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.