More narrative driven BBC portrayal of the ‘peace process’

The February 15th meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington DC saw the BBC vigorously promoting the theme of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration with regard to the two-state solution:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

The next day – February 16th – the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’” which included clarification from a senior official.

‘The US ambassador to the UN has said her country “absolutely” supports the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But Nikki Haley also said the Trump administration was “thinking outside the box as well”, suggesting it was open to other possible solutions.

For many years, the US has advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

But Mr Trump indicated on Wednesday he would not insist on that. […]

“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well,” Ms Haley said on Thursday, “which is – what does it take to bring these two sides to the table? what do we need to have them agree on?”‘

Despite that clarification, the BBC continued to push the theme of a ‘policy shift’ and on the same day published an article titled “PJ Crowley: Trump unveils a subtle but vital shift in US policy” on its website’s ‘US & Canada’ page as well as in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page where it has, at the time of writing, remained for eight consecutive days.crowley-art

Ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand why the two-state solution has not been realised to date, the article states:

“A playful exchange between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually said a great deal about the dim prospects of a successful negotiation with the Palestinians under current circumstances. […]

…the parties themselves are farther apart on the substance of the process – the borders of a Palestinian state, Israeli security arrangements within a Palestinian state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – than they were at the end of the Clinton administration.”

Crowley’s ‘explanation’ of that situation begins with Israeli politics. Notably he entirely erases from his analysis the relevant issues of the Palestinian terror attacks that followed the Oslo Accords, half a decade of terror during the second Intifada and the rise in missile attacks that followed Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. 

“The centre of Israeli politics has moved markedly to the right; the left that embraced the essential bargain of the Oslo process, land for peace, has receded.

The existing Israeli governing coalition is not wired to make concessions. In fact, it is pushing Mr Netanyahu to increase the settlement presence in the West Bank while accelerating construction in East Jerusalem.”

Readers are then told that:

“In 2009, the Obama administration demanded a freeze to all settlement activity. Israel reluctantly agreed, although some growth continued within settlements Israel would keep in any final deal.

Rather than accelerate negotiations, settlements became a bone of contention within them. When the 10-month settlement moratorium ended, so did direct negotiations.”

Once again Palestinian actions are erased from the portrayal given to BBC audiences. The article neglects to inform readers that the Palestinians refused to engage in negotiations throughout 90% of the ten-month long US dictated construction freeze declared at the end of November 2009. Only at the beginning of September 2010 did the Palestinians agree to commence direct negotiations and as the construction freeze’s pre-designated time frame drew to a close on September 26th, Abbas demanded its extension and threatened to end the talks if he did not get his way, with the result that on October 2nd 2010 the negotiations ended. 

Next readers of this article are told that:

“Secretary of State John Kerry tried to achieve a framework agreement during Mr Obama’s second term, but his one-year effort fell short.”

That laconic sentence of course refers to the 2013/14 round of talks that came to an end after the Palestinians had opted to reject a framework proposed by the US, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas.

The article goes on to describe Israeli construction as a “fundamental problem” for the Palestinians without clarifying that prior to Obama’s 2009 insistence on a construction freeze, they were perfectly able to conduct negotiations on numerous occasions even though building was ongoing at the time.

“Mr Netanyahu may moderate the current pace of settlement activity but he is not going to stop it. The Palestinians will continue to see settlement activity as a fundamental problem.”

The pertinent issue of the Hamas-Fatah split is addressed in this article as follows:

“The Palestinians are deeply divided. In 2006, Hamas won an unexpected majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature over Mr Abbas’ Fatah Party. The Palestinians have lacked political unity ever since.

Today, Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, is the de facto government in Gaza. Full elections have not been held in more than a decade.”

However, the fact that Hamas is not a member of the body – the PLO – that conducts negotiations with Israel is not clarified and neither is the very relevant fact that Hamas rejects the two-state solution or that Fatah rejects one of its basic requirements: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic spike in the amount of content produced by the BBC relating directly or indirectly to the topic of the two-state solution and the ‘peace process’ in general.

In common with most of that content, this article once again fails to give BBC audiences the full range of information needed to enhance their understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have yet to bear fruit. Palestinian actions, choices, policies and decisions are erased from view while the story is framed as being about a “moribund”, “fading” two-state solution which is endangered primarily by Israeli construction and – lately – by a supposed “shift” in US policy.

