‘What’s he doing here?’ – BBC 5 live breakfast on Israeli PM’s London visit

h/t RS

The February 6th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast programme included an item (from 02:18:32 here) in which presenter Rachel Burden discussed the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London with Jeremy Bowen.5-live-breakfast-6-2

That conversation was particularly interesting for its lack of focus on issues of interest to the British audiences who hear the show as well as for its politicised messaging and distortions. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Burden: “Theresa May will meet the Israeli prime minister Bendamin…Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street later. It’ll be the first time the two leaders have met in person since she took office. Let’s speak to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Morning.”

Bowen: “Morning.”

Burden: “What’s he doing here?”

Bowen: “Well he’s […] he is doing a round of visits in advance of his big meeting next week with President Trump in Washington and he – Mr Netanyahu – is going to focus very much on Iran. They did a ballistic missile test lately in the last week or so and he’s…as he got on the plane he said they tried to test the boundaries with extraordinary aggression, gall and defiance. So Iran is his big thing. I think Britain is concerned about the number of settlements that he’s authorised in the occupied Palestinian territories and of course post Brexit, I think Mrs May’s going to be concerned about trying to do a few good trade deals with the Israelis.”

Having laid out those three topics, Bowen then chose to completely ignore throughout the rest of the item both the Iranian issue and the potential trade deals which would probably have interested UK domestic audiences, instead focusing on his own “big thing”.

Despite having inaccurately suggested to listeners that Netanyahu had ‘authorised settlements’ in numbers large enough to cause concern to the UK government, we later (unsurprisingly) discover that Bowen knows full well that such a portrayal is in fact inaccurate. We can also assume that he knows full well that all Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria are located in Area C, the final status of which – under the terms of the Oslo Accords – is to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians and hence his portrayal of the region as “Palestinian territories” is premature. 

Listeners next heard Burden promote the equally inaccurate – and downright bizarre – notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the Middle East conflict”: a theme that was repeated throughout the item.

Burden: “Do we know what her [Theresa May] position is on the Middle East conflict?”

Bowen: “Well, she’s flip-flopped a bit quite frankly. To start with, when President Trump was about to be inaugurated, she did say some things which seemed to be really cow-towing to what she believed his beliefs to be, which was…there was a fairly controversial – from the Israeli point of view – resolution in the UN Security Council which Britain didn’t just vote for; it helped to plan, which was essentially condemning the…ah…expansion of settlements and Britain after that – Mrs May – criticised that resolution and criticised the US Secretary of State for supporting it when Britain itself had voted in support of the motion – the resolution – in the Security Council. In fact the Obama administration at the time said, rather cuttingly, that what Kerry had said – the US Secretary of State at the time – was entirely in line with long-held British policy which Britain – Downing Street – then went on to condemn.”

Contrary to the impression fostered by Bowen, Mrs May’s remarks did not relate to UNSC resolution 2334 but to the speech made by John Kerry the following week.

“[Downing Street] said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”

Bowen continued:

“Now since then they have…Britain has said that it’s against the further expansion of settlements. However, I think that Mr Netanyahu will be well aware that Prime Minister May is quite concerned to stay in Donald Trump’s good books.”

Burden: Well what about Mr Trump? Has he shown any indication he wants to get involved in all this?”

Bowen: “Ah he’s…well his Middle East envoy is going to be his son-in-law, so keep it in the family. Ahm…and he has…well, the feeling was to start with that he might have given Mr Netanyahu essentially a blank cheque to go and do what he wanted whereas in terms of settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and which is something that President Obama very much did not. And so since the inauguration, Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years. So that’s something that even the Trump administration said well, hang on a second, you know, don’t get too carried away here.”

Bowen is apparently referring to the statement put out by the White House press secretary on February 2nd which of course made no mention of getting “carried away” and which it is very clear that Bowen is interpreting according to his own world view. He continues:

“But they’ve certainly been very soft on the Israelis when it comes to that and I think that the right-wing in Israel – of which Mr Netanyahu is just one representative – is very excited about the possibilities that they will have under President Trump. They feel that they can really start changing things permanently in their favour.”

Burden: “Yeah. It’s interesting as well with Theresa May – now I guess under pressure with the prospect of Brexit looming, to demonstrate herself as a global leader – how much of an opportunity she’ll see this to take some kind of position while at the same time that balancing act of her relationship with Donald Trump. Is this a kind of lose-lose situation for the British prime minister in a way?”

