Upcoming Radio 4 programme on “The BBC and the Hungarian Holocaust”

An upcoming BBC Radio 4 programme may be of interest to readers. The programme – entitled “The BBC and the Hungarian Holocaust” will be broadcast on Monday, November 12th 2012 at 20:00 GMT and its synopsis describes it thus:

“In March 1944 German troops occupied Hungary. In doing so they brought the Final Solution to the largest remaining Jewish population in Europe. Within months over 400,000 people were deported and killed by a now almost perfect mass killing machine.

Mike Thomson investigates documents which suggest that the BBC was directed not to broadcast crucial information and examines claims that it could have saved thousands of lives.”

BBC report on Gaza surfers: more Docu-soap than Documentary

The BBC-licensed broadcast schedule magazine ‘The Radio Times’ described the November 5th BBC Radio 4 programme entitled The Gaza Surf Club (produced by Jeremy Grange) as “a lyrical portrait of transcendent nature, and the human spirit surviving in adversity”.

The Radio Times also categorized the programme as a “documentary”. 

A documentary, however, is defined as “a film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject”. Factual reports must – by definition – include the objective presentation of facts, including the inconvenient ones; otherwise the report becomes editorialized and ceases to be a documentary.  That is precisely what appears to have happened to Jeremy Grange’s programme from Gaza, recorded in July of this year. 

Readers will get the gist by taking a look at the programme’s synopsis, but the radio broadcast itself (available for listening here for a limited period of time) is even more egregious in its blatant attempt to paint a very specific picture in the minds of listeners. 

“Thick walls and security fences divide it [the Gaza Strip] from Israel, yet despite the poverty and political tensions, a group of young Gazans are finding hope and a sense of freedom in an unexpected way…”

So begins the introduction to the programme, which goes to great lengths to play up existing stereotypes of the Gaza Strip, for example by referring to “donkey carts” and “horse-drawn carriages” in the streets and on the beach which – while they undoubtedly exist – are far from being the only methods of transport used in the Gaza Strip.  

Embedded image permalink

Cars arriving in the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, May 2012

A significant proportion of the broadcast is narrated by the founder of the Gaza Surf Club, Matthew Olsen of Explore Corps. Whilst making much of the restrictions on fishing along the Gaza coast, neither Olsen nor the programme’s producer bother to explain why those restrictions are necessary

“We can’t leave Gaza by the sea or by the land” says one of the local interviewees, adding “I am under 40 years old so I can’t travel to Egypt even. I need the special coordination from the Egyptians. People’s life [sic] in a real prison.”

Indeed, since the renewed opening of the Egypt-Gaza border in 2011, men between 18 and 40 do need a visa to travel to Egypt, unlike the rest of the population which can cross the frontier freely. The programme’s producer does not apparently think it necessary to point out that many countries throughout the world demand that those wishing to travel to them apply for a visa first, or that the age and gender limitations imposed by Egypt might have something to do with the proliferation of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. 

As for passage into Israel; looking just at the week during which Jeremy Grange was in Gaza, we see that 309 Gazans made the journey.  During June 2012 alone, 1,359 businessmen exited the Gaza Strip. In July 2012, a delegation of young musicians travelled from Gaza to a summer camp near Ramallah and a group of handicapped sportsmen attended a camp in Hebron. 

Despite that, the programme’s next interviewee repeats the same meme unchallenged:

“Gaza is surrounded by three walls and the sea from the north [sic] so there is no way to escape, to enter Israel or to leave abroad.”

He goes on to say that:

“People are poor, so they can just afford the minimum requirements of life which means that they cannot travel. There are no public parks. The only place that people can go for a free [sic] is the beach.”

Whilst that statement may well reflect the situation of some of Gaza’s population, it is obviously not accurate across the board, as the programme tries to imply. Gaza does have shopping malls, an equestrian club, water parks (although masked men did burn one down for allowing men and women to mix), nice hotels and restaurants, an Olympic-size swimming pool and other facilities. The sale of the iPhone 5 is going strong and there are even millionaires in the Strip. A documentary would have mentioned those facts too. 

