On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.
Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.
As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]
“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”
As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.
“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”
Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.
“Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.”
Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:
“Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”
Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
The article tells readers that:
“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”
It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.
“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.
It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”
Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:
“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”
As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”
“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”
“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”
UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.
Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.
“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”
The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:
“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”
Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.
As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.