Bowen: “You know it is a balancing act and I think that Britain has always taken, you know…has said ‘after you’ to the Americans when it comes to Middle East peacemaking, even though – as a permanent member of the Security Council – we do have a certain degree of influence. Ahm…I think that Mrs May is so tied up with issues of Brexit that I don’t see her trying to do her own solo Middle East peace bid. But, you know, the key…the difficulty of trying to make Middle Eastern peace is that you have to be tough on both sides and Western governments – particularly the Americans, the British – find it very easy to be tough on the Palestinians and they find it very difficult to be tough on the Israelis.”

And with that downright amazing unsubstantiated claim, the conversation ends – with listeners to Radio 5 live Breakfast none the wiser about either the Iranian issue or the nature of any potential trade deals between Britain and Israel.  

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center has produced two reports concerning UNSC Resolution 2334:Weekend Read

a) Palestinian Reactions to UN Security Council Resolution 2334

b) How UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Relates to Palestinian Terrorism

“On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, with 14 countries voting in favor. The United States abstained allowing the resolution to pass. Resolution 2334 deals mostly with the Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, over which there is broad international consensus. The issue of terrorism is included in the resolution but its weight is slight (as opposed to extensive dealing with the settlements, which are represented as the main obstacle to peace). Moreover, for the most part the terminology used in dealing with terrorism is general and vague. The resolution does not explicitly refer to Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian terrorist organizations (especially Hamas) and popular terrorism and violence (the so-called “popular resistance”).”

2) At the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler fact-checks the speech made by the outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on December 28th 2016.  

““The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo. Including 100,000 just since 2009 when President Obama’s term began.”

If you do the math, that means the population growth rate in the settlements is nearly 4 percent. Israel’s overall population growth rate is about 2 percent. Israel has the highest birthrate in the industrialized world, especially among the Jewish Orthodox population that tends to live in settlements. Israelis have long maintained that “natural growth” — births — should be allowed in settlements, and even the ill-fated “road map” plan for peace pressed by President George W. Bush called for a freeze that included natural growth.”

3) An article recently published at Ynet opens:

“An Israeli investigation into school books used by United Nations-run schools in the West Bank were found to consistently delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel.

These textbooks—written by the Palestinian Ministry of Education—are used in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in both Gaza and the West Bank.

However, the most shocking discovery is that the UN schools don’t teach Palestinian children to recognize Israel as a country—not within the 1947 borders, nor any borders at all.”

The study upon which that article is based can be found here.

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

One of the most frequently recurring topics in the BBC’s Israel-related related content is that of ‘settlements’ and particularly construction in the places described as such. Examples from the past year alone include:

The return of the BBC’s political narrative on Israeli construction

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part one

BBC’s account of Quartet report exposes the holes in its own narrative

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Another BBC airbrushing of the Quartet report

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

More BBC promotion of the ‘Peace Now’ narrative on construction

BBC amplifies UN criticism of Israeli PM without providing relevant context

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

BBC News amplifies inaccurate US claim of ‘new settlement’

The majority of the BBC’s reports include a standard insert:

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 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.”

As has been observed here on countless occasions, that standard insert breaches the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform BBC audiences of the existence of legal opinions which contradict the corporation’s own adopted political narrative.

Particularly given that repeated failure to meet the BBC’s professed standards of ‘due impartiality’ it was interesting to see that on December 29th (in the wake of UNSC resolution 2334 and John Kerry’s related speech) the BBC News website published a backgrounder – titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” – which opens as follows:settlements-backgrounder

“The issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has long been a major source of dispute between Israel and most of the international community, including its own closest ally, the US.

Here is a brief guide to what it is all about.”

To the credit of whoever wrote this article (readers are not informed of the author’s identity) it includes context which, as has been frequently documented on these pages, BBC audiences have been denied for years. [emphasis added]

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The West Bank and East Jerusalem had previously been occupied by Jordan since the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War.”

And:

“Israel has also established settlements in the Gaza Strip, seized from Egypt in the 1967 war, but it dismantled them when it withdrew from the territory in 2005. It also built settlements in the Sinai Peninsula, seized too from Egypt in 1967, but removed them in 1982 as part of a peace agreement with Cairo.”

