BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

The February 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 19:53 here) relating to that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.twt-15-2

In that item, presented by Shaun Ley, listeners heard yet another baseless claim of a shift in US policy along with the inaccurate suggestion that the two-state solution formed part of the Oslo Accords. [emphasis added]

Ley: “Now for a quarter of a century a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been the default position of diplomats and politicians alike. It would mean an independent Palestine set up alongside Israel. Tonight at a White House news conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners then heard a recording of the US president speaking at that press conference which was apparently intended to support Ley’s claim that Trump had changed US foreign policy.

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Ley continued with what has become a standard BBC theme: promotion of ‘settlements’ as the main obstacle to an agreement, with numerous no less relevant factors such as the Hamas-Fatah split, Hamas’ rejection of the two-state solution or the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state obscured from audience view.

“Mr Netanyahu certainly received a much warmer welcome here than he had when President Obama was in the White House and he appeared to be enjoying the experience. There was an awkward moment though when, having talked about the need for compromise, the president raised the thorny issue of Israeli settlements: a longstanding obstacle to any deal.”

Another recording from the press conference was then heard.

Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started till late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

Netanyahu: “Let’s try it.”

Trump: “Doesn’t sound too optimistic…good negotiator.”

Netanyahu: “That’s the art of the deal.”

Ley then inaccurately told listeners that Netanyahu’s reply “Let’s try it” related to the topic of settlements rather than to a deal.

Ley: “Well you may just have heard, just before the end of that clip was Mr Netanyahu apparently replying to the challenge over settlements with the words ‘let’s try it’. But on the question of two states or one the Israeli prime minister said too much time over the years had been devoted to labels rather than substance.”

Netanyahu: “So here’s the substance: there are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out several years ago and they haven’t changed. First, the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state. Second, in any peace agreement Israel must retain the over-riding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river because if we don’t, we know what will happen.”

Ley: “This evening the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Donald Trump’s call on Israel to pull back on settlement building and pledged to work with the Americans. Manuel Hassassian leads the Palestinian mission in the UK. He believes President Trump made a terrible mistake.”

Listeners then heard Manuel Hassassian again promote the inaccurate notion that the two-state solution was included in the Oslo Accords. They also heard him make the false claims – completely unchallenged by Shaun Ley – that the 1949 Armistice lines are “borders” and that the definition of the two-state solution is that a Palestinian state would be established on all of the land occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Hassassian: “For the last 24 years when we embarked on the peace process, everybody agreed that the two-state solution would be the solution that will end the conflict and end the occupation – meaning that the Palestinian will have a state on the borders of 1967 as a result of the Security Council resolutions 234 and 388. There is a international consensus. International community talking all the time about a two-state solution.”

Seeing as UNSC resolution 388 relates to Rhodesia, Hassassian may have intended to say 338. However, neither UN Security Council resolution 234 nor 338 make any reference to a Palestinian state but Ley failed to challenge Hassassian on that too, continuing:

Ley: “But that consensus has achieved over 25 years next to nothing. Isn’t there an argument that actually on the ground people have long since given up on the idea of a two-state solution because they haven’t seen it…it’s been a convenient parking space for talking. It’s been a way of saying ‘oh look: we have something that we’re aiming for but then we don’t actually have to do anything about it’. Isn’t at least the consequence of this to throw all the pieces up into the air and force people to start talking for real?”

Hassassian: “Yes, the two-state solution and the peace process for the last 24 years have brought nothing except pain and humiliation and suffering for the Palestinian people. We have not seen any breakthrough in this peace process because I think the United States, personally, was not an honest broker of peace and they never really put any pressures on the Israelis to halt settlements. And settlements now are the major impediment to any kind of agreement and a lasting solution.”

Ley’s failure to challenge Manuel Hassassian on the claim that “settlements now are the major impediment” to an agreement is of course unsurprising since he too had made that same claim just minutes earlier, showing the extent to which the BBC has adopted the PLO’s talking points. Similarly failing to ask Hassassian why the PA initiated the second Intifada in 2000, why the PA refuses to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or what the PLO intends to do about Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, he continued.