Gaza Shopping Mall

Water Park, Khan Yunis

Public Library, Gaza

But the propaganda continues:

“There is no electricity, there is no money…”

There is also no explanation that Hamas chose to stop buying fuel for its power plants from Israel at the beginning of 2011, thereby initiating an energy crisis.

Matthew Olsen then takes up the narrative again, with references to a “big security fence”, “tanks” and “Israeli patrol boats” which are left entirely context-free. Similarly, another interviewee refers to a time when “the border was more open”, with no explanation of the fact that restrictions were the result of the second Intifada terror war.

The report continues by interviewing ‘Surfing for Peace’ co-founder Arthur Rashkovan and Dorian Paskowitz.  Rashkovan tells of their journey to Gaza with donated surfboards, including a graphic description of the Erez Crossing – with no mention of why such heavy security measures might be necessary

Paskowitz’s very emotional account concludes with the words:

“For an instant we solved the problem between the Jews and the Arabs…it was so beautiful to see that…”

Now, that makes a great sound bite, but of course Israel’s problem is not with the surfers in Gaza, but with the numerous terrorist militias which make the stringent security measures and arms smuggling prevention necessary. Until this point in the programme, listeners would hardly be aware of those issues however, having been fed a monotone repertoire of poor, entrapped Palestinians and seemingly reasonless Israeli military might. 

But Olsen and Grange do not only sell Israel short in this programme. Towards its end, Olsen describes how women go swimming fully clothed, creating a safety problem due to their heavy garments weighing them down in the current. Why women have to swim in that manner is not made clear. Neither does he fully explain why the female surfer interviewed and her friend should have to “come out early in the morning because they don’t want to make a spectacle of themselves” or why “the idea of women surfing is problematic here”. Instead, he sums up with “I don’t anticipate that they’re going to keep surfing past the age of 16 -17”.

Olsen does make a brief, context-free reference to air-strikes and rockets fired into Israel by “militant groups” (in that order), and then in an equally taciturn manner informs listeners that “the Hamas government banned all peace-making initiatives across the border”, failing to expand further. So after 24 minutes of a 29 minute report, listeners are suddenly presented with a snippet of information which suggests that the Gaza Surf Club’s problems may have a domestic aspect to them too, although that subject fails to get any further attention. 

The radio broadcast’s synopsis states that:

“The programme gives a fresh perspective on the issues which beset this troubled territory and shows how a community has overcome divisions and tensions.”

In fact it does nothing of the sort. The subject matter itself has been the focus of numerous previous articles both on the BBC and in other media outlets. The stereotypes are well-worn and the myths have been promoted a thousand times before.  Little or no context, background or new information is given, the subject of Hamas restrictions on women is glossed over and the producer apparently never thought to ask himself why he heard visions of Palestinian and Israeli surfers engaged in joint projects from one side only. 

BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

h/t Dennis    

Treading faithfully in the footsteps of their compatriots of yesteryear, few subjects have been done to death by British journalists in the Middle East as that of the Bedouin in Israel. 

It therefore came as no surprise to find the BBC’s Wyre Davies venturing a whole eleven miles out of Jerusalem last month to report on “Israeli threat to Bedouin villages”.  

Davies’ report appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website, as well as on television news, on October 18th. It was also broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ on October 25th and can be heard here from around 25:26′. 

Davies opens his radio report from the school constructed without planning permission in the Bedouin encampment of Khan al Ahmar with the uncorroborated statement:

“If they [the children] didn’t come to school here, they wouldn’t get an education anywhere.”

He goes on to say:

“But they’re [the Bedouin] surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements as far as the eye can see and they want the school evicted and demolished.”

Contrary to what Davies would apparently have his listeners believe, in Israel demolition orders on buildings constructed – in any sector – without planning permission are not given out by the neighbours, but by the relevant authorities.