And:

“Under the 1993 Israel-Palestinian Oslo peace accords, the issue of settlements was to be deferred until final status talks – a reason why Israel objects to pre-conditions and UN resolutions on the matter.”

Later on in the article, in answer to the question “So is a deal on settlements impossible?”, readers are told:

“Not necessarily, despite appearing insurmountable. Israel has said it is prepared to make “painful concessions” for peace, and it has previously shown it will relinquish settlements – such as in Sinai and Gaza, and four small sites in the West Bank in 2005.

It has agreed to negotiate the fate of existing settlements, and Jerusalem, as part of permanent status talks.

Israel has said in any final deal it intends to keep the largest settlement blocs, which are close to the pre-1967 ceasefire line.

This position seemed to get the endorsement of the US under former President George W Bush, who, in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, said it was “unrealistic” to expect a full withdrawal from the West Bank in a final peace deal.”

The writer could have also mentioned the Clinton Parameters and the Olmert Plan at this point – both of which included proposals for keeping the large settlement blocs in situ in return for land swaps. Nevertheless, this is only the second time in the whole of the past year that BBC audiences have been alerted to the existence of that possibility, with the corporation’s content more usually found promoting the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’ and amplifying its demand for their complete removal.

In a section headed “Are settlements illegal under international law?” readers find the following:

“Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal.

The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people into occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power.

It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was preserved under the UN’s charter.

The US describes the settlements as “illegitimate” and has refrained from calling them “illegal” since the Carter administration in 1980.

In December 2016, a UN Security Council resolution said settlements had “no legal validity and constitute[d] a flagrant violation under international law”. However, like previous resolutions on Israel, those adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter are not legally binding.”

While more could have been done to help audiences understand the legal background to the view held by Israel (and others too), it is extremely rare to find any mention of pre-1967 history in BBC content relating to the topic of Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and the parts of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan for 19 years from 1948.

This article could have done more to explain to readers why the branding of Judaism’s most holy site and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem as ‘occupied territory’ is so contentious. It should also have mentioned the much neglected topic of Jewish land ownership prior to 1948 in locations such as Hebron, Gush Etzion and Neve Ya’akov which the BBC now describes as ‘occupied’.

Unsurprising to those following the BBC’s portrayal of this topic over time is the inclusion in this article of data provided by the political NGO ‘Peace Now’.

“According to the Israel anti-settlement group Peace Now, there are 131 settlements in the West Bank, comprising about 385,000 Israeli Jewish settlers, and 97 outposts – settlements built without official authorisation.

The group says there are 12 settlements in East Jerusalem, inhabited by about 200,000 settlers.”

The article also directs readers to a partisan report on the website of another political NGO which campaigns on the same topic – B’Tselem – with the promotion of that link obviously compromising BBC impartiality.

“Built-up settlement areas occupy about 2% of the West Bank but critics point out that the land controlled by settlement activity, such as agriculture, amounts to much more than that and requires heavy military presence.”

While this backgrounder is by no means perfect, it does at least present a more nuanced picture than is usually the case and includes information which BBC audiences have been denied for too long. Whether or not future BBC reports on this topic will follow suit remains to be seen.  

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

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

 

‘Analysis’ from BBC R4: Hizballah doesn’t threaten Israeli civilians

Even as the US Secretary of State was still speaking on the topic of the two-state solution on December 28th, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ was already offering coverage of that long speech by John Kerry.pm-28-12

Included in that coverage was analysis (from 05:07 here) from Ian Bremmer of ‘Eurasia Group’ – parts of which might come as something of a surprise to anyone who has been following the news from Israel in recent years – including the thousands of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip and the terror attacks against Israelis which have taken over forty lives and wounded hundreds in the past 15 months.

“Well, in the long-term Kerry’s certainly correct that an imposed one-state solution is no way to build peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But certainly in the short and medium term – and this has been going on for more than just the Obama administrations – the amount of stability that the Israelis presently enjoy with a one-state solution – even if it’s not final – is perfectly fine for them. I mean, even the Israeli Left no longer talks much about a two-state solution because there’s just not much of a Palestinian threat against Israelis these days. They don’t need Palestinian labour. With American defence support Hizballah can’t launch missiles into Israel to threaten Israeli civilians and the extraordinary surveillance – both human surveillance as well as cyber surveillance – the Israelis can do on would-be terrorists in and outside their country has helped to ensure that Israeli security is tantamount [sic]. So I mean the reality is this just isn’t a top priority for many people…”

Indeed, Israel has over the last decade developed missile defence systems that have significantly reduced casualties and damage during conflicts such as that of summer 2014. Nevertheless, those systems are not 100% effective and – contrary to Bremmer’s assertion – do not completely eliminate the threat to Israeli civilians.

