In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.   

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