BBC News ignores events that challenge its chosen ‘peace process’ narrative

As we recently observed, the BBC’s coverage of the launch of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposals once again provided no shortage of examples of the corporation’s one-dimensional portrayal of supposed Palestinian aspirations.

Does BBCsplaining of Palestinian aspirations stand up to scrutiny?

While BBC audiences are no doubt able to recite by heart the narrative according to which “the Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem”, they do not see any serious reporting on the topic of Palestinians who are opposed to the two-state solution.

This past week two stories emerged which did not – and will not – receive any BBC coverage because they contradict the chosen editorial line. The first of those stories concerns a meeting held in Tel Aviv.

“Palestinian factions have condemned the participation of Palestinian figures in a meeting organized by The Israeli Peace Parliament, a public unaffiliated forum whose members are former representatives of a variety of political parties and movements, including former ministers and members of the Knesset.

Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv was held under the banner “Yes to Peace,” “No to Annexation” and “Two States for Two People.”

Twenty Palestinians participated in the meeting. Among them: former Palestinian Authority economy minister Bassem Khoury; former PA health ministers Fathi Abu Mughlieh and Sameeh al-Abed; former PA local governance minister Hussein al-A’raj; and former PA prisoners affairs minister Ashraf al-Ajrami. […]

Denouncing the gathering, Hamas said it was a “blow to all Palestinian positions rejecting US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the meeting was also a form of “normalization” with Israel that is rejected by all Palestinians. “These meetings encourage some parties in the region to normalize their relations with the Zionist entity,” Qassem said. “They also weaken the movement of solidarity with our Palestinian people.” […]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Ahmed al-Mudalal strongly condemned the meeting in Tel Aviv. “How can we convince the world to reject normalization [with Israel] when some of us are promoting it and involved in it?” he asked. “These meetings are intended to support Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’”

The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) denounced the meeting as a “stabbing of the Palestinian people.””

The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh also reported that: 

“Anti-Israel groups, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, have also joined the “anti-normalization” drive.
After Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv, several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused the Palestinian participants of engaging in normalization with Israel. Palestinian Facebook users published “black lists” of some of the participants and accused them of betraying the Palestinian people and cause by talking to Israelis.
A woman who attended the Israeli Peace Parliament gathering in Tel Aviv told the Post she has since received scores of hate messages from Palestinians who hurled abuse at her and called her a traitor. […]

The smear campaign on social-media platforms forced one of the Palestinian participants, Hamdallah Al-Hamdallah, mayor of the West Bank town of Anabta, to announce his resignation on his Facebook page. […]

On Monday, Bir Zeit University published a statement distancing itself from Bassem Khoury, a member of the university’s board of trustees who participated in the Tel Aviv meeting. The statement came after students protested against his participation in the “normalization meeting” with Israelis.
“The university affirms its clear policy of rejecting any form of normalization with the occupation,” the statement said.”

Opposition to ‘normalisation’ has of course long been a tenet of the anti-Israel BDS campaign but the BBC’s enduring record of superficial reporting on that campaign has avoided that topic.

The second story concerns the Palestinian Authority’s invitation of a group of Israeli journalists to briefings in Ramallah on February 16th.

“The attacks on Palestinian “normalizers” escalated on Sunday after Palestinians learned that Israeli journalists had been invited to Ramallah for meetings with PA officials.
Many Palestinians posted on social media a video of some of the journalists near Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah. The Palestinians claimed the Israeli journalists were “Jewish settlers who had invaded Ramallah.”
As photos of the meetings between the journalists and the PA officials surfaced, dozens of Palestinians launched an online campaign denouncing normalization with Israel as “criminal and treachery.” […]

On Monday morning, unknown assailants hurled Molotov cocktails at a restaurant where senior PA official Mahmoud al-Habbash met with Israeli journalists on Sunday. Nobody was hurt and no damage was reported. The attack, however, served as yet another warning to Madani and other Palestinians engaged in all forms of dialogue with Israelis.”

As one of the participating Israeli journalists noted, the meeting was also condemned by senior PLO members Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi.