“The weaponry Hezbollah has acquired in recent years also indicates that it is still adhering to the “rocket component” of its guerrilla doctrine. Its arsenal has grown in the decade since the Second Lebanon War to include 150,000 rockets. The majority are Katyushas, which are inaccurate and relatively ineffective. However, the emphasis on Katyushas is Hezbollah’s answer to the sophisticated multi-layer missile defense system Israel began developing in 2007, and which is now almost fully operational.

Lacking missiles advanced enough to bypass that system, Hezbollah likely intends to overwhelm it by sheer force of numbers. With Hezbollah expected to fire a daily average of 1,500 rockets in the next war, the cost of relying exclusively on missile interceptors would be prohibitive for Israel. Moreover, given the number of Hezbollah’s rockets, Israel’s defensive systems will not be able to intercept them all. Hundreds will likely strike the north, causing a similar disruption to civilian life and the economy as in the 2006 war.” 

The BBC itself reported earlier this year that:

“Ten years ago, it was in the north of the country that Israel was hit but a new war is expected to be more devastating – on both sides.

There is also concern that despite Israel’s air defence systems such as Iron Dome, the military won’t be capable of intercepting all of the missiles that come Israel’s way.

“More missiles and rockets will hit the centre of Israel, the big cities of Israel,” says Gen Amidror.”

Apparently in this case, the BBC’s need to fill air-time during a breaking story got the better of its obligation to provide its domestic audiences with information which will “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

BBC diplomatic correspondent disappears Hamas and the PA

One might have assumed that events in the Middle East over the past six years would have brought the BBC to the understanding that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the panacea to all that region’s problems.

That, apparently, is still not the case – as a BBC news readers’ introduction to the top of the bill item on the December 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s Six O’clock News (from 03:15 here) demonstrates. [emphasis added]6on-28-12

“The American Secretary of State, John Kerry, has warned that hopes for peace in the Middle East are being destroyed with events on the ground putting prospects for a viable two-state solution in jeopardy. In a speech which he described as his candid thoughts, Mr Kerry said the need to preserve what he called the only just way to peace had prompted the US to abstain on Friday’s UN resolution which condemned Israeli settlement expansion.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reporting both on that UNSC resolution and on the topic in general, that choice of terminology obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages.

Listeners to that news bulletin later heard from the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams who managed to make both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip disappear from the story.

“Eight years ago Barak Obama began his presidency with a flurry of diplomacy aimed at breaking the Arab-Israeli deadlock. It didn’t work and pretty soon a succession of Arab revolutions and wars gave the president more pressing things to think about. But now at the eleventh hour: another flurry. First a highly unusual abstention on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and now a speech the president’s tireless Secretary of State has apparently been wanting to give for some time. It contained warnings to both sides but asked one fundamental question of Israel: did it want two separate states living side by side or one – in which Israel continues to govern the lives of millions of Palestinians.”

The Palestinian Authority governed the Gaza Strip after Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and it has been governed by the Hamas regime since its violent take-over of the territory two years later. The vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria live in Areas A and B and have been governed by the Palestinian Authority for over two decades. The number of Palestinians living in Area C (which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords is under Israeli control) and in Jerusalem does not even approach the one million mark. Paul Adams’ rhetoric obviously fails to help BBC audiences to come any closer to understanding this particular “international issue”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC coverage of UNSC resolution 2334 in R4 news bulletins – part one

Shaun Ley’s multiple Middle East mangles on BBC Radio 4

An item in the December 28th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ related to the speech given by the outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry on the same day. Throughout that item (from 07:59 here), host Shaun Ley promoted several inaccuracies. [all emphasis in bold added]twt-28-12

Ley told listeners that:

“Last week President Obama authorised a change of tactics towards Israel. The US opted not to deploy its veto on a Security Council resolution condemning building by Jewish settlers on what had been Palestinian land until the Six Day War.”

