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. 

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

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Special final instalment – part one

The third and final part of Tim Franks’ special report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ concerning the viability of the two-state solution (see ‘related articles’ below) was broadcast on February 3rd in two segments.newshour-3-2

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

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 30:10 here):

Coomarasamy: “All this week my colleague Tim Franks has been travelling across Israel and the Palestinian territories for this programme. He’s been in Jerusalem, in Gaza and today – today where are you, Tim?”

Franks: “I’m in Tel Aviv, James, and more of that later in the programme. But I’m going to take you now to the West Bank, where most Palestinians live. It’s land that those who believe in a two-state solution say should form the basis of a Palestinian state. It’s also at the moment land on which several hundred thousand Israeli settlers live. Many of them go there just looking for a cheaper place to be but a minority are very committed to the idea of Israel having sovereignty all the way to the border with Jordan. Among them, the woman you are about to hear from; the founder of a campaign group called ‘Women in Green’. She’s Nadia Matar. She spoke to me on a wind-swept hilltop overlooking the West Bank. For her, that wind is blowing in her direction.”

An edited clip from the interview that followed was also promoted separately on Twitter by the BBC World Service.newshour-3-2-clip-matar

In contrast to some of his previous interviews in the series, Franks displayed the ability to challenge some of Matar’s claims and views.

Matar: “There’s so many historical moments now. The new Trump administration, the fact that we are celebrating fifty years of our return to this area, the fact that the Palestinian Authority is soon going to be completely dismantled and we’re going to see all hell go out; basically the Oslo Agreements can be officially declared as dead. All this together creates an incredible window of opportunity for our government to correct the mistake that wasn’t done 50 years ago and to apply sovereignty. And I have a little secret to tell you Tim. There are so many Arabs who are with us, who want this to happen.”

Franks: “But the counter argument is very simple, which is just as the Jews have a right to self-determination in their own homeland, so do Palestinians have a right to self-determination. It’s not for you to say this is what the Arabs want – it’s for them.”

Matar: “This so-called claim by the Arabs that they want a Palestinian self-determination is another lie. The time has come to respect the Arab culture. They themselves do not want a state. This is a foreign concept to the Arabs in general. The Arabs we talk to – and I started learning Arabic and I started learning how they think and not trying to put our Western principles on people who do not want a state. They don’t want a state.”

Franks: “But how can you say what it is that they want?”

Matar: “Because I speak to them and I hear them.”

Franks: “But they’re represented by their politicians, their leaders – just like any other…any other country has a government that represents…”

Matar: “Excuse me. Their current leaders who they are a bunch of terrorists who have only one thing in mind: the millions of dollars that you in Europe are giving them. Not for the welfare of their people but for making weapons and strengthening themselves to fight Israel. They have only one wish: it is to destroy Israel. And we will not commit suicide. The two-state solution has been thrown into the garbage of history, thank God.”

Franks: “What do you say to those who are not making a political argument but a security argument? There are more than 200 very senior former members of the military and the security establishment who said that the violence that there is…the responsibility for that violence is of course down to the perpetrators but in large measure it is – and I quote their words – the product of Israel’s rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank and their resulting humiliation, abject poverty, despair and the absence of hope for a better future.”

Matar: “Oh wow! The sentence you just quoted; I love it. To tell us that there’s Arab terror because of despair. It is exactly the opposite. There’s Arab terror because they still have hope to be able to create a Palestinian state and to erase the State of Israel. We must once and for all wipe out the hope that they will have through terror. They will get the message that no matter what they do, they will not get one more inch from our homeland. That is when terror will stop.”

Franks: “Nadia Matar speaking to me from the settlement of Neve Daniel with her view of what makes at least some Palestinians tick. There’s a man though here in Ramallah – the administrative capital of the West Bank – whose sole job it’s been over the last 25 years to sample the mood of Palestinians. His name is Khalil Shikaki and he says he’s witnessing a decline in support for – and belief in – the two-state solution.”

