BBC’s context-free Strait of Tiran backgrounder appears again

A year has passed since the BBC began reporting the story of the proposed transfer of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egyptian to Saudi Arabian control.

In that time, the BBC News website has published several articles on the topic, none of which has adequately clarified to audiences that the purpose of Egypt’s occupation of the islands was to block shipping to and from the Israeli port of Eilat or that such moves led to military action in 1956 and 1967 which twice brought Tiran and Sanafir under Israeli control.

Saudi-Egyptian deal on Red Sea islands sparks anger 10/4/16

Egypt’s Sisi hits out at ‘evil conspirators’ amid islands furore 13/4/16 (discussed here)

“Mr Sisi said that Saudi Arabia had asked Egypt in 1950 to protect the two islands, situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, from Israel.”

Egypt court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudis 21/6/16 (discussed here)

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia 16/1/17 (discussed here)

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

On April 2nd 2017 the BBC News website revisited the story in an article titled “Egypt court voids ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia” that once again carried an insert of background information that includes the following context-free statement:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

Yet again, while the BBC has found fit to include Israel in its portrayal of “why the Red Sea islands matter”, it has not informed audiences of the Egyptian actions which prompted Israel to ‘capture’ the islands.

The BBC bases much of its Middle East reporting upon a version of history which begins with the Six Day War but ignores the background and build-up to that event. As the fiftieth anniversary of that war approaches (and with it the prospect of extensive BBC coverage) this story presents an opportunity for the BBC to provide its audiences with some of the background and historic context which is serially absent from its reporting.  

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

 

 

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

On June 21st an article was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Egypt court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudis“. At the bottom of that article concerning an internal Egyptian debate appears a background insert titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”.Tiran art backgrounder

There, BBC audiences were correctly informed that:

“Sanafir and Tiran are islands that lie about 4km (2 nautical miles) apart in the Red Sea. Tiran sits at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, on a strategically important stretch of water called the Strait of Tiran, used by Israel to access the Red Sea”

However, they were also given the following context-free information:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers why that was the case.

“In 1949, Egypt established itself on two small and deserted islands in the straits that had never belonged to it – Tiran and Sanafir. Later, they were leased to it by Saudi Arabia. In January 1950, Egypt assured the United States Government that the occupation of the islands was in no way intended to interfere with shipping in the waters of the gulf. But soon Egypt broke its word, fortified the entrance to the straits and blockaded Israel. Having failed to conquer the southern Negev during the War of Independence or to bring about its cession by Israel through political pressure, Egypt now tried to land-lock Eilat and block Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which meant cutting Israel’s present and future communications with Asia and East Africa. The closure of the Straits of Tiran was one of the main factors that led to the Sinai campaign of 1956. Israel’s refusal to withdraw its forces from Sharm el Sheikh unless its freedom of passage through the straits were effectively safeguarded led to the stationing there of the UN Emergency Force. The blockade was lifted and Israel could freely develop its trade with countries in Asia and East Africa, import oil from the Persian Gulf, and redeem the southern Negev from its desolation. Israel declared solemnly that any interference with its rights of navigation in the gulf would be regarded as an attack, entitling it to exercise its inherent rights of self-defence. […]

On 23 May 1967, President Nasser re-imposed the naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran in a deliberate attempt to force Israel to forfeit its internationally-acknowledged rights or else go to war. Five days earlier the UN Emergency Force was expelled by Nasser, and the units stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh were evacuated. […] The Israeli army reached Sharm el-Sheikh on 7 June 1967 and lifted the blockade. From 1967, freedom of navigation prevails in the Gulf of Aqaba, benefiting shipping bound for Israel and Jordan.”

Apparently the BBC considered it necessary to ensure that its audiences know that “Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967” – but not why.

 Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story