Prior to the Six Day War Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation following that country’s attack on the newly declared Israeli state in 1948. That occupation was not recognised by the international community. Before the Jordanian invasion, the same areas were administered by Britain under the terms of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Prior to British conquest during the First World War, the areas were controlled by the Ottoman Empire for some 500 years. Nevertheless, Ley promoted the totally inaccurate claim that Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem were “Palestinian land” until 1967.

Ley continued:

“It was a war which lasted less than a week yet the territory seized by Israel then is still de facto controlled by Tel Aviv today.”

Referring to “Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia”, he later told listeners that:

“They also share Tel Aviv’s anxiety about the growing importance of Iran in the region.”

As pointed out by our colleagues at CAMERA in relation to a correction secured from AP (and additional outlets) on the same issue earlier this month:

“This is a case of an error in the journalistic practice of naming a nation’s capital as shorthand for the country’s government. For instance, “Washington” is shorthand for the U.S. government because it is the capital. […]

But Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. The Prime Minister’s bureau is located in Jerusalem, next to the Foreign Ministry, the Bank of Israel, and across the street from the Supreme Court and the Knesset. While Israel’s Ministry of Defense is in Tel Aviv, the U.S. Department of Defense is in Arlington County, Virginia and yet the AP does not refer to “Arlington County” selling F-35s to Israel, for instance.”

As we know, the BBC presumptuously refuses to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but nevertheless, Ley’s choice of wording leads listeners to believe that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital – which is clearly inaccurate.

Ley also told audiences that:

“The attitude of Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia has become more ambiguous since they fought with Israel in 1967. Whilst continuing to make the case for a separate Palestinian state, most now accept the existence of the Jewish state.”

The Gulf Arab states are Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. None of those countries recognises or has diplomatic relations with Israel and all but one forbid entry to Israeli passport holders, meaning that Ley’s claim that “most” Gulf states “accept the existence of the Jewish state” is unsubstantiated. With the exception of Iraq and some minor air support from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, his claim that the Gulf Arab states “fought with Israel in 1967” is also misleading.

Later on, Ley managed to introduce an apartheid analogy into his commentary while implying the existence of some mysterious additional unpopulated “occupied territories”.

“If the occupied territories, as they’re called, including the populated ones – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – were formally absorbed into a single Israeli state, Mr Kerry suggested people would be separate and unequal – a phrase bound to anger many Israelis because of the implication that this is something similar to the racial segregation once practiced in South Africa and the United States. Israel insists that it treats all its citizens equally…”

Subsequently listeners heard an interview with the PA’s Husam Zomlot in which a reference to Israeli “tanks that is [sic] besieging entire communities” went unchallenged by Shaun Ley.

Part of the BBC’s public purpose remit is to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” in its domestic content – which includes Radio 4. Shaun Ley’s commentary is so ridden with inaccuracy and incompetency that it clearly does not meet that remit.

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

On the afternoon of December 28th the BBC News website published the following ‘breaking news’ (relating to this story):

trump-tweet-bbc-breaking

Leaving aside the noteworthy (though not novel) editorialising use of the word “outburst” (defined as “a sudden release of strong emotion”), it is of course impossible for something to be both the “latest” (i.e. most recent) and “unprecendented” (i.e. “never done or known before). Apparently somebody at the BBC got so carried away that both impartiality and grammar were sidelined.

In the six hours or so following its initial publication, that article was amended numerous times and now goes under the title “John Kerry warns Israel over peace deal with Palestinians“. From the sixth version of the article onwards, an insert was added which purports to explain to BBC audiences “What is the two-state solution?”.kerry-speech-art-1  

Readers of versions six to nine inclusive were told that: [emphasis added]

“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.”

Notably, that BBC portrayal of the two-state solution promotes and amplifies the Palestinian interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Further, 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.

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]

However, no footnote was added explaining the amendment and those who read the previous four versions of the report have no way of knowing that the information they were given is inaccurate.

Moreover, the amended version still does not include the phrase “two states for two peoples” and that omission means that BBC audiences remain unaware of that key aspect to the answer to the question “What is the two-state solution?”.