Listeners were not informed that Khalil Shikaki heads the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research or that some of his past analysis of “the mood of Palestinians” has proved to be decidedly off mark. In 2005 Shikaki claimed that, following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the priority for Palestinians there was “an improvement in the economic life” and in 2006 he predicted that Fatah would win the Palestinian Legislative Council election.  

Shikaki: “The mid-90s was the golden era for the two-state solution among Palestinians and Israelis alike. Probably close to 80% supported it.”

Ignoring the obviously relevant question of why, if that were the case, the Palestinians initiated the second Intifada, Franks asked:

Franks: “And now among Palestinian opinion?”

Shikaki: “It is less than 50%. Although I would say that a lot of people no longer support it not because they dislike it but because they think it is no longer viable. That for practical reasons – most importantly the construction of settlements throughout the West Bank – has simply made it impossible to create a Palestinian state in the future.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that – despite Shikaki’s implication – since the mid-90s new communities have not been constructed, Franks went on:  

Franks: “Can you look into the future and say there is a chance that if it does not happen within the next four years, say, of the Trump administration, it will be over?”

Shikaki: “It could happen in a even a shorter notice. If the Israeli government decides on a very extensive, large-scale settlement build up, then obviously this will change attitudes immediately.”

Listeners then heard a short recording followed by Franks’ introduction of his next interviewee.

Franks: “A short distance away in Ramallah, the sounds of the brand new Yasser Arafat museum – dedicated to the memory of the Palestinians’ most famous leader. The man behind the museum is Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al Qudwa and he appears in this photo, looking on at the last ever hand-shake in 1995 between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader who was assassinated later that year. Nasser al Qudwa has for years been close to the centre of Palestinian power. He’s now talked about as perhaps the next Palestinian president. He’s a man who sticks to the line that a Palestinian state has to come into being. But isn’t belief losing out to reality?”

An edited clip from that interview was also promoted separately on Twitter by the BBC World Service.newshour-3-2-clip-qudwa

Although, as listeners later heard, al Qudwa is a senior figure in the Fatah movement which dominates the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, Franks failed to raise the very relevant topic of its refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state. Neither did he make any effort to clarify the statements made by al Qudwa which come across as barely veiled threats of violence.

Al Qudwa: “While there are some new legal facts on the ground, I refuse to consider these as tantamount to ending the national rights of the Palestinian people, ending the Palestinian state. I’m saying that our struggle is going to continue until we achieve our national goals. It’s not up to the Israelis and it’s not because of some settlements that this is going to come to an end. But it is going to be [a] long, arduous, bloody path.”

Franks: “I wonder if you are making the same mistakes as those on the Left in Israel which is to say look at the logic of the two-state solution; you cannot argue with the logic. But the reality is, what’s happening on the ground, you’re whistling in the wind.”

Al Qudwa: I don’t agree with that at all. If there is no diplomatic solution based on the two-state solution there isn’t a better diplomatic solution such as the one-state solution. This is total nonsense. We should understand that the absence of diplomatic solutions means serious, lengthy confrontation with the Israelis leading to the realisation of our national rights. To hell with any diplomatic solution if it’s not working.”

Franks: “What do you say to the Israeli government’s argument that you’re the people who are standing in the way of any process because you won’t negotiate?”

Al Qudwa: “Yeah, sure. While they take our land and they bring more settlers…”

Franks: “But that’s carrying on while you’re not negotiating so why not talk to them?”

Al Qudwa: “You know, it’s the antithesis of a peaceful solution. So while you are doing practically all these things, it just doesn’t make any sense for you to argue that I’m ready to negotiate, I’m ready to make peace. You are doing the exact opposite.”

Franks: “Yeah but from their point of view they can argue in equal force of logic which is as long as you’re not willing to negotiate, we’ve got a growing population. We need to house them somewhere so we’re going to carry on building places for them to live.”