One may think that of all places, it would be wise to ensure that a school was built according to health and safety regulations. Apparently that aspect of the story is of no concern to Davies, who next interviews a woman named as Angela Goldstein and described as “an advocate who campaigns on behalf of this Bedouin community”. 

Ms Goldstein claims that:

“The only schools that are near are settler schools and of course none of these children would be accepted into Jewish-only schools.”

The whiff of racist rhetoric arising from that comment should have wised-up Wyre Davies to his interviewee – did he not already know who she actually is. 

Angela Godfrey Goldstein is no mere ‘advocate’: she is the policy officer for ICAHD – the political NGO which promotes apartheid rhetoric and the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. She is also a member of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ ,which was recently involved in a scandal due to its anti-Semitic Tweets and of course organizes flotillas. ICAHD’s director Jeff Halper sits on Free Gaza’s Board of Advisors as well as being a member of the ‘Russell Tribunal‘.

In addition, Ms Godfrey Goldstein is a member of Machsom Watch (the same organization which organized a delegation to comfort the families of the arrested murderers of the Fogel family) and her trip to Khan al Ahmar is far from a one-off: she runs a nice line in political trips to the encampment, in which Wyre Davies’ next interviewee, Eid Abu Hamis of the Jahalin tribe, is something of a regular feature. 

Davies sets the romantic scene by informing listeners that he is talking to Eid Abu Hamis Jahalin “under the shade of a fig tree” and then allows his host – unchallenged and unproven – to state that:

“The situation is now difficult due to the settlers who want us to leave”

“They [settlers] attack the woman [sic] and the children”

The Jahalin tribe has been the subject of many articles over on our sister blog CiF Watch, due to the fact that Khan al Ahmar is also a favourite and frequent watering hole for Guardian correspondents. Readers can view more background information here and here

The story which Wyre Davies tells is by no means a new one; in fact, it has been going on for about thirty years and Israeli courts have examined – and rejected – the Jahalin’s claims to the land. 

“The Jahalin have been making claims about the land of Ma’ale Adumim, and squatting on state land assigned to the community, since the 1980’s. They have been warned many times by successive Israeli governments that eventually they would have to move. Most of the Jahalin eventually agreed that they did not have rights to the land. For example, according to a January 29th, 1994 Los Angeles Times article, “no one, not even Hairsh (Mohammed Hairsh, a Jahalin leader) claims that his tribe has a legal right” to the land they have been occupying.

Nevertheless, out of sympathy for the plight of the Jahalin tribe, the Israeli government offered them title to a plot of land if they would agree to leave their encampment near Ma’ale Adumim. This new site is about one kilometer from and more than five times larger than the Jahalin’s previous encampment. In addition, under the proposed agreement with the Jahalin, the Israeli government agreed to provide, at no charge, electricity and water hookups, cement building platforms and building materials.

Not surprisingly, the leaders of the Jahalin tribe accepted Israel’s offer and most of the tribe moved to the new site. The electricity and water hookups were provided, and the platforms were built. However, when a lawyer representing some of the Jahalin returned from a trip abroad and heard of the agreement, she convinced several of the Jahalin families who had not yet moved to stay where they were.”

Bizarrely, Wyre Davies then interviews MK Ariyeh Eldad – presumably supposedly in the name of ‘balance’. Eldad, however, does not represent the Israeli government against which Davies’ other interviewees make charges (he also represents a mere fraction of Israeli opinion with his party – Ichud Leumi – holding a mere 4 seats in the Knesset) and therefore the interview with him can hardly be considered a ‘right of reply’.

During the interview with Eldad, however, Davies manages to squeeze in the following:

“This land…the international community regards as occupied Palestinian land and therefore it’s not Israel’s to claim as state land or otherwise”

Once again, a BBC reporter fails to reflect the fact that there are conflicting and diverse legal opinions about the status of the land in question, as well as neglecting to mention that it falls in Area C which, under the Oslo Accords, is still subject to negotiation.

Next, Davies travels to what he terms “inside Israel proper” and visits the Bedouin encampment at Umm al Hiran in the Negev, which he describes as being situated on “ancestral lands”. He claims that the Bedouin there are scheduled for eviction:

“..because Israel wants to build a new community here, but for religious Jews only.”