Ley: “I mean President Trump did challenge the prime minister on this. He said can you…can you hold off on the settlements for a little bit.”

Hassassian: “Well basically he said it’s a problem but he did not really challenge Netanyahu to stop settlements. Since Clinton administration the US position has always been a two-state solution known [knowing] that the borders will be the 1967 borders.”

Clinton peace plan

Clinton peace plan

That claim too is of course false: the Clinton parameters (which were rejected by the Palestinians) clearly included land swaps and did not advocate a two-state solution based on mythical ‘1967 borders’. Hassassian went on:

“Now this is a dramatic shift in Trump’s policy to look at the peace process as something between two partners that can work out a solution with the blessings of the United States, short of a Palestinian state and more appeasing basic to Netanyahu. And the idea of Trump moving the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem is against international law…”

Ley: “Which he repeated again today. He repeated again today he is considering doing that or looking very seriously at it.”

Hassassian: “If he does that he is just ruining the entire peace process. He is defying the international law and he knows very well that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a breach to all kinds of agreements; to all UN Security Council, believing that Jerusalem is the united capital – the eternal capital – of the State of Israel. That will dramatically shift the entire game and the entire negotiations and the entire peace process. If he does that, this is a recipe for another intifada or a reaction and he is going to lose partners from the European Union that have adamantly supported the two-state solution when East Jerusalem is considered to be an occupied city. If he does that then there is no role for the United States as a gavel holder or as a shepherd to this entire peace process. He is opening a Pandora’s box of conflicts with the Europeans, with the Islamic world, with the Arab world, with the international community, defying UN Security Council resolutions and where does that leave us?”

Apparently uninterested in Hassassian’s unveiled threats of violence and failing to clarify to listeners that the Quartet – which includes the EU – calls for “a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem”, Ley closed the interview there.

The BBC’s remit includes the priority of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. Obviously the inaccurate and misleading claims made by the presenter together with his complete failure to challenge the falsehoods and propaganda promoted by his interviewee did nothing to contribute to meeting that objective.

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

We have on many occasions documented the use of imprecise language in BBC reports which results in audiences being given inaccurate impressions of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Last September the BBC News website corrected one such article but the phenomenon remains widespread.

On February 2nd the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.” [emphasis added]

As the Jerusalem Post noted in its coverage of that February 2nd announcement:

“This would be the first new government-authorized settlement in the West Bank since the establishment of Revava near Ariel in 1991, when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister.”

On February 6th the BBC’s Middle East editor told listeners to BBC Radio 5 live that:

“Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses in existing communities and the establishment (so far not even on paper) of a “new settlement”.

Nevertheless, the day before that announcement was made, listeners to the February 1st edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ heard Owen Bennett Jones use the inaccurate term “new settlements” to describe the announcement of building in existing communities (from 50:22 here).newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Bennett Jones: “…And there is another big development we need to mention today. The Israeli government has announced thousands more housing units for settlers on occupied territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the evacuation of an outpost. Let’s hear now from Yolande Knell.”

Following Knell’s report of the evacuation of Amona, Bennett Jones continued: [emphasis added]

“And that was Yolande Knell from Amona and we’ve still got Tim Franks on the line. So all these new…ah…new units, housing units, new settlements and then that news from Amona – is any of this tied to the new president in the United States or is it all driven internally?”

Franks: “It’s both, Owen, because I mean the case over Amona has been dragging on for years. They were talking about evicting people from Amona when I was posted here and that was some years ago. Ahm…but undoubtedly all the announcements of thousands of new…eh…eh…eh…homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – yes; the Israeli government feels liberated by the…eh…the incoming Trump administration…”

It really should not be difficult for the BBC to ensure that its journalists are aware of the difference between construction in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages and “new settlements” and that they use precise language to describe the story they are reporting in order to prevent audiences from repeatedly going away with inaccurate impressions. 

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

h/t AO

In late December 2016 the BBC News website published an article that included an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?”