The fact that BBC audiences have heard nothing of these two stories comes as no surprise. The editorial policy which underlies the BBC’s frequent and ample coverage of ‘the peace process’ allows no room for the reporting of events which challenge its chosen narrative concerning Palestinian aspirations and its misleading portrayal of one unified and representative Palestinian voice that aspires to peace by means of a two-state solution. That means that the BBC is deliberately avoiding its obligation to provide audiences with information which would enhance their ability to understand and engage with the issue.  

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Last week we looked at the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan.

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

But did visitors to the BBC News website fare any better?

Below is a summary of the relevant content published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between January 27th and January 30th – eleven items in all.

Many of the reports promote talking points also evident (including before anyone at the BBC had actually read the proposal) in BBC radio and television coverage:

  • Description of the proposal as a “surrender document” for the Palestinians which does not meet their demands.
  • Presentation of the document as fully meeting Israeli demands.
  • Presentation of the timing of the launch of the document as being related to political and legal processes in the US and Israel.
  • Amplification of the talking points of the PLO and political NGOs, including the ‘apartheid’ trope.
  • Portrayal of the Palestinians as having no agency and predictions of ‘inevitable’ violence.

January 27th:

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Although now dated January 29th, the article was originally published on January 27th – the day before the US proposal was launched – as part of the BBC’s cross-platform preemptive framing of the story.

“…the Trump plan gives Mr Netanyahu all he wants – and offers Palestinians very little; a sort-of state that will be truncated, without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements.”

“Israel argues the Palestinians turned down a series of good offers. The Palestinian negotiators say they made huge concessions, not least accepting Israel’s existence in around 78% of their historic homeland.”

“The timing of the announcement of the Trump initiative suits the political and legal needs of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu. Both men face elections. As well as that, Mr Trump gets a distraction from his impeachment, and from his trial in the US Senate for high crimes and misdemeanours. Mr Netanyahu faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust.”

“Essentially the Palestinians have been told to take it or leave it. They are being given a surrender document, told to accept that Israel has won, and with its American friends will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

“There is a chance Palestinians will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

January 28th:

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (video without commentary)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan  (video without commentary)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’  (video without commentary)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan  with analysis from Jonathan Marcus and a link to the website of a political NGO which engages in ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

“…his [Trump’s] “take it or leave it offer” will appal many long-standing students of the region. The question now is not so much what benefit this deal might bring but how much damage it may do by over-turning Palestinian aspirations.”

“Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the proposals envisaged a form of apartheid.

It said Palestinians would be relegated “to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.

Israel’s Peace Now organisation said the plan was “as detached from reality as it is eye-catching”.

“The plan’s green light for Israel to annex the settlements in exchange for a perforated Palestinian state is unviable and would not bring stability,” it said.”

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman discussed

“The Trump document says applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements would be compensated by land swaps to Palestinians. It would also recognise Israeli sovereignty over the strategically important Jordan Valley, a key swathe of land in the West Bank important for agriculture running along the border with neighbouring Jordan. […]

But Palestinians say the move will entrench apartheid.”

January 29th:

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues? Backgrounder

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the US plan “recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine”, while Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned that Palestinians would be “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.”

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool

“Israeli opposition figures have not shied away from suggesting that the timing of the proposal’s release was aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election to be held on 2 March.”

“The impeachment allegations [against Trump] suggest sordid and dishonourable use of his powerful position for personal political gain; withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine until Kiev opened investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr Trump might hope the unveiling of his proposal would offer Americans a contrasting narrative of his skills as a statesman, delivering “the deal of the century”.”

“There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.

Evangelical Christians were huge financial backers of the Trump campaign in 2016, but there were others who would have wanted to see some return on the support they gave during the last election reflected in this proposal.

Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, has already endorsed Mr Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it appreciated the efforts of the president.”

“Whether the plan and the timing of its release is about backing Mr Netanyahu, distracting from impeachment troubles, playing domestic politics or if it is indeed driven by ideology, it comes with huge risks.

It can be seen as a proposal that gives Israel the authorisation to broaden its occupation, already a source of misery for so many. The fear is that a proposal that gives Palestinians so little hope is one that also strengthens hard-liners across the region.”

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (video with commentary)

“The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explains why the proposal is so divisive.”

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’

“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration had simply “copied and pasted” the steps that Mr Netanyahu wanted to see implemented.

“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid,” he said. “Moving to the de jure annexation of settlements is something that was given the green light yesterday.””