That final statement, by the way, is not true. The proposed community includes both religious and secular people, but to pretend otherwise undoubtedly embellishes the story with new dimensions.  

Again, CiF Watch has published much on the subject of land disputes with the Negev Bedouin because that too is a frequent subject for Guardian journalists. Background reading is available here, here and here. Details of Israeli government offers and incentives to the Negev Bedouin squatters can be read here

One organization involved in the politicization and promotion of Negev land disputes as a means of delegitimizing Israel is ‘Adalah‘. Adalah calls for the replacement of the Jewish state with a ‘democratic, bilingual and multicultural’ country in which Jewish immigration would be limited to strictly humanitarian cases but Palestinian refugees and their descendants would be entitled to the ‘right of return’. Ironically, Adalah is also involved in a campaign to remove Jewish residents from areas of the Negev. 

Wyre Davis’ interviewee in Umm al Hiran is Suhad Bishara, whom he describes as “a lawyer who represents the Bedouin in their fight to remain here”.

Ms Bishara is actually the head of the Land and Planning Unit at Adalah. She is allowed by Davies to state – again, unchallenged and unproven – that:

“It’s like the Wild West. Human rights are suspended. The rule of law is suspended. This is black and white. You are not entitled to be here because you are an Arab”. 

So, what do we have here? Well, obviously Wyre Davies is telling a very partisan version of a story without even trying to appear impartial or accurate. The rhetoric he and his interviewees use is clearly designed to leave the audience with shocking impressions of Israeli discrimination and racism towards the Bedouin. Davies does not make a proper attempt to recount the other side of the story apart from the inclusion of a very brief statement by COGAT in the internet version only.

But what is really shocking about this collection of articles and broadcasts by Wyre Davies is his willingness to play wingman for political NGOs dedicated to the abolition of the State of Israel. By failing to declare the affiliations of his interviewees, Davies allows the BBC to be used as a medium for the promotion of their message.

Did ICAHD and/or Adalah organize Davies’ visits to Khan al Ahmar and Umm al Hiran? He certainly would not be the first journalist to take advantage of such trips in exchange for a sympathetic write-up, if he did.

The BBC needs to provide transparency on the background circumstances to these articles immediately. 

BBC & Angus Roxburgh promote the Church of Scotland narrative on the Middle East

Timing – so they say – is everything, and so it is with interest (more on that later) that one notes the BBC’s broadcast and publication of a feature by Angus Roxburgh on the Scots Hotel in Tiberias. 

As well as appearing in the Magazine section of the BBC News website, the piece was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday, October 31st (produced by Caitlin Smith) and promoted by its writer/narrator on Twitter.

First, let us take a look at the online version of the article, in which Roxburgh uses a story supposedly about the Church of Scotland’s white elephant on the shores (rather than “banks” as he stated in the radio broadcast) of the Sea of Galilee as a convenient method of advancing a political narrative. 

Roxburgh informs us that:

“Churchmen were acutely aware that if they sold the property it would be bought by Israelis, which would be a blow not just to Christianity in the region but also to the Palestinians, whose cause the Church of Scotland strongly supports.”

The potential purchasing of property no longer needed by the Church by Israelis would be a “blow to Christianity in the region”? No doubt many of us would very much like to hear an expansion of the ‘logic’ behind that statement. 

Perniciously, Roxburgh manages to class the second Intifada terror war – which, as well as resulting in the murders of over 1,000 Israeli citizens of all faiths and the injury to thousands of others, also had a detrimental effect upon the tourism industry in Israel – as “civil unrest”.

“The hotel has been dogged with problems ever since the decision was taken to upgrade it. Civil unrest led to a slump in tourism.”

Equally bizarre is Roxburgh’s claim that:

“Rooms here cost as much as £200 ($320) a night, which puts it out of reach of most local people. Certainly few Palestinians, who it was originally hoped might come here to rub shoulders with Jewish people, could stay here.”