The original version of that explanatory insert amplified the Palestinian interpretation of the two-state solution as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967:

“A “two-state solution” to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the declared goal of their leaders and many international diplomats and politicians.

It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine on pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.

The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia and the United States routinely restate their commitment to the concept.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“…the BBC told its audiences that various international bodies and countries are ‘committed’ to that concept when in fact the UN, the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity support “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords of course include borders and Jerusalem.

Noteworthy too is the fact that the BBC’s portrayal of the two-state solution does not include the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples” – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.”2ss-trump-art-15-2

Later on, a change was made to the wording of that insert:

“At some point somebody at the BBC News website apparently realised that the phrase “on pre-1967 ceasefire lines” is problematic and in version 10 of the article that paragraph was changed to read:

“It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.” [emphasis added]”

On February 15th the later version of that insert reappeared in two BBC News website reports:

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution

The following day it was found in two additional articles titled Israel-Palestinian conflict: UN warns Trump over two-state reversal” and “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’“.

2ss-insert

The BBC’s decision to reuse that insert in the same format raises additional points.

1) The claim in the first paragraph that the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of Palestinian leaders is inaccurate and misleading because it does not clarify to BBC audiences the repeated refusal of Palestinian Authority leaders to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – a necessary condition for fulfilment of the concept of “two states for two peoples”. That claim also of course conceals the fact that Hamas and additional Palestinian factions reject the two-state solution outright. 

2) The reference to ‘East Jerusalem’ conceals the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:

“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”

As we see, an insert ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand the concept of the two-state solution in fact fails to provide the full range of information necessary for that aim to be achieved.

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

Earlier this month we documented the BBC’s promotion of a map produced by the political NGO B’Tselem in three separate BBC News website reports.

Since then the same politically partisan map has also appeared in an article titled “Israel passes controversial law on West Bank settlements” published on February 7th, in an article titled “Rights groups challenge Israel settlements law in court” published on February 8th and in an article titled “Trump urges Israel to ‘act reasonably’ on settlements” which appeared on February 10th.

In addition, the same map has been added to the BBC News website backgrounder titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” which first appeared in late December 2016.

The backgrounder was subsequently amended in January 2017 to include a link to the website of the political NGO ‘Peace Now’ and a map of Jerusalem produced by B’Tselem and UNOCHA which had been found in previous BBC material.

Since then, that backgrounder has been amended yet again and the B’Tselem/UNOCHA map of Jerusalem has been replaced with two versions of the new one produced by B’Tselem. In addition, the section previously titled “What difference will Donald Trump make?” has been retitled and rewritten.

settlements-backgrounder-new-jlem-map

Since its latest amendment, visitors to the BBC News website have also found a link to that backgrounder promoted under the title “Can Jewish settlement issue be resolved?” [emphasis added] in numerous reports  – for example here, here, here, here, here and here.settlements-backgrounder-link-1

In other words, anyone visiting the BBC News website’s Middle East page since February 1st would have been more than likely to come across those politicised maps. The map of Jerusalem portrays places such as the Old City, Neve Ya’akov and parts of Mt Scopus as ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in those areas long before they were ethnically cleansed by the invading Jordanian army in 1948. The same is the case in the bigger map of Judea & Samaria which portrays the whole of Gush Etzion as a ‘settlement’.

The BBC News website’s vigorous promotion of campaigning maps produced by the foreign funded political NGO B’Tselem (which engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS) makes it very difficult to believe that the corporation is committed to providing its audiences with the accurate and impartial portrayal of this issue which would meet the BBC’s obligation to provide information which will enhance their “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during January 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 100 incidents took place: eighty-two in Judea & Samaria, sixteen in Jerusalem, one in Haifa and one attack from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 81 attacks with petrol bombs, 11 attacks using explosive devices, five shooting attacks and one vehicular attack in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem as well as one shooting attack in Haifa and one shooting attack from the Gaza Strip.