January 30th:

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin interview with Mohammad Shtayyeh (video)

As we see the BBC elected to interview the Palestinian Authority prime minister but not any senior Israeli official. The BBC chose to showcase political NGOs and a PLO official promoting the baseless ‘apartheid’ trope but did not provide an alternative viewpoint. The reports written by the BBC staff presented a disturbingly uniform negative view of the topic and audiences were not provided with a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. It is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

BBC WS radio promotes US peace plan commentary from partisan lobbying group

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

 

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

As we saw earlier, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme supplied its listeners with preemptive framing of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan which was based primarily on speculation and promoted the unchallenged talking points of the Palestinian Authority’s representative in the UK, Husam Zomlot.

BBC World Service radio adopted a similar editorial line and the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on January 28th included an eleven-minute section (from 30:05 here) about a document that at the time of broadcast had not been made public which likewise provided Zomlot with a friendly platform.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item with the unsupported assertion that the US president “claims he is close to establishing it [peace] for good” and with amplification of the BBC Middle East editor’s speculations concerning the ‘weighting’ of the plan.  

Iqbal: “Peace in the Middle East has been as elusive as a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or the search for the Holy Grail. But President Trump claims he is close to establishing it for good. He is of course…he has of course always got a view and others are likely to contest it. Mr Trump is expected to announce his peace proposal later today, the groundwork having been done by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Although we don’t know exactly what’s in it, rumours and leaks suggest it is heavily weighted towards Israel in comparison to previous initiatives. The optics as he made the announcement about today’s impending announcement at the White House also offer a clue. Flanked by two Israeli politicians, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz: both invited to be briefed on the plan. […]”

Netanyahu and Gantz in fact met Trump separately and so the “optics” described by Iqbal are inaccurate. She went on to promote another talking point in the BBC’s cross-platform framing of the story:

Iqbal: “Some further political context for you: President Trump faces an impeachment trial of course and back in Israel president…err…prime minister Netanyahu has been formally indicted on three corruption cases. Far away from all of that Mr Netanyahu thanked President Trump for what he has done for Israel. […] Well we haven’t seen a full plan but according to Israeli media it could see the US formally back Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Old City which contains most of the city’s sensitive holy sites. The Old City lies in East Jerusalem, annexed decades ago by Israel in a move not internationally recognised, which Palestinians want as their future capital. Let’s speak first to Husam Zomlot who is the Palestinian ambassador to London. […] What do you know about what’s in this plan?”

As mentioned in relation to Zomlot’s earlier interview with the ‘Today’ programme, in 2018 the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time. 

Zomlot: “Like you we know nothing. Nobody knows anything except President Trump and the Israeli side, be it the prime minister Netanyahu or the head of the opposition and for that matter actually there are all the heads and the leaders of the illegal settler movement in the occupied territories joining the discussion in Washington.”

Iqbal did not bother to clarify to listeners that the four local council heads who travelled to Washington did not ‘join’ the discussions with the US president or that – in stark contrast to the impression given by Zomlot –  some described themselves as “very troubled” by the plan.

Neither did she bother to challenge Zomlot’s subsequent baseless assertion that the publication of the plan would enable Trump and Netanyahu to “dodge charges”.

Zomlot: “So this is an Israeli-Israeli negotiation endorsed by President Trump and it’s really a sad piece of political circus. Really the political circus and you know the timing is very telling. This is not about peace. This is about dodging criminal charges against the two involved, Trump Netanyahu, given what is happening today in the Congress and what is happening today also in the Israeli Knesset. And they think that they can dodge all these charges and face the coming elections by actually pressuring the Palestinians to give up our rights.”

Iqbal: “OK, pressuring the Palestinians to give up your rights. Let’s just go back a little bit. When President Trump was first elected the relationship between the US president and the Palestinians was pretty good. In fact Mahmoud Abbas did meet with the president several times. Declaring Jerusalem the capital obviously shifted things. How much involvement has there been, if any, between the Palestinians and Jared Kushner?”