Al Qudwa: “Whether there is negotiations, no negotiations, it’s clearly absolutely illegal under international law and it represent even a war crime. You are colonising the land of another people in the 21st century – something [that] is absolutely unbelievable.”

Making no effort to inform listeners of alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ or to clarify the disputed status of the areas concerned, Franks closed that part of the programme.

Franks: “That’s Nasser al Qudwa; one of the big power brokers inside the Palestinian Fatah faction. Later in the programme – our final voice and he’s one of Israel’s greatest writers; David Grossman.”

That segment will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two

‘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.  

More partial reporting on Israeli building permits from BBC News

On January 25th the lead story on the BBC News website’s Middle East page once again concerned Israeli planning permits.

In that article – titled “UN condemns Israel’s West Bank settlement plans” – readers were told that:building-permits-js-25-1

“The United Nations has condemned Israeli plans to build more settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A UN spokesman said “unilateral actions” were an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution. […]

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, said: “For the secretary general there is no Plan B for the two-states solution.

“In this respect any unilateral decision that can be an obstacle to the two-state goal is of grave concern for the secretary general.

“There is a need for the two parties to engage in a bona fide negotiation to reach the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, two states for two people.””

Readers also got the take of the Palestinian Authority:

“Palestinian officials said the plans undermined peace hopes by building on land they want for a future state.”

As well as that of the PLO:

“Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly denounced Tuesday’s announcement.

“Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability,” she said in a statement.

“Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council resolution 2334.”

Ms Ashrawi called on the US and the rest of the international community to “undertake serious and concrete measures to bring about a full cessation of all settlement activities and to hold Israel to account for these disastrous plans with punitive measures and sanctions before it completes the destruction of the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank”.”

In short, 44.5% of this article’s 593 words were allocated to unquestioned amplification of comment from interested parties.

A further 173 words related to the new US administration and of course no article concerning Israeli building permits would be complete without the obliteration of pre-1967 history and the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘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.”

In contrast, the article devoted just 81 words to telling readers what the story is actually about and only in the thirteenth paragraph did they discover that most of the approved plans are located in “existing West Bank settlement blocs”.  

“On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would build 2,500 more homes in Jewish settlements “in response to housing needs”. […]

Most of the new homes approved on Tuesday will be built in existing West Bank settlement blocs, including 902 in Ariel and 652 in Givat Zeev.

One hundred will be constructed in Beit El, a settlement near Ramallah that reportedly has received funding from a foundation run by the family of Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.”

Not surprisingly, the BBC chose not to tell its audiences about another part of the announcement.

“Liberman also said he would request permission from the cabinet for the construction of a Palestinian industrial park in Tarkumiya, northwest of Hebron.

“It will be one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we are planning to set up warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure, along with other elements,” Liberman’s office said in a statement.”

BBC audiences were not, however, provided with context crucial to their proper understanding of this story in general and the generously amplified comments from the UN and from the PA and the PLO in particular.

They were not told that under the terms of the Oslo Accords Israel has full control over Area C and that the agreements – signed willingly by the Palestinians – place no ban or restriction on construction in the Israeli communities located in that area. Neither were they told that the future of Area C is, according to those agreements, to be determined in final status negotiations. And as usual, even though the BBC knows it full well, they were not informed that the main “settlement blocs” such as Ariel and its surrounding area would be likely to remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement in exchange for land swaps.

It is patently obvious that the BBC is not even trying to give the impression of adhering to its professed editorial standards of ‘due impartiality’ when reporting on Israeli planning permissions.

 Related Articles:

The Jerusalem building permits the BBC didn’t report

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

 

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

As was documented here earlier this month, in late December 2016 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” which opened 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.”

We observed at the time that the backgrounder “includes context which, as has been frequently documented on these pages, BBC audiences have been denied for years”.