Five people – one civilian and four members of the security forces – were murdered in attacks in January and sixteen people  – one civilian and 15 members of the security forces – were wounded.terror-attack-jlem-8-1

The BBC News website covered the vehicular attack in Jerusalem on January 8th in which four soldiers were murdered and thirteen were wounded in two written and four filmed reports.

In a shooting attack which took place in Haifa on January 3rd, one civilian was murdered and one wounded. Although the background to that incident was not initially clear and the perpetrator was identified only two days later, the subsequent investigation confirmed that it was a terror attack. BBC News has not covered that incident at all.

Additional attacks which did not receive any BBC coverage include an IED attack on January 23rd in which a soldier was injured, an incident in Jenin on January 26th in which another soldier was wounded and a shooting attack near Nili on January 27th.  

In all, just one of the 100 attacks which took place during January received coverage on the BBC News website.

table-jan-17

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2016 and year summary

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

 

‘Due impartiality’ and BBC reporting on Israeli construction

If there’s one Middle East related topic the BBC can be relied upon to report methodically, that is Israeli announcements concerning building plans in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem: areas the corporation’s journalists are prone to erroneously describe as “Palestinian territories” or “occupied Palestinian land”.

In late January visitors to the BBC News website saw two reports on planning permissions granted in Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria. Both those articles included amplification of negative reactions from Palestinian and other sources and promotion of the notion that Israeli housing projects are the prime obstacle to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the BBC’s standard – but not impartial – mantra concerning ‘international law’.

“About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Not unexpectedly, the same elements were also found in a report which appeared on the BBC News website on February 1st under the headline “Israel approves 3,000 new settler homes as Amona evacuation begins“.construction-art-1-2

Palestinian reactions were amplified:

“A Palestinian official condemned the move and warned that chances for peace were being destroyed. […]

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi warned that the “frenzied escalation of Israel’s illegal enterprise” signalled “the final demise” of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The theme of Israeli building preventing peace was further reinforced:

“Tuesday’s announcement follows on from the recent approval of 2,500 housing units in the West Bank and 550 in East Jerusalem.

Many in the international community condemned those, saying they undermined hopes of creating a future Palestinian state.”

And of course the usual messaging concerning ‘international law’ was found in the article – albeit with a sudden and unexplained increase in the number of people described as living in ‘illegal’ communities and neighbourhoods compared with the article that appeared ten days earlier.

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Those same elements were also found in a report published the following day – February 2nd – under the headline “Israel police evict settlers from unauthorised Amona outpost“.

“Hours earlier, the Israeli government approved plans to build 3,000 new homes at settlements in the West Bank. […]

A Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, condemned the latest approval and warned that chances for peace were being destroyed.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Another article which appeared later the same day under the title “Amona: Israel police clear last protesters from settler outpost” informed readers that:

“Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

And:

“Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that his government would establish a new settlement on state-owned land to replace Amona “as soon as possible”. […]

On Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu approved plans for 3,000 new homes at existing settlements – the third such announcement since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has hinted he will be more sympathetic to settlement construction than his predecessor.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC that Mr Netanyahu had been “emboldened” by Mr Trump’s failure to express any disapproval at what she called the “frenzied escalation of Israel’s illegal enterprise”.”

The same themes were yet again found in an additional article published on the BBC News website on February 3rd under the headline “New Israel settlements ‘may not be helpful’ to peace, says US“.

“The fate of settlements in the occupied West Bank is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. […]

On Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was moving ahead with plans to set up a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades. […]

The UN resolution [2334] – the first since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy, and effectively allowed to pass by the Obama administration – said the settlements had “no legal validity” and constituted “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution”.”

So here we see that in twelve days the BBC News website published six articles which repeat identical messaging over and over again. In none of those articles were readers informed of any of the alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ and readers received no explanation as to why “Israel disputes this” – even though we know that the BBC is aware of the reasoning behind Israel’s stance.

Furthermore, in none of those six reports were readers presented with any information concerning any of the no less relevant issues which can be described as “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution” such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority incitement, Hamas’ outright refusal to accept the two-state solution, the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state and the Hamas-Fatah split.