That in turn means that if BBC audiences were to come across (non-BBC produced) reports concerning any of the numerous Palestinian rejections of Israel as the Jewish state – including those voiced after the speech by the US Secretary of State to which later versions of this article relate – they would be unable to understand the significance of statements such as the following from BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti:

“PLO Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti welcomed the overall message of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Wednesday, but he said the Palestinian leadership cannot accept the top US diplomat’s suggested parameters. […]

Barghouti elaborated that the Kerry’s principles pertaining to refugees, recognition of the Jewish state, and Jerusalem are “unacceptable.” […]

“Second, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would deny the right of the Palestinian people who are citizens of Israel and that is totally unacceptable.

Israel cannot be a Jewish and a democratic state at the same time,” Barghouti continued.

Kerry said that both sides will have to recognize each other including Israel recognizing Palestine as a home for Palestinians, and Palestine recognizing Israel as a home for Jews.”

In other words, the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution flies directly in the face of its remit of enhancing “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid essential ‘core issues’ of Middle East talks

Why is the BBC’s failure to properly report the Jewish state issue important?

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

Patchy coverage of Iran ‘side deals’ in BBC News reporting

An article which originally appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages on July 23rd under the headline “Iran nuclear deal: Kerry to face Senate committee” is now titled “Iran nuclear deal: Better accord ‘a fantasy’ says Kerry” and readers can view the changes made to its various versions here.Kerry art main

One interesting point to note is the disappearance and reappearance of passages of the article relating to a topic which the BBC News website’s generally on-US-administration-messaging coverage has not addressed separately.

Readers of versions one and two of the article learned that:

“[Senator] Mr Cotton, along with Mike Pompeo, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, wrote to Mr Obama on Wednesday to express their concern over what they called “side deals” nuclear inspectors were discussing with Iran.

A State Department spokesman said there were no secret deals and that there were only “technical arrangements”.”

By version three of the report, those paragraphs had been removed and the topic only reappeared in version eight, where audiences were told:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, responded by saying the details of those deals “are not public but… we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress”.”

Version nine of the article was amended to read as follows:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected the suggestion they were “some sort of side deal”, saying the agreements were critical to the overall deal.

But he did admit that the details of the agreements could not be made public because it involves sensitive nuclear information.”

The article links to the Cotton/Pompeo press release on the topic but no further explanation is given in the body of the report and clearly members of the BBC’s audience who happened to access any one of the five versions of this article in which the issue did not appear would remain unaware of its existence.

The bulk of the report’s word-count is devoted to representation of John Kerry’s statements made during the committee hearing, with statements made by critics of the JCPOA deal receiving 102 words less coverage. In the body of the report readers are presented with two photographs, the first of which is captioned:

“The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets”

The caption to the second photograph reads:

“But Mr Kerry also had his supporters at the hearing”

Kerry art photos

The first picture shows a demonstration held in New York on July 22nd. Although readers are not informed of the fact, the second image shows Medea Benjamin of the radical BDS-promoting organisation ‘Code Pink’.

Code Pink photo

Readers would no doubt have found it helpful to know that one of the two images chosen to supposedly present a ‘balanced’ view of American public reaction to the JCPOA deal in fact shows a professional political activist who visited Tehran just last autumn.

“Medea Benjamin participated in the New Horizon 2nd Annual International Conference of Independent Thinkers & Film Makers, held in Tehran, Iran (September 27 – October 1, 2014), speaking on the topics of “The Gaza War & BDS Movement Strategies against the Zionist Regime” and “Different Facets of the Resistance.” The conference included past and present Iranian government officials, as well as conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.”

Somehow, that pertinent information did not reach BBC audiences. 

BBC’s Danahar fudges chance to explain significance of Kerry ‘apartheid’ remarks…and worse

On the evening of April 28th the BBC News website published an article titled “Kerry warns of ‘apartheid’ without Middle East peace” on its US & Canada page.Kerry apartheid art

The report relates to remarks made by the US Secretary of State during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission.

Since the publication of Kerry’s remarks, and as noted in the BBC article, both condemnations and clarifications have been made, including an official statement from Kerry himself.

The most notable point about the BBC’s report on the subject – including the appended analysis by Paul Danahar – is that at no point does it attempt to clarify to audiences one very important issue of context to the story.

The BBC makes no attempt to explain the political background to the intentional use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and its significance in the context of the campaign of delegitimisation against Israel.  