Zomlot: “As you said we started with a very good process. Our president Mahmoud Abbas met President Trump several times – four times in a few weeks actually – in 2017. We met the team of President Trump – Kushner and Greenblatt – more than thirty times and while we were at it I receive a phone call from the State Department because I was the head of Palestinian mission in Washington telling me that our mission in Washington is to be closed and shut us down, right at the height of the discussions. So right from the beginning this process was never about a deal or a plan or even peace or consulting the Palestinians. This whole thing was about bullying the Palestinians, coercing the Palestinian people into some sort of a submission. And today is just the theatre for that announcement of the final submission of the Palestinian people. Now…”

Iqbal made no attempt to question that blatant distortion of the reasons behind the closure of the PLO mission in Washington DC in 2018. She did however go on to amplify his narrative.

Iqbal [interrupts]: “And how will…how will, Ambassador, how will the Palestinians respond to this because everything you’re saying suggests that this is not a peace process, this is not a plan that will in any way benefit the Palestinians. How will you react?”

Zomlot: “Well first of all the first reaction must come from the international community because the two-state solution that is about to be dismantled, destroyed in a few hours’ time by President Trump and his ally Netanyahu, the two-state solution was and is an international demand – international consensus, including the United Kingdom by the way – and therefore what is at stake here is not just the rights of the Palestinians. We are capable to defend our rights. We are a very rooted society. We have been there for a long time. We have seen many empires come and go but we remain. What we are really concerned about is the ability of the international system, order, legitimacy to withstand this sheer onslaught on the very premise of internationalism, which is our cooperation, which is the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force and annexing territory by force.”

Razia Iqbal made no effort to remind listeners that when Jordan acquired the territory now claimed by the Palestinians by force, the PLO had no objections and that it specifically stated that it had no claims “over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area”.

Neither did she challenge Zomlot’s cynical attempt to suggest equivalence – as he did earlier on Radio 4 – between the situation of the Palestinians and the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust.

Zomlot: “What we will witness in a couple of hours in Washington is the slaughtering of what we built together as a human family after the horrors of the Second World War including the horrors and the evil of the Holocaust that we remembered only yesterday, the 75 years of the Holocaust and the never again. And so we built together a system to protect us, all the humanity. What is at stake is that.”

Iqbal: “OK.”

Zomlot: “We Palestinians have a lot to do to make sure that our rights are not for sale and we remain on our land.”

Iqbal: “Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to London. Thank you for joining us.”

While Radio 4 listeners at least got to hear one Israeli voice (out of three) in the ‘Today’ programme’s preemptive framing of the US proposal, listeners to BBC World Service radio then heard yet another negative opinion from a “former negotiator” of failed peace plans, Aaron David Miller.

Clearly this long item was entirely one-sided and made no attempt whatsoever to provide ‘Newshour’ listeners around the world with the “range and depth of analysis” stipulated by the BBC’s public purposes.  

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC News website amends inaccurate Palestinian envoy title

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Half a day before the launch of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan on January 28th, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired an edition which included several reports concerning a document which had at that stage not yet been made public.

Listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman (at 10:03 here), a news bulletin (at 2:02:46) during which Bateman told audiences that “the Palestinians say it [the US plan] would entrench apartheid” and another report by Bateman (at 2:48:40) based on vox pop interviews with people in Jerusalem.

The main item in that programme (from 2:10:04) included interviews with three people. Presenter Nick Robinson began by once again promoting the unsupported claim that the US administration calls the document ‘the deal of the century’ and adding another. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson: “It will be the deal of the century Donald Trump has long boasted; a plan which he’ll unveil today and which it’s claimed can produce what has eluded the world for decades – peace in the Middle East. It has though been drawn up without consultation with the Palestinians. The president of the Palestinian Authority has refused to even take a call from Donald Trump. That is in stark contrast to the presence at the White House yesterday of a beaming Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.”

Listeners first heard from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who repeated a speculation he had already made on the same programme three days earlier, claiming that “the agenda followed by Israel’s prime minister Mr Netanyahu has very much been absorbed by the Trump plan”. Bowen’s talking points included the claim that the plan is unlikely to succeed “if the objective is to bring peace to the area” and promotion of the Palestinian narrative concerning the Oslo Accords, which of course do not mention the two-state solution at all.

Bowen: “Since Oslo in 1993 – the Oslo Agreements – the underlying principle under all the negotiations that have been taking place is the so-called two-state solution. An independent Palestine alongside Israel. But the indications are that Trump wants to change that and perhaps get to a point where they say to the Palestinians ‘look, you’re not going to get it. Accept it; take what we’re offering now, much less than what you hoped for’.”