Even in articles concerning the evacuation of Amona, the BBC’s standard narrative was repeated without any mention of the fact that past experience shows both that Israel evacuated communities in 1982 as part of the terms of the peace agreement with Egypt and that the evacuation of all Israeli citizens from the Gaza Strip and from four communities in northern Samaria in 2005 did not end – or even reduce – hostilities.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality include a rather elastic definition of ‘due impartiality’:

“The Agreement accompanying the BBC Charter requires us to do all we can to ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality in our news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.  But we go further than that, applying due impartiality to all subjects.  However, its requirements will vary.

The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.

Due impartiality is often more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints.  Equally, it does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.”

However, in relation to ‘controversial subjects’ the same guidelines state:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.”

The fact that the BBC has distilled the topic of Israeli construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem down to a collection of serially repeated talking points means that visitors to the BBC News website are clearly not being presented with the “wide range of significant views and perspectives” which would enhance their understanding of this issue.

 

 

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Between February 1st and February 3rd 2017, visitors to the BBC News website found three articles which included one of two versions of the same map.

February 1st: Israel approves 3,000 new settler homes as Amona evacuation begins

February 2nd: New Israel settlements ‘may not be helpful’ to peace, says US

February 3rd: What will the Trump presidency mean for Israel? Jonathan Marcus

Both versions of that map (one of which includes a ‘zoom in’ view of Jerusalem) are credited to the foreign funded political NGO B’Tselem which – despite its engagement in lawfare against Israel and its membership in a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS – is one of the NGOs most consistently quoted and promoted by the BBC in its supposedly impartial reporting on Israel and the Palestinians.

btselem-map

This of course is not the first time that the corporation has promoted a politically partisan map produced by B’Tselem. In October 2015 the BBC News website published an article including a similar map of Jerusalem credited to UNOCHA and B’Tselem in which the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem  (where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed from the location by Jordan for a period of nineteen years) is marked as an “illegal settlement” and Temple Mount is marked as being located in a “Palestinian urban area”. That same map recently reappeared in a BBC News website backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

This new map of Jerusalem similarly portrays places such as the Old City, Neve Ya’akov and parts of Mt Scopus as ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in those areas long before the Jordanian invasion in 1948. The same is the case in the bigger map of Judea & Samaria which portrays the whole of Gush Etzion as a ‘settlement’.

Once again we see the BBC promoting the simplistic and biased narrative that all areas conquered by Jordan (or any of the other Arab countries which took part in the military campaign to destroy the nascent Israeli state) are “Palestinian land”, even if there were pre-existing Jewish communities on that land before the location was placed under Jordanian occupation (unrecognised by the international community) and their inhabitants expelled.

The BBC is obliged to provide its audiences with accurate and impartial information which will enhance their “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  By continually – and exclusively – promoting the partisan narrative of political NGOs such as B’Tselem as ‘fact’ the BBC fails to meet that obligation and compromises its reputation for impartiality by abandoning journalism in favour of activism.  

BBC silent as UNESCO resolutions come home to roost

Back in October 2016 the BBC produced three reports relating to two resolutions passed by UNESCO.unesco-art

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here

As was noted here at the time:

“And yet again, the context of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel was erased from audience view. Readers were not informed that both the PA’s ruling party Fatah and Hamas lauded the UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.”  

Fast forward to late January 2017 and a speech made by the new UN Secretary General in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his address, Mr Guterres said:

“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis.  On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism.
 
Imperial Rome not only destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, but also made Jews pariahs in many ways.  The attacks and abuse grew worse through the triumph of Christianity and the propagation of the idea that the Jewish community should be punished for the death of Jesus – an absurdity that helped to trigger massacres and other tremendous crimes against Jews around the world for centuries to come.” [emphasis added]

Those five highlighted words and a radio interview in which Mr Guterres also mentioned the ancient Jewish Temple garnered some furious reactions – including invocation of the UNESCO resolutions passed in October.  

““[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.”

