC audiences were provided with accurate and impartial information in a report concerning a particularly significant Middle East event. However, Jeremy Bowen is clearly unable to accept that fact, preferring instead to promote the bizarre notion that it was “intended to give ammunition to [the BBC’s] enemies” – whoever they are supposed to be.

Eight years have passed since that BBC Trust ESC ruling about which Bowen “remains indignant” and remarkably, his ability to accept and embrace criticism does not appear to have improved over the years. As was noted by CAMERA in 2009:

“Instead of admitting error, Bowen and others in the BBC redoubled their commitment to the flawed article, spending their time (and British stakeholder resources) coming up with disingenuous defenses to the article’s distortions.”

The subject has been raised by Bowen in interviews before and as we can see from this latest one, the man entrusted with ensuring that all BBC reporting on Israel meets standards of accuracy and impartiality has made no progress whatsoever in the decade since the article which was the subject of the complaint was published – and is still apparently entirely convinced of his own infallibility.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

An Inside Look at the BBC Ruling Against Jeremy Bowen (CAMERA)

BBC’s Bowen revives five year-old grudge in Indy interview

 

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

The first episode in Jeremy Bowen’s new BBC Radio 4 series of programmes about the Middle East was aired on May 15th.

The programme – titled “The Giant Awakens” – is ostensibly about the build-up to the First Gulf War in 1991. However, around a third of the episode is actually devoted to other topics and a transcript of most of that section of the programme was also uploaded to the programme’s webpage under the title “The three most significant foreign interventions in the Middle East“.

Bowen tells Radio 4 listeners and website visitors that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Big powers have intervened in the Middle East to reshape it to their requirements since ancient times.

It’s strategically placed, connecting Europe with Asia and Africa. It’s the home of the world’s three great monotheistic religions. And for the last 100 years or so, great powers have needed its oil reserves – the biggest in the world.

Two imperial grandees created – and some say cursed – the modern Middle East when they carved up the Ottoman Empire at the height of the First World War. One was a French diplomat, Charles Francois Georges Picot; the other, Sir Mark Sykes, was British.

The Sykes-Picot agreement was designed to win the peace for Britain and France. It defined zones of influence in the Middle East for the two imperial powers. Borders of new states came later.

But to win the war, the British had already made promises to the Arabs.

The Sharif of Mecca, Hussein Ibn Ali, led an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In return, he believed the British had promised him an independent Arab kingdom across much of present day Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Hussein kept his word. The duplicitous British did not.

The requirements of Empire came first. The promise of Arab self-determination was part of the collateral damage.”

Bowen is of course referring to the Hussein-McMahon correspondence. However, as has been previously noted here on several occasions, Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937 that the claim that Hussein was promised all of the territory described by Bowen is incorrect.

That point had earlier been clarified in the British government’s White Paper of 1922.

“With reference to the Constitution which it is now intended to establish in Palestine, the draft of which has already been published, it is desirable to make certain points clear. In the first place, it is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October, 1915, from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty’s High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sherif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty’s Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, the BBC – and the man whose job it is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – continues to promote that politically motivated myth.

Bowen continues:

“Within 20 years, a Palestinian scholar called Sykes-Picot a shocking document – the product of greed, stupidity and double-dealing.”

That “Palestinian scholar” was George Antonius and he was actually born in 1891 in Lebanon to an Eastern Orthodox Christian family. Having graduated from Cambridge, Antonius became a civil servant in the British Mandate administration in Palestine. The phrase quoted by Bowen appears in Antonius’ 1938 book ‘The Arab Awakening’ and it was refuted by Efraim Karsh in his book ‘Rethinking the Middle East’ (from page 58).

Bowen continues:

“Another vision of the future cut across Hussein Ibn Ali’s hopes: Zionists lobbied Britain, successfully, to support the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine.

In November 1917, Britain’s foreign secretary Arthur Balfour declared that Britain would “view with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people”. Britain also promised “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

Making promises to both sides built a deadly contradiction into the Balfour Declaration. By the early 1920s, Arabs and Jews in Palestine were killing each other. They are responsible for what they’ve done. But Britain started the fire.