Bowen went on to promote additional speculation concerning “the timing of this initiative” – speculations which were shown later in the item to dovetail with PLO talking points.

Bowen: “…they [Trump and Netanyahu] are both men who need something else going on […] I think that the message from Netanyahu is ‘look, you don’t want to see me in court or even in jail’.”

In fact, more or less as Bowen was promoting that hypothesis, Netanyahu withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity.

Robinson’s next interviewee (from 2:13:12) was former national security advisor to the Israeli prime minister Yaakov Amidror and, refraining from reminding listeners that the US administration has been working on the plan for several years, he began by “putting to him the thought that this was really all about domestic politics” – a theory dismissed by Amidror.

Robinson went on:

Robinson: “…is what we call the two-state solution – the idea of a separate Palestinian state – is that going to be buried today?”

Amidror: “ As far as we know the deal includes an independent Palestinian state and if it will be adopted by the Israelis – by the Knesset or by the government – it will be the first time that formally Israel is adopting such [a] solution which was not mentioned in the Oslo Accords at all.”

Despite the BBC having repeatedly promoted the myth that the Oslo Accords were based on the concept of a two-state solution, Robinson showed no interest in expanding that point in order to enhance audience understanding and instead went on to ask whether “that state will be what they, the Palestinians, want as a state”.

Amidror: “No, it will not be the state that the Palestinians want. The state the Palestinians want does not include Israel at all. They want a Palestine all over from the Mediterranean into the Jordan River. As always the Palestinians say no before they know the details of the plan. Never in the history did the Palestinians agree to negotiate with the Israelis based on any offer by us or by the Americans.”

Robinson did not ensure that listeners heard any further detail on the obviously relevant topic of the Palestinian agenda.

The final interview in that item (from 2:17:24) was with a person Robinson had earlier described as “the Palestinian ambassador in this country”.

Robinson: “Listening there to that in the studio is the Palestinian ambassador to the UK. Ambassador Husam Zomlot joins us.”

In 2018 the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time. 

Despite the US plan not having been published at the time this interview was conducted, listeners nevertheless heard from Husam Zomlot (who, as readers may recall, gave a briefing to BBC journalists before the related 2019 economic workshop) that “this is neither a deal nor a plan and it definitely has nothing to do with peace”. Zomlot’s hyperbolic description of the US plan as “the scam of the century” and “fraud on every count” was not challenged by Robinson before Zomlot went on to inadvertently demonstrate the similarity of his talking points to those of the BBC’s Middle East editor.

Zomlot: “It’s fraud on every count as was alluded to by your correspondent Jeremy just now. Today the Israeli Knesset is discussing the criminal charges and the immunity. Today – is that a coincidence? The impeachment process and hearing also today and yesterday. Is that a coincidence?”

Zomlot later went on to state (as he has done in the past) that the two-state solution is a “concession”.

Zomlot: “It was actually a concession we made to accept international legality, international legitimacy that decided that the resolution of this will be on the basis of two-state solution on the 1967 borders, that Israel will end its occupation that began in 1967 and there will be a sovereign independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and a fair resolution to the issue of refugees.”

Robinson made no effort to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” or to ensure that listeners understood the thinking behind Zomlot’s later declaration that the Palestinians will not “further compromise the 22% of Palestine”. He did however later tell listeners that “Trump and Netanyahu” are “obsessed with Hamas” because they “believe that Iran is the greatest threat on the planet, that Hamas is allied to them”.

Zomlot’s later attempt to create equivalence between the situation of the Palestinians and the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust, did not prompt any challenge from Robinson.

Zomlot: “…it isn’t about Palestine now. It is about the premise and the heart of international order that was established by Europe, by the United Kingdom, by your legal brains. It’s about the horrors of the Second World War. Only yesterday we remembered the never again of what happened in the Second World War.”

While there is nothing remotely surprising about Zomlot’s talking points there is sadly also nothing surprising about Robinson’s failure to challenge them in a way which would help BBC audiences see past the propaganda and develop a more rounded view of the topic – a view which is likewise noticeably absent from the BBC Middle East editor’s analysis. As we see, half a day before the US administration had released its plan into the public domain, BBC Radio 4 had already framed the topic in overwhelmingly negative terms.