Obviously, Roxburgh (and, apparently, his hosts) have never travelled the ten minutes up the hill to Upper Tiberias where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and members of other faiths rub shoulders every day at the ‘Big’ shopping centre, and in particular at the local branch of the Rami Levy supermarket, without needing to pay £200 for the pleasure of doing so. All the same, it is interesting to note that Roxburgh stereotypically assigns lower and higher economic abilities to certain sectors of the population.  

Later, Roxburgh goes for a drive with the Church of Scotland Minister in Tiberias, Colin Johnston.

“In the village of Reineh, near Nazareth, Father Samuel Barhoum tells me how proud he is of the links with the Kirk. “We are a forsaken minority here,” he says, alluding to the fact that outside the Middle East many people are unaware that there are Palestinian Christians as well as Muslims.”

There are indeed Palestinian Christians in the wider region, and there are also Arab Israeli Christians, including Father Barhoum’s Anglican congregations in Reineh and Nazareth. In fact, around 80% of over 150,000 Christians living in Israel are Arabs. Strangely, Roxburgh elects to identify the latter as ‘Palestinians’, whilst neglecting to mention that Israel is the only place in the Middle East in which the Christian population is safe and growing

Roxburgh chooses to interpret Fr Barhoum’s use of the phrase “forsaken minority” in a very specific manner. Had he dug a little deeper – having first taken note of the fact that forsaken and forgotten are not the same – he might perhaps have addressed the subject of some members of the Christian Church’s abandonment of Christians in the wider Middle East to their fate of harassment by Islamist extremists and the resulting mass emigration.

Whilst Arab Israeli Christians are protected by the state – unlike many of their co-religionists elsewhere in the Middle East as a whole and including Palestinian Authority-controlled regions – here, for example, are photographs taken last year outside a Christian church in Nazareth which raise an area of discussion which neither Roxburgh nor his hosts seem keen to address.

But instead of investigating that story, Roxburgh chooses to go down the well-trodden route, faithfully parroting his Church of Scotland hosts’ political line, but without actually delving too much into what interpretations the Church gives to the phrase “Palestinian cause”. 

“The Church of Scotland is fiercely supportive of the Palestinian cause. But ironically the existence of the Scots Hotel – which relies to some extent on Israeli goodwill and receives hefty Israeli tourism grants – is said by some to tie the Church’s hands.

Last year the General Assembly abandoned a motion calling for a boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine because the Israeli government was proposing legislation that would make such calls a criminal offence.

Speakers condemned what they felt was Israeli “intimidation”. “My view,” says Johnston McKay, “is that the Church has not been as seriously critical of Israel’s policies as it ought to have been… it is compromised because it needs the support of Israel’s government for this hotel.” “

Like the Church of Scotland as a whole, its mission in Tiberias did not always mix politics and religion and in fact, had Angus Roxburgh bothered to speak to any of the local population, he would probably have come across voices nostalgic for the old days in which relations were cooperative, mutually respectful and warm. 

In recent years, however, those relations have changed, as politics and an often willfully blind reading of the Arab-Israeli conflict (as reflected in many of the posts upon the blog of the Minister in Tiberias since 2009, Colin Johnston) took a more prevalent place on the church’s agenda. 

As stated in Angus Roxburgh’s article, the Church of Scotland has, unfortunately, pinned its colours to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions mast, and despite its protestations at being supposedly “intimidated” by Israel, still managed to pass a resolution which: 

 “instruct[s] the Church and Society Council to work with ecumenical and civil society partners to continue to lobby for the introduction of labelling of products in the UK which clearly identify whether they are from an illegal Israeli settlement.”

Currently, the Church of Scotland is promoting “an Advent journey with the Palestinian people” on its website, which includes the incredibly insensitive graphic below and promotion of the BDS-supporting, one-state-promoting and theologically problematic 2009 Kairos Palestine document

In 2011, the authors of the Kairos Palestine document saw fit to reprimand the Archbishop of Canterbury when he gave his views on the subject of the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to BBC Radio 4. 