Clearly that framing is not the result of an aspiration to meet the BBC’s public purpose remit but by the drive to promote a politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

As has already been documented here, following last week’s visit by the Israeli prime minister to the White House both the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4 told their audiences of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration. [emphasis added]

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift.”

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“…President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 15th heard similar messaging in the lead story (from 01:22 here) which was introduced by Paul Henley as follows:newshour-15-2-17

“First, President Trump has given a warm welcome to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on a visit to the White House. The two leaders held a joint news conference full of mutual praise.”

Following a number of audio clips from the press conference, the item continued:

Henley: “Probably the most eagerly awaited question was whether President Trump would change the US’s long-standing policy of promoting a two-state solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is how he responded.”

Trump: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Henley: “So what is the reaction to what’s been interpreted by some as the ripping up of 30 years of US policy on Israel? Our correspondent in Jerusalem, Jonny Dymond, has been giving me his assessment.” [emphasis in bold added]

That messaging was then reinforced by Jonny Dymond. [emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “I think it represents a pretty serious shift – albeit one which was perhaps clouded by Trump’s oratorical style. Before we’d heard from President Trump and from the unnamed White House official who trailed this policy shift, the policy was pretty clear. It was that there was a two-state solution and that’s what negotiations would drive towards. Ah…ah…the State of Israel and a Palestinian state emerging next to it and the Palestinians had signed up to that, the Israelis had signed up to that with some caveats.”

Like his colleagues from the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4, Dymond presented “the Palestinians” as a homogenous group, refraining from pointing out to audiences that the Palestinian faction which gained the most votes last time elections were held certainly has not “signed up” to the idea of a two-state solution or that Hamas’ rival faction Fatah refuses to countenance a crucial component of the two-state solution concept: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. He went on:

Dymond: “It was US policy, it was the policy of the EU, it was the policy pretty much agreed upon by a number of Arab states as well. Ehm…now the president has said ‘well, take your pick; one-state solution, two-state solution’. He has effectively said the US no longer has an end point for negotiations. It will no longer drive negotiations towards any particular end point. And that is a pretty big shift in policy given that the two-state solution has been the policy for – what? – three decades or so.”

Once again BBC audiences were told that the two-state solution has been accepted policy for decades despite the fact that the Oslo Accords of the 90s make no reference to a two-state solution, leaving the issue of the final, permanent status of the territories to be negotiated between the parties.

The item continued with Dymond – in accordance with what is now standard BBC framing – describing Area C as “Palestinian land” despite the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, its final status is to be resolved through negotiations.

Henley: “And we hear that many in the Israeli government are cheered by the presence of Donald Trump in the White House and his obviously warm stance towards Israel. Are they cheered because there’s any more prospect of a peaceful resolution to this long-running conflict or simply because they think that Donald Trump will fight their corner?”

Dymond: “Oh very much the latter; that they think that Donald Trump is a supporter of Israel and will not place what they see as undue pressure on Israel over issues such as building in Palestinian land – the settlements – and forcing Israel to make painful compromises towards an eventual deal. And I think we saw and heard in the news conference which the two men gave an extraordinary level of amity from Donald Trump towards both Mr Netanyahu as an individual and also towards Israel in general. The language was extraordinary and the one moment where he mentioned the possible compromise…ah…which was on the issue of building in Palestinian land known as settlements, he said I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit. It was hardly the kind of hard line with which Mr Netanyahu was greeted when he went to see Barack Obama and they made it very clear – the administration then made it clear that as far as they were concerned, settlements were a red line. There was nothing like this. This is a much, much more friendly administration for Israel in general and for Mr Netanyahu in particular.”

As we see in this item and others (see ‘related articles’ below), February 15th brought multi-platform BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion that the US administration had changed its policy regarding the two-state solution as well as inaccurate portrayal of the Oslo Accords as including the two-state solution and inaccurate claims of a Palestinian consensus regarding acceptance of the two-state solution.

Clearly the editorial policy behind all those reports was based on narrative rather than fact and clearly none of these reports contributed to meeting the BBC’s remit of providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the topic of the two-state solution.  

Related Articles:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

The February 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 19:53 here) relating to that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.twt-15-2

In that item, presented by Shaun Ley, listeners heard yet another baseless claim of a shift in US policy along with the inaccurate suggestion that the two-state solution formed part of the Oslo Accords. [emphasis added]

Ley: “Now for a quarter of a century a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been the default position of diplomats and politicians alike. It would mean an independent Palestine set up alongside Israel. Tonight at a White House news conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners then heard a recording of the US president speaking at that press conference which was apparently intended to support Ley’s claim that Trump had changed US foreign policy.

