On May 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “US Israel-Palestinian peace plan ‘a surrender act’ – Palestinian FM” on its ‘Middle East’ page.
The article is based on a speech given by Riad Malki at an event organised by the Chatham House think tank on the same day.
“The Palestinian foreign minister has branded the anticipated US plan for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict an unacceptable “surrender act”.
Riad Malki said the plan that Donald Trump calls the “deal of the century” was in fact “the consecration of [Palestinians’] century-old ordeal”.”
The BBC’s account of Malki’s speech circumvents the majority of his falsehoods and offensive remarks, with one exception: [emphasis added]
“Speaking at Chatham House think tank in London, Mr Malki said all the indications were that “this [US] administration is preparing to give its stamp of approval to Israel’s colonial policies…” [punctuation in the original]
The BBC found it necessary to ‘contextualise’ those remarks as follows:
“The Palestinians often describe Israeli settlement and other activity in the occupied territories as a form of colonialism, a characterisation which Israel strongly rejects.”
The BBC did not however find it necessary to explain to its audiences why that description is not correct and how it is invoked for political purposes.
“Israel has built about 140 settlements, home to more than 600,000 Jews, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it occupied them in the 1967 Middle East war.
Palestinians claim the territories for a future Palestinian state.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
Near the beginning of the article readers were correctly told that:
“No confirmed details have been revealed of the plan, which Washington says could be unveiled next month.”
Despite that, the BBC had no qualms about later amplifying what are clearly no more than speculations on Malki’s part.
“Mr Malki said the Trump administration’s plan offered “no independence, no sovereignty, no freedom and no justice – and if [the US] do not think that this situation will have an impact on the future of Israel and the region one way or another, they are the ones that are delusional and not us”.”
In paragraphs six and seven of this article the BBC recycled some very problematic framing that it has been promoting for the past two and a half years.
“It is unclear whether the 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.”
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.
Factions such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas – which the BBC repeatedly reminds us won the majority of the popular vote the last time elections were held – obviously do not support the two-state solution or any other formula short of the destruction of Israel. Other factions, including the PFLP for which Malki was formerly spokesman, set themselves up as ‘opposition’ to the Oslo Accords negotiation process at the time.
In addition, 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.
The article’s claims concerning ‘East Jerusalem’ conceal the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:
“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”
Given that it rejected complaints on this issue over two years ago, we should of course not be surprised that the BBC continues to promote its inaccurate narrative concerning Palestinian support for a two-state solution (along with a portrayal of entirely passive Palestinians devoid of agency or responsibility) as part and parcel of its framing of anticipated events relating to the ‘peace process’.