As we have noted here before:

“The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa.

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.” 

In order to be able to understand the full significance of John Kerry’s use – intentional or not – of a theme promoted by some of Israel’s most virulent detractors and of the subsequent reactions to that use of such a loaded word, BBC audiences would have to be made aware of what the ‘apartheid’ trope means and who uses it.

Not only did that not happen in this article, but in his side-box of analysis, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau head Paul Danahar wrote: [emphasis added]

“The US state department is telling everyone that it’s no big deal that John Kerry used the ‘A’ word to describe the impact on Israel if the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict collapses.

A spokeswoman has pointed out that senior Israeli politicians have also referenced apartheid before when talking about the risks to Israel’s reputation. This point though is frankly spin. It is one thing for Israeli politicians to use provocative language in their own political arena. When used by the US secretary of state it adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank.

Whether the “apartheid” reference was a gaffe or deliberate there is no doubt that Secretary Kerry believes Israel’s government is stubbornly ignoring his warnings that a failure to agree a peace deal will feed a campaign trying to delegitimise their state.”

So as we see, not only does the BBC fail to inform readers of the political origins and aims of the ‘apartheid’ trope, its Washington Bureau chief and former Jerusalem Bureau head tells BBC audiences that there is a “debate” which already has “legitimacy” to be conducted on the subject.

Paul Danahar knows perfectly well that the vast majority of Palestinians live under either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and vote for the legislative body which rules them and makes the laws which govern their lives. He also knows full well that Israeli policies and actions in Judea & Samaria have nothing to do with the skin colour or race of people living there, but are entirely security-related and aimed at preventing terrorism against civilians of all colours, races and creeds. And Danahar spent enough time in the Middle East to know exactly where the ‘apartheid’ trope comes from and the reasons for its employment.

But instead of using his specialist knowledge to clarify to North American readers why Kerry’s remark is so controversial and problematic, Danahar chooses instead to promote the falsehood that there is a “debate” to be had. 

 

 

 

A service announcement for BBC Monitoring

Please excuse us for a moment whilst we issue a service announcement to the BBC department which, according to its own blurb, “observes, understands and explains media throughout the world, providing an accessible and relevant account for you to make better, more informed decisions” and also claims that:

“We are who you come to for a level of insight others cannot provide. The combination of our expertise, ability to identify relevant sources, our regional knowledge and presence on the ground ensures we deliver the most unrivalled insight into world media.”

So, BBC Monitoring: FYI –

This is a porcupine (local variety: Hystrix indica), which in Hebrew is דרבן  (Durban) and it is of course a rodent.

SONY DSC

Porcupine at ‘Bio Ramon’ park, Mitzpe Ramon

This, however, is a hedgehog – in Hebrew קיפוד (Kipod) – with the variety found in the Middle East being Erinaceus concolor – and it is not a rodent.

קובץ:Erinaceus concolor - D7-10-3855.JPG

Erinaceus concolor (photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now readers are probably asking why BBC Monitoring is in need of help with the identification of Middle Eastern wildlife. Well on January 6th somebody at the BBC News website apparently decided that its Middle East page would not be complete without an article in the ‘Features and Analysis’ section concerning the earth-shattering revelation that someone in Israel made a spoof video about John Kerry.

BBC monitoring art Kerry spoof ME pge

BBC Monitoring art Kerry spoof

The article – compiled by BBC Monitoring – states:

“A video shows a Hebrew-speaking ‘Kerry’ offering a man stuck on the toilet without paper to use a porcupine instead. “Wipe, don’t gripe”, Kerry tells him. After the “porcu-shine” incident, the advice goes from bad to worse, and the man ends up unemployed and begging in the street.”

BBC Monitoring apparently got that information from the Times of Israel – to which it links in its own story. The Times of Israel wrongly identified the animal in the Hebrew language video as a porcupine although it is clearly a hedgehog and is described as such. In addition the words “wipe, don’t gripe” – as quoted by BBC Monitoring – do not appear in the video. 

Kerry vid kipod

Of course the wider point of this little story is not only that (like the rest of us) BBC Monitoring shouldn’t believe everything it reads in the papers, but also that facts need to be checked before information is regurgitated to BBC audiences – preferably by the fluent Hebrew speaker BBC Monitoring apparently does not yet have on its staff.