The Church of Scotland is also currently sponsoring a conference to be held on November 2nd at the Quaker Meeting House in Edinburgh. The Balfour Project, as it is named, purports to contribute to justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, and in particular the resolution of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians”. A look at the project’s organisers, however, indicates that this is just yet another anti-Israel campaign. 

And so, the Church of Scotland will now collaborate with – among others – Mary Grey; a patron of ‘Friends of Sabeel UK, Anne Clayton of the same group, (the organization with which they are ‘friends’ is headed by one of the Kairos document’s co-authors, Naim Ateek),  Ilan Pappe, Abe Hayeem, Massoud Shadjareh of the Iranian regime-backed, Hizballah-supporting Islamic Human Rights Commission and Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, who just recently became the subject of an official complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews due to his anti-Semitic rhetoric. 

The timing of Angus Roxburgh’s article and broadcast – whilst not necessarily intentional – is, therefore, significant. As the Church of Scotland heads off even further into the realms of anti-Israel activism coloured with more than a tint of racism and supersessionism, the BBC sees fit to unquestioningly advance that organisation’s political narrative on the subject of ‘Palestine’ in an ostensibly whimsy travel piece – rather than asking more difficult questions about the real threats to Christianity in the Middle East (excluding Israeli property developers, of course) or even what is going on inside the Church of Scotland itself.  

BBC’s Jon Donnison does terrorist chic

A Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar informs us of a new “cracking piece” by West Bank and Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison in the Magazine section of the BBC News website.  

So, are we about to benefit from some incisive Middle East analysis which will contribute to our increased understanding of the region? Not exactly: the Tweet-worthy news is that Jon Donnison has managed to find a Yasser Arafat look-alike in Ramallah market. 

Under the description “Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines”, Donnison’s encounter was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service as part of the “From Our Own Correspondent” programme. 

Arafat’s corruption is both well-known and well documented. Vast amounts of foreign donations contributed for the benefit of the Palestinian people were siphoned off by the Rais and his aides. Between 1995 and 2000, some $900 million were diverted to bank accounts not belonging to the Palestinian Authority, very little of which was ever recovered. Concerns raised by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee were ignored by the PA until eventually the IMF sent in Salam Fayyad to try to put an end to Arafat’s culture of corruption. 

However, the best “insight and analysis” Jon Donnison has to offer is to refer to “allegations of corruption” and “kickbacks and cronyism”. He even quotes an interviewee who manages to pass off the criminal activities at the expense of the Palestinian people by putting it all down to Arafat being “a terrible manager”. 

Donnison’s only reference to Yasser Arafat’s other claim to fame is the statement “For most Israelis, Arafat was a terrorist”. There too, the evidence is abundant and well documented. Under Arafat’s leadership the PLO carried out numerous terror attacks, commencing in 1965, and was designated as a terror organization by countries other than Israel. Even after Arafat’s supposed upgrading to statesman, his sponsorship of terror did not end with hundreds of Israelis murdered by terror cells under his command and patronage

All that, however, is mere white noise to Jon Donnison who is intent upon portraying the corrupt mass-murderer as some sort of much missed grandfather with a “twinkle in the eye”. 

“He was too big an act to follow.”

“Palestinians have an Arafat lookalike – but for many the real thing has remained irreplaceable.”

A “cracking piece” indeed – if one happens to consider (as apparently the BBC’s Middle East Bureau chief does) that the legacy of one of the architects of modern terrorism and one of the main actors responsible for holding back the Palestinian people’s progression to statehood  is best whitewashed in a puff piece devoid of anything resembling “insight, wit and analysis”.

BBC Radio 4: adding fuel to the BDS fire

The October 17th 2012 edition of the “Today” programme on BBC Radio 4 ran an item by Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly on the subject of the proposed upgrading of the town of Ariel’s 30 year-old college to university status. 

The programme is available for listening here (for a limited period of time), with the item concerned starting around 1:17: 00.

