The CBBC (Children’s BBC) news programme ‘Newsround’ is aimed at six to twelve year-olds and, in addition to its television broadcasts, it also has a website.
On that website, young children can view an item from 2009 titled “Guide to Israel and the Palestinian territories” which in its ten different pages includes numerous accuracy and impartiality related issues – not least a distinctly inaccurate portrayal of the British mandate era which erases the Balfour Declaration, San Remo and the League of Nations from history as well as turning Jewish refugees from Arab lands into a group of people who simply moved house.
“Before World War I, Palestine was a district ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans were defeated by Britain and her allies in the war.
After WWI, Britain took control of Palestine, but there was much trouble between the Arabs who lived there and Jews who wanted to live there too.
Jews have long historical and religious ties to the land dating back thousands of years. They believe it was promised to them by God.
In the early part of the 20th century thousands of Jews moved to the area before it became Israel to start new lives and set up new communities.
Many were escaping Europe and Russia as they were where they were being persecuted for being Jewish. Many more moved to Israel after the Holocaust, including from Arab countries.
After World War II, Britain decided to let the United Nations decide what to do with Palestine.”
In the section titled “What are the occupied territories?” children are fed the same one-sided political mantras used in other BBC News coverage and are informed that Jordan and Egypt merely “took control” of various regions whereas Israel “captured” them. [emphasis added]
“After the 1948 war, Jordan took control of the West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.
The city of Jerusalem was split, with Jordan taking control of East Jerusalem while West Jerusalem was in Israel.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem during another war in 1967.
Since then, Israel has set up many Jewish settlements – communities, some tiny, some as big as small towns – in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
These settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel does not agree with this.
Living under occupation
Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have lived under Israeli occupation since 1967.
Human rights groups have recorded widespread abuses by Israeli soldiers of Palestinians. For example, the Israeli army has put up lots of check points and roadblocks between villages and towns.
Palestinians say it makes it much harder to visit friends and family or get to work, school or hospital. Some Palestinians compare the restrictions on their lives to being in a prison.
The Israeli government says the checkpoints are to protect settlers and to prevent potential Palestinian suicide bombers from harming Israelis.
The Gaza Strip
Life for the many of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip is difficult.
It is a narrow piece of land along the Mediterranean coast and access to it is very limited. It is fenced in and Israel controls its coastline and all the entry and exit crossings into Israel. There is another crossing point into Egypt. There is no working airport.
Because access is so restricted, not many goods get into or out of Gaza.
Food is allowed in, but aid agencies say families are not eating as much meat or fresh vegetables and fruit as they used to. There are often power cuts.
Large numbers of people have lost their jobs because businesses can get very few of their products out of Gaza to sell, and people don’t have much money to buy things.
Israel withdrew all of its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005.”
No connection is made between restricted access to the Gaza Strip and the terrorism which made those restrictions necessary. On the page titled “Fighting between Israelis and Palestinians” the terrorism of Fatah and other organisations comprising the PLO during the second Intifada is also erased and terrorism is attributed to ‘frustration’.
“In the 1960s, many Palestinians grew frustrated at not having their own state. They formed armed groups that attacked Israelis and Jewish people.
The leaders of some groups, like the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Fatah, have said they won’t hurt Israelis anymore.
Other groups, like Hamas, are still violent. They have fired rockets towards Israeli towns and sent Palestinian suicide bombers to kill Israelis.
Between 2000 and 2008 more than 1,000 Israelis were killed by Palestinians.”
On the page titled “Who are the Palestinian refugees?” children are presented with the following one-dimensional account:
“During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their homes and moved to neighbouring countries to become refugees.
More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees, many living in camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. They get help from the United Nations.
What happens to these refugees is one of the big topics the two sides disagree on.”
On the page headed “The barrier” a version of the standard impartiality-challenged BBC presentation of the anti-terrorist fence appears.
“Israel is building a massive barrier in the West Bank. It is mostly a fence, but some of it is a concrete wall.
The Israeli government says the barrier helps prevent Palestinian suicide bombers travelling to Israeli cities to kill Israelis. It says it is only temporary and can be removed once a peace agreement is reached.
Palestinians say it is creating a new border and cutting into land they hope will form a future state of Palestine. They also say the barrier cuts through Palestinian villages and land, stopping farmers from getting to their land.
The United Nations and countries including America and the UK have said they don’t think the barrier is a good idea.”
But perhaps the most disturbing part of this ‘guide’ comes on the page titled “Who are the main people and groups?” where children are fed the unqualified language of terrorist propaganda and encouraged to view an internationally recognized terrorist organization as a social welfare group. [emphasis added]
“Hamas argues it has the right to what it calls ‘armed resistance’.” […]
“Although Hamas often makes headlines when there is fighting, it also organises things like schools and medical help in areas where Palestinian people live.”
No attempt is made to explain to the children reading this guide what the whitewashed term “armed resistance” really means. It is not clarified that the “right” claimed by Hamas and amplified by CBBC actually translates into the firing of military-grade missiles at children of their own age on their way to school and the bombing of school buses. The young readers of this ‘guide’ are not provided with any explanation as to why the indiscriminate murder of civilians is not actually a “right” which can be legitimately claimed by any person or group.
The majority of licence fee-paying parents probably do not categorise CBBC as one of the internet sites they need to monitor for content inappropriate for their six year-olds. But the fact that for nearly five years that trusted national treasure has been amplifying the notion that “armed resistance” – in other words, terrorism against civilians – is a “right” on a website aimed at child audiences should clearly prompt second thoughts about that view.