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Ley continued with what has become a standard BBC theme: promotion of ‘settlements’ as the main obstacle to an agreement, with numerous no less relevant factors such as the Hamas-Fatah split, Hamas’ rejection of the two-state solution or the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state obscured from audience view.

“Mr Netanyahu certainly received a much warmer welcome here than he had when President Obama was in the White House and he appeared to be enjoying the experience. There was an awkward moment though when, having talked about the need for compromise, the president raised the thorny issue of Israeli settlements: a longstanding obstacle to any deal.”

Another recording from the press conference was then heard.

Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started till late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

Netanyahu: “Let’s try it.”

Trump: “Doesn’t sound too optimistic…good negotiator.”

Netanyahu: “That’s the art of the deal.”

Ley then inaccurately told listeners that Netanyahu’s reply “Let’s try it” related to the topic of settlements rather than to a deal.

Ley: “Well you may just have heard, just before the end of that clip was Mr Netanyahu apparently replying to the challenge over settlements with the words ‘let’s try it’. But on the question of two states or one the Israeli prime minister said too much time over the years had been devoted to labels rather than substance.”

Netanyahu: “So here’s the substance: there are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out several years ago and they haven’t changed. First, the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state. Second, in any peace agreement Israel must retain the over-riding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river because if we don’t, we know what will happen.”

Ley: “This evening the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Donald Trump’s call on Israel to pull back on settlement building and pledged to work with the Americans. Manuel Hassassian leads the Palestinian mission in the UK. He believes President Trump made a terrible mistake.”

Listeners then heard Manuel Hassassian again promote the inaccurate notion that the two-state solution was included in the Oslo Accords. They also heard him make the false claims – completely unchallenged by Shaun Ley – that the 1949 Armistice lines are “borders” and that the definition of the two-state solution is that a Palestinian state would be established on all of the land occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Hassassian: “For the last 24 years when we embarked on the peace process, everybody agreed that the two-state solution would be the solution that will end the conflict and end the occupation – meaning that the Palestinian will have a state on the borders of 1967 as a result of the Security Council resolutions 234 and 388. There is a international consensus. International community talking all the time about a two-state solution.”

Seeing as UNSC resolution 388 relates to Rhodesia, Hassassian may have intended to say 338. However, neither UN Security Council resolution 234 nor 338 make any reference to a Palestinian state but Ley failed to challenge Hassassian on that too, continuing:

Ley: “But that consensus has achieved over 25 years next to nothing. Isn’t there an argument that actually on the ground people have long since given up on the idea of a two-state solution because they haven’t seen it…it’s been a convenient parking space for talking. It’s been a way of saying ‘oh look: we have something that we’re aiming for but then we don’t actually have to do anything about it’. Isn’t at least the consequence of this to throw all the pieces up into the air and force people to start talking for real?”

Hassassian: “Yes, the two-state solution and the peace process for the last 24 years have brought nothing except pain and humiliation and suffering for the Palestinian people. We have not seen any breakthrough in this peace process because I think the United States, personally, was not an honest broker of peace and they never really put any pressures on the Israelis to halt settlements. And settlements now are the major impediment to any kind of agreement and a lasting solution.”

Ley’s failure to challenge Manuel Hassassian on the claim that “settlements now are the major impediment” to an agreement is of course unsurprising since he too had made that same claim just minutes earlier, showing the extent to which the BBC has adopted the PLO’s talking points. Similarly failing to ask Hassassian why the PA initiated the second Intifada in 2000, why the PA refuses to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or what the PLO intends to do about Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, he continued.

Ley: “I mean President Trump did challenge the prime minister on this. He said can you…can you hold off on the settlements for a little bit.”

Hassassian: “Well basically he said it’s a problem but he did not really challenge Netanyahu to stop settlements. Since Clinton administration the US position has always been a two-state solution known [knowing] that the borders will be the 1967 borders.”