For Palestinians the Balfour Declaration was a milestone on the road to catastrophe. For Israelis it led to statehood.

A century on it’s still politically resonant – triumphant or toxic, depending on your view of history.”

Bowen’s promotion of the notion that the Balfour Declaration includes “a deadly contradiction” is of course the product of his own chosen political narrative. Notably, he fails to inform BBC audiences that the principle expressed in the Balfour Declaration was given the unanimous stamp of approval by the League of Nations in 1922 and that in the same year, 77% of the territory originally designated to the Jewish homeland was given over to the Hashemites when Transjordan was created.

In the audio version listeners next hear Bowen say:

“Earlier this year Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, showed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu round his grand corner office overlooking St James’ Park.”

A recording of the British Foreign Secretary showing Arthur Balfour’s desk is then heard before the report goes on:

“The deals made in World War One were designed to strengthen the British and French empires. The Ottoman Empire was breaking up after nearly 500 years and the European imperial powers were creating a new order in the Middle East.”

Jeremy Bowen’s presentation of this topic is far from accurate and impartial and it is clearly motivated by the political narrative he has chosen to adopt and advertise. Unfortunately, there is nothing new about that: the politicised misrepresentation of this subject by the gatekeeper of the BBC’s Middle East content goes back many years. However, that misrepresentation is all the more egregious at a time when political campaigns concerning the Balfour Declaration are in the news

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration

The BBC and the myth of the ‘twice promised land’

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

Although it did take nearly four years, the BBC has finally given its Middle East editor a foodie slot as suggested on these pages in 2013.

Jeremy Bowen’s Middle Eastern food quiz” is however just the appetizer for a new series of programmes – 25 in number – on BBC Radio 4 titled “Our Man in the Middle East” which began on May 15th.

“Over these 25 programmes, Jeremy reflects on the present and the past of the Middle East, after reporting from the region for more than a quarter of a century. He combines first-hand accounts from the front line with an in-depth look into the region’s history. He has witnessed endless wars between individuals, religious groups and full-sized states, jostling for military, political and economic power. He has interviewed dictators, fanatics and fundamentalists as well as the ordinary people caught up in their dangerous games. In that time, the past has always been present, providing motivation and political ammunition. Bowen has made headlines himself and he has paid a personal price, coming under fire and losing a colleague in the course of reporting – on the worst day, he says, in his life.”

The incident to which that last sentence refers took place in 2000 and has been revisited by Bowen on numerous occasions since.

Middle East Editor – Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen: “The Israelis would have killed me too”

Jeremy Bowen’s pink shirt

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen’s annual reminder of why BBC coverage of Israel is as it is

Of the six episodes advertised so far, three relate to Israel:

Thursday, May 18th – “Jerusalem“:

‘BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen reflects on the allure and intractable challenge of the Holy City. “The tectonic plates of religion and culture come together in Jerusalem,” he observes. “When they move, we all feel it.”‘

Friday, May 19th – “Recipe for Disaster“:

‘How the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin changed the region’s history, as remembered by BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. “No political killing in the twentieth century was more successful,” he argues, observing the dramatic effects on the Oslo peace process. “Perhaps there was a moment for peace, and it came, and went.”‘

Monday, May 22nd – “Crossing the Divide“:

‘How a gas container explains the divide between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor, was only trying to warm his home during the winter in Jerusalem. During the process, he discovered that the Palestinians are even at loggerheads over simple things like heating. “It’s a place where the conflict is always in your face. So is religion, ” he says.’

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War approaches, we can assume that Bowen will be revisiting that topic too in future episodes of this series.

Related Articles:

BBC ‘world view’ of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations laid out by Jeremy Bowen

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

An Inside Look at the BBC Ruling Against Jeremy Bowen (CAMERA)

 

BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel

The day after the chemical weapons attack in Syria that shocked the world, the man charged with making news from the Middle East “more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” took to Twitter to promote his own conjectures concerning the incident in Khan Sheikhoun.