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC News website amends inaccurate Palestinian envoy title

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

Reviewing the impartiality of BBC radio reports on the Pompeo statement

Earlier this week we reviewed inaccurate claims made in reports aired on BBC radio stations about a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

Some of those reports included recorded statements from or interviews with people other than BBC journalists and the overall picture indicates that audiences did not get a balanced view of the story.

November 19th, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 01:38 here)

Erekat: “Once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, once they become an administration that’s pro Israel’s occupation, pro Israel war crimes, this is constitute a major threat to international peace and security.”

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newsday’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 06:09 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo is absolutely rejected and must be condemned because once superpowers, once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, this is constitute a a major threat to international peace and security and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post (from 07:29 here)

Interview with Palestinian journalist and former PA spokesperson Nour Odeh (from 06:23 here)

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 14:06 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo the Secretary of State of the United States is absolutely rejected and must be condemned and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi (from 34:07 here)

In short, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment from one side only – the PLO’s side – while listeners to BBC World Service radio heard four times more comment from the Palestinian side than from the Israeli side.

Apparently the BBC believes that meets its obligation to ‘due impartiality’.

 

Examining the BBC’s claim of Palestinian support for the two-state solution

Back in May, in a report concerning Palestinian rejection of the as yet unpublished US peace initiative, BBC News told its audiences that:

“It is unclear whether the [US] plan will be based on the so-called “two-state solution” – a long-standing formula for resolving the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem a shared capital.

The Palestinians and most of the international community support this approach in principle, while the Israeli leadership is cooler towards it.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has been promoting the theme of Palestinian support for a two-state solution at least since December 2016 – while amplifying the PLO’s interpretation of that shorthand.

“In addition to avoiding the obviously inconvenient fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the two-state solution which the BBC claims they “support”, the BBC’s implication that there is one unified Palestinian voice which supports the two-state solution is clearly inaccurate and misleading. […]

…the BBC’s wording does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.”

So what really is the approach of the PLO/Fatah/Palestinian Authority clique to the idea of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? Earlier this month the University of Chicago’s ‘Pearson Institute’ held a conference in Berlin. One of the speakers was Husam Zomlotcurrently head of the Palestinian mission to the UK – who readers may recall gave a briefing to BBC journalists just before the Bahrain economic workshop in June and who has been a regular contributor to BBC content.

For those interested in the topic of how the PA promotes its selective narrative in the West – and the contradictions and falsehoods that lie behind that narrative – Zomlot’s contribution (from around 2:30:00 here) is worth watching in full.

But one section in particular (from 3:04:43) has gained attention on social media because it reveals what actually lies behind that BBC claim that the Palestinians support the two-state solution.

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

Zomlot: “OK: about the two-state solution. Let me explain something that I think is missed in the discussion. People think the two-state solution is a Palestinian demand. Wherever we go now they tell us ‘oh I know that you demand a two-state solution’. […] This really, really must end. Number one, the Palestinians…you know the two-state solution was never a Palestinian demand. It was a Palestinian concession. And it was a Palestinian concession towards becoming aligned with international [inaudible]. For Palestinians it doesn’t make sense that early on, the starting point of forgoing 78% of what was rightly yours. You don’t start there. You start somewhere else. Having said that, for us, the Palestinians, let me confirm we have two positive acceptable outcomes for the future. The first is two states on the 1967 borders [sic]. A state of Palestine, sovereign – we’re not talking about Mickey Mouse state – sovereign, independent. East Jerusalem is our capital. Not a capital in East Jerusalem. Not shared capital in Jerusalem. Not the fantasy that we will establish a capital in Abu Dis. East Jerusalem from the exact line […] and this is final by the way. It’s final. One of the biggest mistakes that people thought that us accepting and recognising the two-state solution was the beginning of our concessions. No, no, no: it was the end of our concessions. […]

The second option is one person, one vote: one democratic, egalitarian state that provides for all of its citizens regardless of your language, your religion, your colour, your height, your width. A state in the meaning of a state. And I say it maybe on behalf of my Palestinian side: we will accept either. It’s not like we are obsessed. We are obsessed about a solution. But we know that the second option is a non-starter in Israel. We know that. And you know why? Do I need to dwell on it? Because Israel see us, the Palestinians, primarily as a demographic threat. Because the dream of establishing a state of all its citizens might be generations away. Because only few months after the Israeli state…nation state law that discriminated against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and deliberately told them that they can never have the right of self-determination – it’s exclusive to Jews. In such an environment to aspire to that is really to be almost like wanting to fight a heavyweight boxer when you are unable to even defeat a lightweight. And that’s why we are more in the area of possibility than desirability and from a possibility point of view we remain to be convinced that the two-state solution is still possible. And we remain convinced that it is the best course to the immediate future.”