Clinton peace plan

Clinton peace plan

That claim too is of course false: the Clinton parameters (which were rejected by the Palestinians) clearly included land swaps and did not advocate a two-state solution based on mythical ‘1967 borders’. Hassassian went on:

“Now this is a dramatic shift in Trump’s policy to look at the peace process as something between two partners that can work out a solution with the blessings of the United States, short of a Palestinian state and more appeasing basic to Netanyahu. And the idea of Trump moving the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem is against international law…”

Ley: “Which he repeated again today. He repeated again today he is considering doing that or looking very seriously at it.”

Hassassian: “If he does that he is just ruining the entire peace process. He is defying the international law and he knows very well that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a breach to all kinds of agreements; to all UN Security Council, believing that Jerusalem is the united capital – the eternal capital – of the State of Israel. That will dramatically shift the entire game and the entire negotiations and the entire peace process. If he does that, this is a recipe for another intifada or a reaction and he is going to lose partners from the European Union that have adamantly supported the two-state solution when East Jerusalem is considered to be an occupied city. If he does that then there is no role for the United States as a gavel holder or as a shepherd to this entire peace process. He is opening a Pandora’s box of conflicts with the Europeans, with the Islamic world, with the Arab world, with the international community, defying UN Security Council resolutions and where does that leave us?”

Apparently uninterested in Hassassian’s unveiled threats of violence and failing to clarify to listeners that the Quartet – which includes the EU – calls for “a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem”, Ley closed the interview there.

The BBC’s remit includes the priority of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. Obviously the inaccurate and misleading claims made by the presenter together with his complete failure to challenge the falsehoods and propaganda promoted by his interviewee did nothing to contribute to meeting that objective.

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

BBC reporting on the topic of the perennial electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip has long been noteworthy for its failure to inform audiences of the full background to that crisis.

The latest example of that style of reporting was seen at the beginning of this month in Tim Franks’ radio report from Gaza for the BBC World Service and it was also evident in two BBC News website reports published a couple of weeks earlier.gaza-power-crisis-2

The Times of Israel recently published an interview with the Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip which once again highlights the fact that BBC audiences are being serially denied the full range of information necessary for understanding of this topic. 

“Qatar’s special envoy to Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi, said that he maintains “excellent” ties with various Israeli officials, and that in some case it is Palestinian officials who are holding up efforts to better the lives of residents of the Strip. […]

Al-Amadi said he planned to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Sunday regarding an agreement that would help solve the Gaza energy crisis.

He said that while Israel has agreed to take part in the deal, the Palestinian Authority has been holding it up.

“We proposed the establishment of a technical committee, free of politicians, that would be responsible for handling Gaza’s energy problem. The committee would be composed of experts from Gaza, [Qatar], the UN, and UNRWA; and they would manage Gaza’s energy affairs,” said al-Amadi.

“This is a very serious matter that should help you in Israel as well, since these are your neighbors that are without regular electricity and water flowing to their homes. The Israelis understand this and are helping, but there are other parties that are not” — namely, the PA.

“We are talking about a three-staged plan: The first stage deals primarily with solving the problem of payment for fuel,” he said, noting that there’s been a longstanding dispute between Hamas and the PA on that front.

“[For] the second or intermediate stage,” al-Amadi continued, “we are talking with Israel about the construction of a power line between Israel and Gaza that would help with the power outages.

“The long-term stage concerns the supply of gas to the Strip in a manner that would increase the output of the power plant, thus allowing for more power in Gaza. Gas costs one-fifth of the price of the diesel currently operating the power plant,” al-Amadi concluded.”

And yet, the BBC continues to tell its audiences that the Gaza power shortages are rooted in Israeli actions rather than in the long-standing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

gaza-power-quote-1

gaza-power-quote-2

 

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

On February 15th visitors to the BBC News website came across two articles telling them that the new US administration had changed that country’s policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says:

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift. […]

For decades successive US governments have backed a two-state solution – the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state that lives side-by-side with Israel.

But on Tuesday, an unnamed senior White House official suggested the US would support any form of final peace deal reached between Israel and the Palestinians, retreating from its long-term insistence of a two-state formula.” [emphasis added]trump-policy-change-art

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution:

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [emphasis added]

The BBC was of course not the only media outlet to promote that theme but, as Yair Rosenberg explained at the Tablet, it is not fact-based.