And:

““[Gueterres] ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aksa Mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” Adnan al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs minister, told Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet, clarifying that the UN secretary-general “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs, overstepped his role as secretary general, and…must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.” […]

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, said that the statements “undermine the trustworthiness of the UN as a body that should support occupied peoples.”

“It appears that the secretary general of the United Nations lacks culture and knowledge in his own specialization,” Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Xinhua, calling on the UN secretary-general to clarify his position “that gives a green light to the occupation to undertake more measures against Jerusalem.””

Similar reactions were seen in the PA’s official daily newspaper:

“Antonio Guterres clearly and explicitly sinned against peace and the Palestinian-Israeli political agreement when he claimed yesterday [Jan. 29, 2017] in an interview with the Hebrew-language Voice of Israel [radio] that he ‘believes in the connection between Jerusalem and the Jews.’ In contradiction to the UNESCO resolutions, history, and facts, the secretary-general claimed that it is as clear as day – in his opinion which is far from the truth and the facts – that ‘The Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans was a Jewish Temple’…
Mr. Antonio, if you care about history and if it is important to you, [you should know that] Jerusalem and all of Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea – are the land of the Palestinian people, and their history is its history.”

Unsurprisingly, the self-styled ‘standard-setter for international journalism’ which at the time ignored Palestinian praise of the resolutions for erasing Jewish history – preferring instead to promote Saeb Erekat’s claim that ‘the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”’ – has not reported this story.

Related Articles:

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

BBC continues to push its monochrome US embassy story

Since mid-December 2016 the BBC has produced numerous reports which have included portrayal of the story of the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

To date, all the corporation’s coverage of that topic has unquestioningly amplified the position expressed by Palestinian Authority and PLO officials, according to whom such a move “will be the destruction of the peace process“, “would […] destroy the two-state solution“, would be “an end to the peace process, an end to the two states” and so on.

As we have noted here on previous occasions, BBC audiences have yet to hear any alternative viewpoint – as editorial guidelines concerning ‘due impartiality’ demand – and the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking any of its Palestinian interviewees why they object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which – according to the BBC’s presentation of the issue – the PA does not lay claim.

In late January viewers of BBC World News saw a filmed report by the BBC’s Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen in which, like Yolande Knell and Tim Franks, he too visited what has recently become a ‘go to’ site for BBC journalists: a plot of vacant land next to the US Consulate in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot.

Lowen’s report can be seen here, where it is billed as follows:

“Donald Trump has pledged to be “Israel’s best friend in the US” and move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, taking a far more pro-Israel position than his predecessor, Barack Obama, who increasingly saw Israel’s government as an impediment to peace. How will the new President affect this age-old conflict?”

The report began with Lowen visiting Beit El and presenting audiences with a partial interpretation of ‘international law’:

“Ties weakened under Barack Obama, frustrated by Israeli settlement building which violates international law. The final blow: allowing a resolution against it to pass at the UN. Israel was furious.”

He went on to promote as fact an interpretation of the significance of the proposed embassy relocation which dovetails with that touted by PA officials: [emphasis added]

“Donald Trump has taken a far more pro-Israel line, vowing to move the embassy to Jerusalem, recognising Israel’s disputed claim over the whole city. He said he’d be Israel’s best friend in America. Beit El settlement is deep in the occupied West Bank which Palestinians want for a future state. David Friedman – Mr Trump’s pick for US ambassador – and his family, the president and his son-in-law have donated to it. That’s encouraged those who live here.”

Lowen refrained from informing audiences that the said Trump donation was apparently made back in 2003. Moving on to Ramallah, Lowen told viewers:

“But in Ramallah, Palestinians worry Israel’s hands will now be untied to annex territory and expand settlements. A slice of America – sort of – is entrenched here but they fear support from Washington is burning away.”lowen-report-1

Viewers then heard from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi:

“The language that we’ve heard – particularly the language of ideology coming out as though Israel can do no wrong and that the US not only will be the patron of Israel but in many ways will be the partner of Israel in its illegal activities – this is serious cause for alarm and if it moves its embassy then there’s no reason to talk about any peace solution because it’s finished; it’s done for.”