Yes, the BBC’s Middle East Editor really is promoting the “theory” that the Assad regime slaughtered children in Idlib province because Israel has allegedly carried out strikes in Syria against Iranian/Syrian weapons shipments to the Hizballah terror organisation.

It is worth remembering that the man publicly promoting that bizarre ‘rationale’ is the gatekeeper of all ‘accurate and impartial’ BBC reporting concerning the war in Syria – as well as coverage of Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report

BBC’s Assad interview and the ‘related articles’

 

 

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

Two years ago the BBC’s Middle East editor conducted an embarrassingly unchallenging interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al that was promoted in filmed and written versions. Readers of the written report were told that:

“Although Hamas has opposed years of on-off peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Mr Meshaal said he and the group had agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state.”

In the filmed version, viewers found the following:

Bowen: “Do you think a two state solution is still possible between yourselves and the Israelis?

Masha’al: “Israel with its extremist leadership has killed the peace process, the two state solution and every opportunity for a political solution for the Palestinian cause. And if the West and the United States want to do something new, then they have to change the approach that they followed for years. The new approach should be pressuring Israel and not the Arabs and the Palestinians. We are not the ones who are responsible.”

Included in the written report was ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen which was repeated on radio:

“He [Masha’al] seemed to be calibrating his comments on the conflict with Israel to catch the prevailing mood of anger towards Mr Netanyahu in the White House, after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli Right in the last days of the election campaign.

Mr Meshaal called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

The claim that Hamas has embraced the two-state solution and “agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state” was of course as ridiculously far-fetched two years ago as it is now.

Nevertheless, one should not be surprised if that theme crops up again in BBC reporting in the near future because – as AP reports – the terror group is apparently in the final stages of creating a new PR stunt.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas has drafted a new political program it hopes will improve ties with neighboring Egypt and the West, and present a more moderate image that will help it get off Western terrorism lists.

The internationally isolated group, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for the past decade, characterizes itself in the manifesto as a Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli occupation, dropping references to holy war against Jews. It also raises the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The document plays down ties to Hamas’ parent movement, the regional Muslim Brotherhood, which is being targeted by Egypt’s government as a terror organization.

However, Hamas appears to have stopped short of a significant ideological shift amid concerns about alienating its hard-line base at a time when ultra-fundamentalist Islamist groups, such as the Salafists, are making inroads, particularly in Gaza.

The new program, to be made public at the end of the month, will not formally replace Hamas’ 1988 founding covenant, which called for the destruction of Israel and for “confronting the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews through jihad.”

Such language has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism.

In referring to a Palestinian state, Hamas does not spell out whether it considers this an acceptable solution to the conflict with Israel or a stepping stone to its longstanding goal of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.”

However, shortly after news of that revised programme broke, the terror group’s new leader in the Gaza Strip clarified the picture.

“Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that the terror group will not cease its conflict with Israel until “the liberation of all of Palestine.”

Speaking at an event marking the anniversary of the death of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004 in Gaza City, Yahya Sinwar said Hamas would not allow the State of Israel to exist on even a “morsel” of land.”

The man tipped to replace Khaled Masha’al was present at the same event.

“Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has vowed to pursue resistance to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian lands.  

“Resistance is our strategic choice to achieve aspirations of our people for freedom,” Haniyeh said in an address during a visit on Wednesday to the house of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City to mark the 13th anniversary of his death. […]

Haniyeh reiterated that his group will not abandon a “single inch” from Palestine.   

“Gaza is part of Palestine and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza and there will be no state without whole Palestine.””

That will be worth remembering if Jeremy Bowen or any other BBC journalist decides to similarly facilitate Hamas’ latest PR campaign or when the corporation next promotes the notion that Hamas accepts the two-state solution.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen facilitates Hamas PR binge

BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Khaled Masha’al

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