“Yesterday, President Donald Trump made a fairly straightforward statement about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was promptly inflated into a geopolitical earthquake by much of the media. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians-if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

As I noted at the time, this formulation did little to alter American support for the two-state solution in practice, since both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not “like” the one-state solution:

[D]ecades of polling shows that while Israelis and Palestinians narrowly support a two-state outcome, they are decidedly opposed to a one-state endgame, which many see as a recipe for strife and civil war. Most recently, a joint 2016 survey by Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 68% of Palestinians oppose the one-state solution, as do 64% of Israelis.

Thus, given Trump’s own qualifications, his words functionally did nothing to change traditional U.S. support for the two-state solution as the preferred solution of both parties. As Ilan Goldenberg, a former Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator under John Kerry, put it, “One state is being overhyped in this instance as long as Trump keeps talking about what works for both parties.” But you wouldn’t know this from reading some of the breathless reports that followed Trump’s initial statement on Wednesday.”

Rosenberg also analysed why the media – including the BBC – got this story wrong.

“The press, however, has been primed for a major Trump shift on Israel policy since day one, and has been interpreting events through that distorting lens. Searching for a dramatic sea change that simply has not arrived, reporters latched onto Trump’s largely anodyne comments about two states as confirmation, only to have their preconceived notion quickly dashed on the rocks of reality.

Of course, Trump may well decide to withdraw U.S. support for the two-state solution at some point in the future. But there is no evidence that he has done so. The histrionic hubbub surrounding his recent comments, then, should serve as a cautionary tale for media outlets about the power of narrative assumptions to overtake the actual facts.” 

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

h/t AO

In late December 2016 the BBC News website published an article that included an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?”

The original version of that explanatory insert amplified the Palestinian interpretation of the two-state solution as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967:

“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.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“…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.”2ss-trump-art-15-2

Later on, a change was made to the wording of that insert:

“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]”

On February 15th the later version of that insert reappeared in two BBC News website reports:

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution

The following day it was found in two additional articles titled Israel-Palestinian conflict: UN warns Trump over two-state reversal” and “Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’“.

2ss-insert

The BBC’s decision to reuse that insert in the same format raises additional points.

1) The claim in the first paragraph that the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of Palestinian leaders is inaccurate and misleading because it does not clarify to BBC audiences the repeated refusal of Palestinian Authority leaders to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – a necessary condition for fulfilment of the concept of “two states for two peoples”. That claim also of course conceals the fact that Hamas and additional Palestinian factions reject the two-state solution outright. 

2) The reference to ‘East Jerusalem’ conceals the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:

“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”

As we see, an insert ostensibly intended to help BBC audiences understand the concept of the two-state solution in fact fails to provide the full range of information necessary for that aim to be achieved.

The BBC and book bans – real and imagined

Readers may recall that in late 2015 and early 2016, various BBC radio programmes misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

A BBC Watch complaint on the topic was eventually upheld.book-ban

Recently a Middle East author really did have a book banned. However, the writer is Palestinian and the government department that ordered the ban is part of the Palestinian Authority. Coincidentally or not, BBC audiences have heard nothing of that story.

“Palestinian Authority Attorney General Ahmad Barak announced on Monday that he was banning the distribution of a new novel on the grounds that it contained “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular minors.”

The book, Crime in Ramallah by Abbad Yahya, reportedly contains explicit sexual content, including masturbation.

The attorney general’s office stated that all copies of the novel would be seized because the book “breaches both international treaties and Palestinian press and publication ordinance.””

In addition, the author apparently faces an arrest warrant.

“In a telephone interview, Yahya told The Associated Press that he was visiting Doha when he learned of the ban and the arrest warrant, published by the official governmental news agency. He said he is now stuck in the Qatari capital, fearing he would be arrested as soon as he returns home.

“I don’t know what to do. If I go back, I will be arrested, and if I stay here, I can’t stay far from my home and family,” he said.”

Oddly, the media organisation that gave so much coverage to a non-existent ‘book ban’ while citing unfounded concerns of “political interference in Israeli culture” does not appear to be interested in reporting this actual Palestinian Authority banning of a novel.

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Special final instalment – part two

The second segment 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) that was broadcast on February 3rd can be found from 45:09 here.newshour-3-2

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

Franks: “Welcome back to Israel and Tel Aviv. It’s Friday so it’s the weekend and these boardwalk cafés and shops on the edge of the Mediterranean are overflowing. Tel Aviv is smart and hip and pulsing with the hi-tech start-ups that are so key to the modern Israeli economic success story. That sector, this place, can feel a world away from ‘the conflict’ even though the West Bank is only ten miles, 16 kilometers, down the road. But in between the two – almost exactly geographically in between – lives a man who says the topic is rarely out of his mind. He’s one of Israel’s greatest writers; David Grossman. He’s a life-long advocate of the two-state solution but does he now fear the ship has sailed?”