In other words, Zomlot is saying that although the Palestinians would prefer a more ‘desirable’ one-state option which would eradicate the Jewish state and bring an end to Jewish self-determination, they are prepared to settle in “the immediate future” for their partisan interpretation of a two-state solution which – notably – does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state because they consider all of Israel to be “rightly” theirs.

That of course is significantly different to way in which the BBC portrays the Palestinian position to its audiences. The problem is not that Palestinian officials such as Zomlot and Saeb Erekat do not get enough BBC airtime to explain their stance but that BBC journalists refrain from asking challenging but relevant questions such as why the PA’s interpretation of the two-state solution does not include recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.

Related Articles:

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

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

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

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

 

BBC Arabic breaches style guide on Temple Mount

Earlier this week we documented descriptions in BBC World Service radio news bulletins of a premeditated demonstration of intolerance at a site holy to three religions as “clashes at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem”. We noted that:

“…the BBC has returned to its past habit of complying with PLO instructions by naming the place its style guide says should be termed “Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif” as “the al Aqsa Mosque”.”

While no coverage of those August 11th incidents appeared on the BBC’s English language website, the BBC Arabic website published a report on that day headlined “Al-Aqsa Mosque: Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians after Eid al-Adha prayers”.

Readers were told that: [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

Extremist Jewish groups were trying to congregate near Moors’ [Mugrabi] Gate in order to enter the Mosque and commemorate the anniversary of what is referred to as ‘the destruction of the temple, which coincided this year with Eid al-Adha…”

And:

“At a later time, the police allowed dozens of Jewish extremists to enter the plaza of the Jerusalem sanctuary for a few minutes…”

In exactly the same way that BBC World Service radio’s failure to comply with the BBC’s own style guide confused audiences, this report’s employment of the deliberately politicised term “al Aqsa Mosque” to describe the entire Temple Mount plaza and the ensuing claim that Jews were trying to “enter the mosque” is inaccurate and materially misleading.

The headline further misleads readers by suggesting that “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians” took place in the al Aqsa Mosque rather than – as was actually the case – outside the building.

Also inaccurate is the blanket description of unarmed, non-violent visitors to the holiest site of their faith as “extremists”. While Muslim visitors to the site on that day (some of whom participated in the violent rioting) were described by BBC Arabic merely as “Palestinians”, the description of Jewish visitors as “extremists” demonstrates bias on the part of that BBC department.   

CAMERA Arabic has submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning that report.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio news confuses audiences with politicised terminology

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

 

BBC WS radio news confuses audiences with politicised terminology

h/t AB

Ahead of the fast of Tisha B’Av on August 10th/11th various Israeli media outlets reported that:

“The Muslim religious body that manages the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City has called for all other mosques in the area to shut Sunday to boost attendance at the flash point holy site in order to block Jewish visitors from going there on Tisha B’Av. […]

This year, the start of Eid al-Adha coincides with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the temples and other disasters in Jewish history.

In a statement, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein, former grand mufti of Jerusalem Ekrima Sabri and senior Waqf official Abdel Azeem Sahlab announced that “all mosques in Jerusalem will be closed and that blessed Eid al-Adha prayers will take place in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

They said the move comes in response to the Israel Police’s decision to “evaluate” whether to allow Jews on the Temple Mount on Sunday. “The people of Jerusalem and its surroundings will stand together in the face of the ambitions of the settlers,” they added.”

On the morning of August 11th:

“Following a security assessment, police said non-Muslims would be barred from entering the Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers had arrived during the morning.

“In light of the amount of worshipers and the high potential for friction, it was decided not to allow visits to the Temple Mount at this stage,” a police statement said.”

