BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

On the evening of February 12th the BBC News website published a report headlined “UN lists 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements” which, for reasons unknown, it chose to tag “Trump peace plan”.

The main image illustrating the report appears to show an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem near the anti-terrorist fence but is captioned “The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this”.

That partial but standard BBC mantra is of course repeated in the body of the article.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

The report promotes a version of a partisan map produced by the political NGOB’tselem’ which has appeared in countless previous BBC News website reports. The map marks the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City as a “settlement” and fails to inform audiences that what are described as areas under “Palestinian civil control” and areas under “Israeli military and civil control” are in fact Areas A and B and Area C as designated under the Oslo Accords, to which the PLO was party.

Readers are told that:

“The UN human rights office has issued a long-awaited report on companies linked to Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in activities related to settlements.

They include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions.”

The BBC does not clarify that the UNHRC’s blacklist also includes the Rami Levy supermarket chain (which is known as a model of co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians) and numerous companies providing services such as transport, water and telecommunications to both Israelis and Palestinians.  

Later on readers are told that:

“In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to produce a database of companies involved in specific activities relating to settlements. […]

Following what it said was a thorough review and assessment of all information available, the OHCHR presented a report on Wednesday identifying 112 business entities that it said, there were reasonable grounds to conclude, had been involved in one or more of those activities.”

BBC audiences are not informed that members of the UNHRC at the time that the resolution (3136) requesting the compilation of that database was passed included human rights ‘beacons’ such as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, Qatar and Venezuela. Neither were they given any background information concerning the UNHRC’s infamous and long-standing bias against Israel.

The BBC’s report avoids all mention of the BDS supporting NGOs involved in the compilation of the blacklist. NGO Monitor notes that:

“The list was based on input from BDS groups, including Human Rights Watch. Many of the groups centrally involved receive significant funding from the EU and European governments. […]

Given that 85 of the 112 companies included on the blacklist are also found in the BDS NGO Who Profits’ database, and based on documentation seen by NGO Monitor,  it is clear that the UN relied on this and other BDS actors as its sources of information.”

In light of that serious omission, the BBC’s decision to include part of a quote from Human Rights Watch in its report is particularly notable.

“Human Rights Watch said the list “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.””

Although the BBC’s report claims that “There were no immediate comments from the companies named on the list”, one such comment is available here.

The BBC report amplifies comments made by a PA official:

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said: “The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law.”

He also called on the Human Rights Council member states to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements”.”

However at no point in the article did the BBC bother to inform readers in its own words that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories.

Neither does the report make any effort to inform audiences of the fact that the UNHRC has taken no such action against companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world.  

Given the BBC’s dismal record on informing audiences on the topic of UNHRC bias against Israel, its long-existing editorial policy of promoting a specific politically motivated narrative concerning ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and its promotion of the BDS campaign agenda, the serious omissions in this report come as no surprise whatsoever.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to obstruct audience understanding of UN bias

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

On October 16th the BBC News website published a report titled “Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Australia’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The Australian prime minister’s statements were presented in its opening lines as follows:

“Australia will consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. […]

Mr Morrison said Australia remained committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political opponents said Mr Morrison’s comments were a “deceitful” ploy for votes ahead of a crucial by-election.”

Readers were also told that:

“If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the US that has drawn criticism internationally. […]

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.” [emphasis added]

As has been the case in many previous BBC reports about the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, in this article the fact that the US Congress actually voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago was yet again concealed from audience view.

Readers were told that “[t]he prime minister said one future scenario could involve Australia recognising [emphasis added] a Palestinian Authority capital in East Jerusalem and Israeli capital in West Jerusalem”. The statement actually said:

“…the Government will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state.” [emphasis added]

The BBC report went on to amplify comment from the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Maliki but failed to explain to readers why the Palestinian response to a possible outcome that the PLO allegedly seeks should be negative.

Readers were told of announcements:

“Two other countries – Guatemala and Paraguay – announced they would also make the switch, but Paraguay later reversed the decision after a change of government.”

They were not however informed that the embassy of Guatemala has been located in Jerusalem since May 2018.

The article ended with a section headed “Why is the status of Jerusalem so contentious?” in which the BBC’s standard framing of related topics was to be found. As usual, BBC audiences were led to believe that nothing of relevance happened before 1967 and they heard nothing of Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of the city.  

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

A problematic video by Yolande Knell dating from December 2017 was however recycled in this latest report.