The programme’s presenter John Humphrys introduces the item with the words:

“The Israeli settlement of Ariel was built inside what the rest of the world regards as the occupied Palestinian West Bank”.

Kevin Connolly commences his report by saying:

“In the Israeli settlement of Ariel, built twenty kilometres or so inside what the rest of the world calls occupied Palestinian territory…”

Later – referring to the building of Ariel – Connolly talks of the “accusation that it’s all been done on land stolen from the Palestinians”. 

So, less than two minutes into the report, listeners have been informed that Ariel is located in a place called “the West Bank”, which is “occupied” and which is actually “Palestinian”, according to the “rest of the world”. 

The term “West Bank” had, of course, never been heard of before the Jordanian invasion, occupation and subsequent – unrecognised – annexation of that area. Even the Arab League refused to recognise Jordan’s territorial claims to the region west of the Jordan River which was – and remains – part of the territory allocated to the establishment of the Jewish National Home by the League of Nations. 

Connolly fails to inform his listeners that the 1949 Armistice Agreement signed between Israel and Jordan specifically states – at the insistence of the Arab States which did not recognise the consequences of the war – that the ceasefire line (the ‘green line’) should not be construed in any way as a political or territorial border. 

“Article II 2: It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI 9: The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Needless to say, during the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the captured territory, no Palestinian state was established there. 

In what is presumably supposed to be a nod to requirements of impartiality, Connolly informs listeners that one of his interviewees – Professor Robert Aumann of the Hebrew University –

“…defends Israel’s right to build on land that others call the occupied West Bank, but that he – like the settlers – prefers to call Judea and Samaria”. [emphasis added]

In other words, Connolly is now suggesting that not only does “the rest of the world” call it the “West Bank”, but that within Israel too, only “settlers” use the term Judea and Samaria.

Of Connolly’s three interviewees in the item, two (Ariel’s mayor, Ron Nachman and Professor Aumann) are in favour of the upgrading of Ariel College – which was established in 1982 – to university status. The third interviewee, Professor Alon Harel, is opposed to the move, with Connolly describing him as saying that:

“Reinforcing the settlers’ grip on the land they hold is a top priority for Israel’s current political leaders”. 

Harel himself then says:

“There is a feeling that there is nothing important but the settlements; there is nothing which is of value in Israel but the settlements. […] The success of the settlements is the only project that politicians in Israel – the leading politicians – the government – cares about.”

Many Israelis might be of the opinion that Harel’s words are – to say the least – over the top. 

Interestingly, both John Humphrys and Kevin Connolly choose to introduce into the item the subject of the fringe movement promoting the calls for an academic boycott of Israel, but neither of them take the trouble to inform their listeners just how unrepresentative of mainstream opinion that movement actually is. 

Humphrys’ introduction to the item includes the claim that the establishment of a university in an existing college in Ariel:

“…will enrage critics of Israel’s settlement policies and perhaps add new fuel to calls for an academic boycott of Israel”

Connolly winds up his report by suggesting that a university in Ariel would “energise”

“… those critics around the world already calling for an academic boycott of Israel in protest at its settlement policies.”

Significantly, Connolly and Humphrys both elect not to clarify the fact that the BDS movement – of which the calls for an academic boycott are part – is about much more than “protest” at “settlements” and that its underlying aim is the dissolution of the Jewish State and the implementation of the right of return to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees. 

The vast majority of Israelis – in accordance with prevailing international opinion – accept that the only viable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is that of two states for two peoples and that territorial compromise and exchange on both sides will be a necessary part of that, as proposed in numerous plans – including the one put forward by Israeli PM Olmert in 2008

Under such proposals, the main blocks of Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria – including Ariel – would remain under Israeli control, with land elsewhere given in exchange. 

It is a pity that the BBC does not appear to find it necessary to inform its audience that those ‘absolutists’ (including members of the BDS movement) refusing to engage with pragmatic solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict in fact represent minority opinion rather than “the rest of the world”. It is even more regrettable that, through selective reporting, the BBC appears to have no qualms about stoking fires to advance the destructive BDS cause.