Later in the day that decision was reversed but not before rioting began on Temple Mount.

“Israel on Sunday morning reversed its decision to bar Jews from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the biblical temples that once stood at the site. […]

A short time earlier, major clashes erupted between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces at the Temple Mount, where large numbers had gathered to mark Eid. […]

“At one point, thousands of worshippers who were at the Temple Mount crowded into the area of the Mugrabi Gate [the entrance to Temple Mount for non-Muslims] and began rioting, shouting for nationalist slogans and throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the officers,” the police said.

“In light of this, the district commander issued an order to disperse the rioters up using the crowd dispersal methods and restore public order.”

The Times of Israel reported that:

“At least 61 Muslim worshipers were injured in the clashes, according to the Red Crescent. At least four Israeli officers were also lightly to moderately wounded, police said.

The Palestinians had gathered near the Mughrabi Gate in “a peaceful manner” to protest the possibility of Israel allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount during Eid al-Adha, a Waqf official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“It’s unacceptable that they be allowed to enter during our holiday,” the official said.”

No reporting of that premeditated demonstration of intolerance at a site holy to three religions appeared on the BBC News website. However the following day – August 12th – listeners to early morning BBC World Service radio news bulletins were informed that: [emphasis in bold added]

“Dozens of Palestinians and four Israeli police officers have been injured in clashes at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who were celebrating the start of Eid al Adha, objected to the entry of worshippers marking a Jewish holiday at the same site.” (from 01:14 here)

And:

“Dozens of Palestinians and four Israeli police officers have been injured in clashes at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who were celebrating the start of the Muslim Eid al Adha holiday, objected to the entry of Jewish worshippers who were marking the Tisha B’Av holiday.” (from 03:20 here)

Leaving aside that description of the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar as a “holiday”, we see that the BBC has returned to its past habit of complying with PLO instructions by naming the place its style guide says should be termed “Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif” as “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

Moreover, although under post-1967 agreements non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site during limited hours but are prohibited from praying there or displaying any religious symbols, the BBC nevertheless erroneously referred to “the entry of Jewish worshippers” – i.e. people participating in a religious ceremony – to the site.

That choice of terminology is even more bizarre given the BBC’s claim that those “Jewish worshippers” were “marking a Jewish holiday at the same site” – which according to the BBC is a mosque. 

As we see yet again, the BBC’s employment of politicised terminology rather than correct place names serves only to confuse its audiences.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

 

 

 

 

BBC News again sidesteps an issue that does not fit the narrative

Last year we noted the significance of the BBC’s failure to adequately inform its audiences about Palestinian violations of agreements signed with Israel within the framework of the Oslo Accords concerning freedom of access and worship at holy sites located in areas under Palestinian Authority control.

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

“Obviously Israeli Jews are not able to visit the synagogue in Gaza City today and visits to additional sites on that list are either virtually impossible or severely restricted. Some of those holy and historically important sites have been vandalised, including Joseph’s Tomb which – as the BBC reported at the time – was set ablaze by Palestinian rioters in October 2015. 

Holy places to which access is supposedly guaranteed by the Oslo Accords have also been the scene of numerous terror attacks and planned attacks…”

The last time the BBC showed any interest in such a story was in March and that was because two Palestinians were killed while throwing explosive devices at soldiers securing visitors.

In that report readers were told that Joseph’s Tomb in Schem (Nablus) “has been a source of friction in the past” but the BBC refrained from clarifying that “friction” actually means repeated Palestinian attacks on both the site itself and the security forces guarding visiting worshipers.

This week the Israeli media reported that during the monthly visit:

“IDF forces found a pipe bomb near Joseph’s Tomb during preparations before the arrival of 1,200 Jewish worshipers to the compound in Nablus. The bomb was neutralized in a controlled explosion. 

Disturbances broke out as the worshipers entered the tomb, as rioters burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, and the prayer services continued undisturbed.”

Under the terms of its charter the BBC is of course obliged to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. While in recent weeks the corporation has repeatedly amplified a PA promoted narrative touting the demise of its interpretation of the two-state solution, the BBC continues to be notably less interested in informing audiences about the Palestinian Authority’s failure to uphold agreements already signed nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Related Articles:

BBC News glosses over repeated Palestinian violence at holy site