Readers found the BBC’s usual partisan framing of ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Since late 2016 the BBC’s coverage of stories relating to the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem has been characterised by very specific framing of such decisions as ‘controversial’ and the absence of key background information which would enhance audience understanding. As we see in this latest report, that unhelpful editorial policy continues.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

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

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

Facile BBC News report on PA’s Interpol membership

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 27th were informed that “Interpol approves Palestinian membership” and:

“Palestinians hail a ‘victory’ made possible by the ‘principled position’ of the agency’s members”

The link led to an article titled “Interpol approves Palestinian membership despite Israeli opposition” in which the source of that BBC sub-heading was revealed.

“Interpol has admitted the Palestinian territories as a new member, despite opposition from Israel.

The international policing body backed membership for “the State of Palestine” at its annual general assembly.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki declared the news a “victory”, made possible by the “principled position” of most Interpol members.

Israel tried to delay the vote, arguing that Palestine was not a state and therefore ineligible for membership.”

Later on readers found another quote from al-Maliki:

“”On this joyous occasion, the State of Palestine reiterates its commitment to upholding its obligations and contributing to fighting crime and furthering the rule of law,” Mr Maliki said in a statement.”

That was followed by a quote from a Tweet sent by an Israeli politician:

“Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, Michael Oren, criticised the vote, writing on Twitter: “By admitting ‘Palestine’, which praises terrorists of the past and refuses to condemn those of today, Interpol makes the world less safe.””

The BBC did not however provide readers with any information in its own words on obviously relevant issues such as the PA’s payment of financial rewards to terrorists and their families or the fact that alongside the new item of membership dues to Interpol, the PA’s annual budget includes salaries for convicted terrorists. Neither did the BBC consider it necessary to raise the question of Interpol membership for an entity currently negotiating power-sharing with a designated terror organisation.

Given the PA’s record on human rights, the question of the abuse of Interpol membership for factional score-settling is also relevant – particularly in light of a statement reported by the Times of Israel:

“A senior Palestinian official said there were no plans to sue any Israelis through Interpol. He said the purpose is “to pursue criminals who commit crimes here and escape.”

He said one target would be Mohammed Dahlan, a rival of Abbas.”

The tone of this report would have come as no surprise to anyone following regional BBC staff on social media.

The last five paragraphs of this report include promotion of a link to the BBC News website’s recent report on the terror attack in Har Adar (which did not describe the incident as terrorism or the attacker as a terrorist) and standard recycled ‘background’ inserts that amplify PLO messaging on the topic of Palestinian terrorism.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

While that paragraph has been seen in countless BBC News website reports over the last two years, audiences continue to be deprived of serious reporting on incitement to violence from official Palestinian sources or on the Palestinian Authority’s funding of terrorists – topics relevant to this particular story as well as numerous others.

Related Articles:

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

BBC News avoids telling Brits about PA’s Balfour ultimatum

In July 2016 the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act“ which was discussed here. BBC audiences were told that:PA Balfour Decl art

“Palestinian officials have said they are planning to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that laid out a vision for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki [sic] said the document led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people”.

Mr Malki said the lawsuit would be filed in an international court. […]

Speaking at an Arab League summit in Mauritania on Monday, Mr Malki said the UK was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the mandate in 1948.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” he was quoted as saying by the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

“And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.”

The minister did not provide any further details about the planned lawsuit.

Mr Malki made the announcement on behalf of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was not at the summit because of his brother’s recent death.”

On January 18th the same Riyad al Maliki gave an interview to Palestinian Authority TV (video clip translated by MEMRI available here) in which he provided “further details” concerning the PA’s demands.

“When I met the British foreign secretary, I told him very clearly what we expect. We expect them to apologize, to accept their historical responsibility, to acknowledge [their culpability], and to pay reparations.” [emphasis added]

And what if the UK does not agree to those demands?

“So far, we haven’t heard from them. The current escalation on their part makes us consider [possible] Palestinian action with regard to all those issues, including our action with regard to the Balfour Declaration. I won’t be divulging anything by saying that we have made plans for action in the framework of our embassies and our communities in Europe and Britain, and plans to mobilize civil society institutions in Britain and elsewhere.” [emphasis added]

Al Maliki added:

“The ball is in the court of the British. If Britain wants to contain all these measures on all levels, and to treat us responsibly on this issue – it is most welcome. If Britain does not want that, and prefers to escalate things on all levels, and to ignore the suggestions we made, rather than treat them positively, we will complete the measures that we have initiated.”

One might have thought that the British Broadcasting Corporation would have found that mobster-style ultimatum worth reporting to its funding public in the UK. To date, that has not been the case.