Not only did Ashrawi’s allegation of “illegal activities” go unchallenged, but once again BBC audiences were fed an unquestioned portrayal of the supposed consequences of relocation of the US embassy.

Lowen then went on to report from Jerusalem – but without clarifying to viewers the position of his location in relation to the 1949 Armistice lines.lowen-report-2

“This is where a US embassy in Jerusalem may stand but the Trump administration has now lowered expectations, saying discussions are at a very early stage. For years the US has leased this empty plot from Israel for an annual rent of a dollar. Successive US presidents and candidates have vowed an embassy move here and then ditched it. Now Donald Trump appears to be rolling back somewhat on the same promise. When it comes to the new president, nobody really knows what his Middle East policy will be; whether an embassy will be built here and whether his rhetoric will translate into reality. So: an unknown quantity. But Israel’s most important ally is renewing the relationship and others in this region fear what it means for the borders of this contested land.”

After well over a month and a half of coverage of the proposal to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, it is glaringly apparent that the BBC has no intention of providing its audiences with a view of the topic that challenges the PA/PLO rhetoric and allows them to make their own judgements on the story. 

 

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

The first part of the opening report in Tim Franks’ currently ongoing series of features on Israel which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on January 30th (from 30:12 here) was discussed in a previous post.newshour-30-1

Following his visit to Givat HaMatos with the founder of the political NGOs Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem, Daniel Seidemann, Franks went on to present a view of the topic of the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem which conforms to the framing of that topic seen in all BBC content to date.

That framing fails to inform audiences why there should be objection to the relocation of the embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim. In addition, Franks amplified Seidemann’s view of the issue, which is strikingly similar to that expressed by Palestinian officials.

Franks: “There’s some other building work in Jerusalem which, if it went ahead, would be controversial. Danny Seidemann puts it rather more strongly. He says it would be destabilising, dangerous and a death certificate for America’s role as a mediator. And that would be moving the US embassy here. No other country has their embassy in Jerusalem because under the UN resolution which paved the way for the establishment of a Jewish homeland and an Arab homeland seventy years ago, the status of Jerusalem was left unresolved.”

Franks clearly misled listeners here: UN GA resolution 181 was non-binding and no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known, the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan en masse and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the Jerusalem corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant. Franks’ inaccurate portrayal of that resolution will come as no surprise to those familiar with the BBC’s serial misrepresentation of the topic. He continued:

Franks: “But the Trump administration and the man it wants here as its ambassador have strongly signalled that they want to move the embassy here from Tel Aviv and it might well – if it does move – come to this big purpose-built building I’m standing next to: the US Consulate. For those in the governing Likud party, moving the US embassy here would be a great coup.”

Listeners were not informed that the US Consulate is located on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Audiences then heard a conversation between Franks and an Israeli MK in which Franks further promoted without question the notion that building houses in Givat HaMatos would prevent a two-state solution.

Franks: “Among those sensing a change in the weather are members of this place: the Knesset – the Israeli parliament. Sharren Haskel is a Likud MK. She’s just back from Washington after being invited to the inauguration and she’s still outraged at the UN Security Council resolution last month condemning Israeli building on occupied territory.”

Haskel: “The international community comes and says it’s working with Israel to better the future of Israel but then they come and literally they stab us in the back, saying wording like that…that Jerusalem is not our capital? That this is the barrier to peace?”

Franks: “I don’t think they said Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

Haskel: “Well part of those areas that they are calling – they’re calling it the occupied territories – part of that is Jerusalem. And so the one who is actually the barrier towards peace are these declarations that come time after time, that are –you know – giving hope to the Palestinians that maybe one day the Jews will leave Jerusalem; that Jerusalem will not [no] longer be the capital of Israel. This is the barrier to peace. And for me, when the international community come and punch us in that kind of way, we can punch back. And the punch back can be 2,100 homes that are going to be built in Jerusalem, because it is our capital, and it is to have the flag of America flown on the new embassy in Jerusalem.”