Six days after its initial publication on December 29th 2016, amendments were made to the article (on January 4th 2017) including a change of description for one of the political NGOs quoted in the report from “the Israel anti-settlement group Peace Now” to “the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now”.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 23rd 2017 were offered that backgrounder as part of the ‘related reading’ appended to the main story of the day.

settlements-backgrounder-on-hp-23-1

However, the backgrounder now has a new date stamp and has undergone further amendments since its initial publication.

In the first section – titled “What are settlements?” – a link to the Peace Now website has been added and that joins the existing link to the B’tselem website that appeared in the original article.

Version 2

Version 2

settlement-backgrounder-peace-now-link-latest

Latest version

In the second section, which is titled “Why are settlements so contentious?”, an inaccurate and misleading paragraph has been added.

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There are not “hundreds” of checkpoints and roadblocks in Judea & Samaria and many of those which do exist are in fact crossings located along Israel’s border with Palestinian controlled areas. So where did the BBC get that misleading information? While no source is provided, one possibility is a webpage titled “Restriction of movement” which was posted on the B’Tselem website on January 1st 2017 and in which an unsourced reference to “hundreds of physical obstacles […] in the form of concrete blocks, piles or dirt, or trenches” is found.

In the latest version of this backgrounder, an entirely new chapter has been added after the second section under the title “What difference will Donald Trump make?”.

Latest version

Latest version

The next section is titled “What makes Jerusalem a special case?” and there a problematic and partial map produced by B’Tselem and UNOCHA (which first appeared in BBC content in October 2015) has been added. That map tells BBC audiences that the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem – a place where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed from the location by Jordan for a period of nineteen years – is an “illegal settlement” and that Temple Mount is located in a “Palestinian urban area”.

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In the last section of the backgrounder – titled “Are settlements illegal under international law?” – another amendment has been made.

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Latest version

When this article – which is supposedly intended to provide audiences with accurate and impartial information on the topic of Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem – first appeared we noted that: 

“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.”

Rather than leaving be or making changes which would enhance that nuance and provide more of the context usually denied to BBC audiences, the backgrounder has instead been unnecessarily amended to promote more even more partisan information produced by the campaigning political NGOs Peace Now and B’Tselem as well as the latter’s partner UNOCHA

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

 

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which 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.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

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

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 98 incidents took place: 87 in Judea & Samaria, ten in Jerusalem and one attack from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 67 attacks with petrol bombs, 19 attacks using explosive devices, two stabbing attacks and nine shooting attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem as well as one shooting attack from the Gaza Strip.

Six people – two civilians and four members of the security forces – were wounded in shooting, stabbing and IED attacks in December. Additional incidents included an attempted stabbing at Tapuach junction on December 8th, an attempted vehicular attack near Qalandiya on December 13th, a shooting attack near Ramallah on December 14th and a shooting attack near Beit El on December 25th.

The BBC News website did not provide coverage of any of the 98 attacks which took place during December.

Throughout the whole of 2016 the BBC News website reported a total of thirty-nine incidents – i.e. 2.8% of the terror attacks which actually took place. Only one of the ten barrages of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip which took place during 2016 received (belated) English language coverage. In contrast with the previous year, the BBC did report all the Israeli fatalities resulting from terror attacks that occurred during 2016.

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The BBC’s public purpose remit includes ‘Global Outlook’ which is interpreted by the BBC Trust as meaning that audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world, giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and includes the pledge to “build a global understanding of international issues” and “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

With the BBC News website having covered of just 2.8% of the terror attacks against Israelis throughout 2016 and with none of those reports, or any other, having clarified the all-important context of the scale of attacks as a whole, it is obvious that neither global nor domestic audiences are being adequately provided with “insight” into how Israelis live.

The absence of that information is important because it means that audiences are unable to properly understand Israeli counter-terrorism measures such as the anti-terrorist fence or checkpoints. It also means that when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism (as seen for example in the summer of 2014), audiences and BBC journalists alike are unable to put events into their appropriate context and thus arrive at uninformed and inaccurate conclusions.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: April to September 2016

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