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

Grossman: “As an Israeli, as a Jew, the idea of something that is irreversible is not acceptable. All the reality of us today consist of so many impossibilities of 20 or 30 years ago. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, the fact that an Afro-American man was elected as president in the United States, the new elect president that seems even more impossible even when he’s already possible, seems impossible. All these were regarded as a dream and suddenly they happened and once they happened, all reality started to reorganise itself around them. It is possible because a) I do not see any better solution and b) because still there is a majority in both peoples; the more mainstream and realistic and sober people who will vote for this solution.”

Franks: “Why did you say, in that case, back in 2014 ‘the Israeli Right has not only vanquished the Left, it has vanquished Israel’?”

Grossman: “I cannot afford the luxury of despair because I live here, it is home for me. But I think that what the Right-wing did to Israel is that it dismantled the infrastructure of Israel as a state, as a civil society and brought us back to a situation where the family and the tribe are the superior dimension. What really counts is the deep, total, unconditional loyalty to the idea of the Jew. And this is dangerous because you see how such behaviour and such belief dooms us to perpetuate the conflict. I do not say that the voices of the Right-wing are totally wrong. I do not say it. I pay a lot of respect to the way they are afraid for the future of Israel in this region. I share many of their fears.”

Franks then raised a very relevant issue but misrepresented it as being in the domain of “the Right” whereas in actual fact, the second Intifada and the outcome of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip caused many Left-leaning Israelis to reconsider the ‘land for peace’ formula too.

Franks: “And yet the argument often voiced from the Right is that you’re dreaming and you’re coming up against the reality of recent historical experience. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 – Hizballah rushed in to fill the vacuum. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 – Hamas took over. It would be insane, say the Right, for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.”

Notably, Grossman did not answer that question but did go on to promote a generalised and completely unsourced allegation concerning Israeli ‘views’ of Palestinians which went unquestioned by Franks.  

Grossman: “It is a dream to believe that we should continue to be a democracy if we keep a regime of occupation on a whole other people. Now if you are occupying another people for 50 years inevitably you start to believe that you are better; that there are two groups of human beings. One is superior and one is inferior by nature, existentially. People in Israel start to feel that the Palestinians by nature and existentially are inferior. This is a destructive way of thinking. It is destructive for us inside Israel. It’s destructive to our relationship with others. It is destructive by the way we find ourselves entrapped again in this idea of the chosen people, which I find as a pathetic, dangerous idea that in a way brought us to live our life in a kind of mythological level; not in a down to earth level. They say I’m a dreamer. They are nightmarish reality creator.”

Franks: “What about the criticism from the Left – from the international Left – that Zionism is founded on a contradiction. That yes, you want a homeland for the Jews but that inevitably involves the dispossession of another people and that is what is at the root of this conflict.”

Grossman: “So what do you suggest? To dismantle Israel and send us back to the countries we came from? No: even if there have been some injustices and ill-doings and even crimes in the first stages of the creating of Israel, now we have a reality. You know you will not repair one injustice by creating another injustice. We shall try to create a recovery but I think it will be pointless – in a way an excuse for not dealing with the complexity of the present situation – to go back 70 years ago.”

Franks: “All that you’ve said is an appeal for there still to be hope, as you describe it. Much of what you’ve written is a lament. You are a brilliant chronicler of grief and pain and loss and I wonder whether part of that is because of that sense of loss in what your country has become.”

Grossman: “First of all, I beg to differ. I have all kind of books and I think that the very act of writing, of creating a new reality, is an act of liberty and an act of hope. Being oppressed by the heaviness of the situation, by the feeling of hopelessness, [unintelligible] the ability to create, just to create characters and to deal with the nuances of life – not like what we see here when you go out to the big thick blocks of politics that have no nuances and no real understanding of the delicacy of the situation. When you write you are able really to get to the thinnest fibres of human conditions and human situation and especially when you live your life under the heaviness of grief. The power of writing is to act against the gravity of all those losses. Even in the worst human situation you can still throw something into the future like an anchor that you throw away from you – an anchor of hope – and you start to pull yourself until you can get there. Because once you are able to perform this act of hope, you say that you are not totally eliminated.”