Franks: “And yet the argument that is advanced by those in the Security Council and elsewhere who say that this building is a barrier to peace is that for example these new developments in East Jerusalem, they say that they cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank, from a future Palestinian state. If there were building, for example, in Givat HaMatos, that would mean Jerusalem is encircled and you couldn’t have a Palestinian state. So it’s not about the Jews being kicked out of Jerusalem but it’s about whether there is any hope of there being a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

Haskel: “I’ll show you a map now of Jerusalem. You will see that it’s absolutely impossible to divide Jerusalem into a capital of two different countries. If we want to narrow this gap of hatred and violence, if we really want to create peace and co-existence, it’s very difficult by separating and creating physical borders on the field.”

Franks: “So a two-state solution; it’s fine words but it’s unrealistic, you’re saying.”

Haskel: “I’m saying any kind…you know the world is trying to picture as if there’s only one solution to the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s not just one. It’s like this scale; like a grid that goes all the way from two states to two people to one state to two people. And then there’s many more solution on that grid too.”

Franks: “Except – I’m sorry, I’ve got to come back on you because as far as much of the rest of the world is concerned, unless you have a separate Palestinian state, Israel cannot continue to be a Jewish and democratic country.”

Haskel: “Why?”

Franks: “Because you wouldn’t be affording the Palestinians, whom you are currently ruling over, full rights.”

With that statement Franks erases from audience view the fact that for more than two decades the majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria have in fact lived under Palestinian Authority rule, with “full rights” to vote in PA elections and that those located in the Gaza Strip have not been under Israeli ‘rule’ for well over a decade.   

Haskel: “Well this is just your idea. It’s your idea how you picture one state if that’s happen. It can be with an Israeli citizenship to everybody. How does that contradict democracy?”

Franks: “But then you wouldn’t be able to ensure that there would be continued Jewish majority rule if it was citizenship for everybody because the demography is against you.”

Haskel: “Well that’s not true. But more than that, you know the reality that we will choose to live in, this is our decision. This is a decision that we will need to live and die by. So what I would say to the international community is just give us a little bit of credit that we know how to run our life. We know how to be the only democracy in the Middle East and we know how to maintain that.”

The item then turned to a conversation between Franks and programme presenter Razia Iqbal.

Iqbal: “Likud member of the Knesset Sharren Haskel. Eh…Tim, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown himself to be a tenacious politician. How strong a position is he in now given that he’s facing some serious corruption allegations?”

Franks: “Well the police have interviewed Mr Netanyahu several times, most recently at the end of last week, about these allegations. Ahm…allegations that he for example took gifts like more than $100,000 worth of cigars and pink champagne, apparently, possibly in return for asking the Americans to fast-track a visa for a businessman friend. There’s also been allegations that the publisher of a newspaper – it’s one of Israel’s big newspapers called Yediot Ahronot – ahm…he was asked to give more favourable coverage in return for new rules and the government reining in a free sheet called Israel HaYom which is very pro-Netanyahu and whose distribution – ‘cos it’s a free sheet – has been killing the newspapers which charge.

The legal system here is very strong and very independent. Other top politicians have gone to jail in the past but Mr Netanyahu is not a quitter and there doesn’t appear to be any great appetite in parliament or in his party or among coalition partners to bring him down. That said, the view is that all this pressure does make him more biddable to the Right and that’s something we’re going to be looking at later in the week. And before that, I should say, we’re heading to the place where the product of political dysfunction is at its most extreme, is most compressed, and that’s Gaza and that’s where we’ll be broadcasting from on Wednesday.”

In this very long report – over twelve and a half minutes – we once again see the BBC pushing a political narrative which frames the PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution as the sole option. Yet again we see that the BBC steers audiences towards the view that the two-state solution is endangered by Israeli actions, while concealing no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority incitement, Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state and the Hamas-Fatah split.

While those editorial policies certainly advance the corporation’s chosen narrative on the issue of the peace process, they obviously do not contribute to meeting the BBC’s remit of building “global understanding” concerning the range of factors preventing the two-state solution from becoming reality.

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Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one