Franks: “David Grossman, insisting he will not be denied his hope of peace and that the old order can change fast. But there are many others I’ve spoken to here who believe that change can also work destructively, that it’s ever more likely to be so and that when it does, the future – once imagined the future of a two-state solution – will stay left forever in the past.”

The declared purpose of this series of long reports by Tim Franks was – in the BBC’s own words – to examine the question “Is The Two-State Solution Dead?“. Clips from those reports were curated on a special webpage bearing that title which provides the following rationale for Franks’ visit to the region:franks-merukaz

“The moribund peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis has rarely looked so fragile. The very notion of a negotiated two-state solution is looking increasingly unattainable, and to some, undesirable. Newshour’s Tim Franks travelled to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to investigate what visions the people living there hold for the future.”

Throughout this series of reports listeners heard from four Israelis and six Palestinians. The prime focus was placed on portrayal of ‘settlements’ as the main obstacle to the two-state solution. Despite the opportunities presented by interviews with representatives of Hamas and Fatah, Franks avoided raising a whole host of no less relevant topics including the ‘two or three-state’ question raised by the decade-long split between Hamas and Fatah.

Hamas’ refusal to countenance the two-state solution and the rehabilitation and expansion of its military capabilities were completely excluded from audience view. The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state together with its incitement – including portrayal of the whole of Israel as ‘Palestinian land’ – and glorification of terrorism were similarly ignored. Not only did Franks fail to raise the relevant topic of the peace process-killing second Intifada but – in line with usual BBC policy – the word ‘terror’ did not once pass his lips.

If the aim of sending Tim Franks to the region was to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of why the peace process fails to progress and to enable them to reach informed opinions about the relevance of the two-state option, then obviously that purpose was not achieved in this series of long reports.

If, however, the purpose was to try to convince audiences – as the BBC has been doing intensively for some time and in particular since the US election – that the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Israeli building, then Tim Franks certainly ticked the box.

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

 

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

BBC silent as UNESCO resolutions come home to roost

Back in October 2016 the BBC produced three reports relating to two resolutions passed by UNESCO.unesco-art

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here

As was noted here at the time:

“And yet again, the context of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel was erased from audience view. Readers were not informed that both the PA’s ruling party Fatah and Hamas lauded the UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.”  

Fast forward to late January 2017 and a speech made by the new UN Secretary General in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his address, Mr Guterres said:

“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis.  On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism.
 
Imperial Rome not only destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, but also made Jews pariahs in many ways.  The attacks and abuse grew worse through the triumph of Christianity and the propagation of the idea that the Jewish community should be punished for the death of Jesus – an absurdity that helped to trigger massacres and other tremendous crimes against Jews around the world for centuries to come.” [emphasis added]

Those five highlighted words and a radio interview in which Mr Guterres also mentioned the ancient Jewish Temple garnered some furious reactions – including invocation of the UNESCO resolutions passed in October.  

““[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.”

And:

““[Gueterres] ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aksa Mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” Adnan al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs minister, told Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet, clarifying that the UN secretary-general “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs, overstepped his role as secretary general, and…must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.” […]

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, said that the statements “undermine the trustworthiness of the UN as a body that should support occupied peoples.”

“It appears that the secretary general of the United Nations lacks culture and knowledge in his own specialization,” Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Xinhua, calling on the UN secretary-general to clarify his position “that gives a green light to the occupation to undertake more measures against Jerusalem.””

Similar reactions were seen in the PA’s official daily newspaper:

“Antonio Guterres clearly and explicitly sinned against peace and the Palestinian-Israeli political agreement when he claimed yesterday [Jan. 29, 2017] in an interview with the Hebrew-language Voice of Israel [radio] that he ‘believes in the connection between Jerusalem and the Jews.’ In contradiction to the UNESCO resolutions, history, and facts, the secretary-general claimed that it is as clear as day – in his opinion which is far from the truth and the facts – that ‘The Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans was a Jewish Temple’…
Mr. Antonio, if you care about history and if it is important to you, [you should know that] Jerusalem and all of Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea – are the land of the Palestinian people, and their history is its history.”

Unsurprisingly, the self-styled ‘standard-setter for international journalism’ which at the time ignored Palestinian praise of the resolutions for erasing Jewish history – preferring instead to promote Saeb Erekat’s claim that ‘the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”’ – has not reported this story.

Related Articles:

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage