BBC Culture promotes Palestinian pop and a political narrative

h/t AS

On September 17th BBC Culture published an article by freelancer William Ralston titled “The rise of Palestinian pop”. In among Ralston’s long portrayal of the Palestinian (and not Palestinian) music scene readers were served context-free political framing. The article opened by telling readers that: [emphasis added]

“Growing up in East Jerusalem, Bashar Murad turned to music for comfort in a life blighted by fractious political realities and the emotional pressures of being a gay man battling the conservative elements of his society. It also became a way of transcending the borders imposed on his life by the Israeli occupation; a medium to connect with the world outside.” 

As noted when he was previously featured in BBC content, despite those alleged “borders imposed on his life” Murad:

“…was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia [USA], and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

None of that was however mentioned by Ralston, who went on to promote the notion of “Palestinians with an Israeli passport” even though the majority of Israeli Arabs do not self-identify as Palestinians.

“Since its launch four years ago, the spot has become a second home for Palestinians with an Israeli passport or those with documents allowing them to travel through Israel.”

Readers were told that:

“In cash-stripped [sic] Gaza, the smaller Palestinian territory, there are even fewer opportunities. Recording studios are scarce, and any equipment must be sourced from Egypt or Israel at an extraordinary premium. Hamada Nasrallah, vocalist for Sol, a seven-piece folk outfit from Gaza, explains that he had to sell off his possessions just to afford a guitar, only for it to be destroyed in the August 2018 Israeli bomb attacks on the Said al-Mishal Centre.”

Not only does that promoted link lead to a politicised and partisan report from the Guardian but readers were not informed that the ‘cultural centre’ was located in a building also used by Hamas’ interior security unit or that the strike came in response to over 180 missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

The article failed to inform audiences that the reason why the population of the Gaza Strip suffers from a lack of electricity and clean water is internal feuding between Palestinian factions.

“The electricity shortages and lack of drinking water make it “hard to focus on music” because “we don’t have the basics to live”, MC Gaza, a local rapper, says. “

The writer’s failure to mention the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas – which he euphemistically described as “the Islamist organization that governs the territory” – means that readers are unable to put his subsequent descriptions of restrictions on movement into their correct and full context – including the fact that in the week before this article was published 8,673 people used the Erez crossing.

“Exacerbating the problem are the restrictions on movement that Palestinians face, which means that many cannot travel abroad for gigs, or, significantly, meet with industry professionals. Special permits are required to enter Israel, which are rarely granted, especially not quickly. Palestinians have long had no access to airports in the Palestinian territories: those in Jerusalem and Gaza ceased operations around the turn of the millennium, so most Palestinians must travel to Jordan in order to fly anywhere, which costs around US$500 (£400) one-way.

Those in Gaza have great difficulty in travelling at all. There are only two crossings out: Rafah and Erez, controlled by Egyptian and Israeli authorities respectively. […] Erez, meanwhile, is also tricky, and, for reasons of security, only Israeli-defined categories of people, mainly those requiring urgent medical attention, are eligible for a permit. Permits are also granted to businessmen, students, and artists, but they are far from guaranteed…”

As is usually the case in BBC content, history in this article began in June 1967, with no mention of the fact that parts of Jerusalem were illegally occupied by Jordan in the 19 years that preceded the Six Day War or that Jordan chose to attack Israel in that conflict.  

“The position of those born in Jerusalem is uniquely complicated. After occupying and annexing East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered Palestinian residents Israeli citizenship but many refused, and instead took permanent residency, allowing them to live, work, and receive benefits in Israel. They have what’s called a ‘laissez-passer’, a travel document that allows them to pass through Israel, but they cannot pass into another country without a visa, which is hard to obtain because they don’t have any citizenship.”

The same lack of historical context appeared in a section in which Druze residents of the Golan Heights were described as ‘Syrian’ and the relevant factor of the closure of the Quneitra crossing because of the civil war in Syria was erased.

“Musicians in the Golan Heights face similar difficulties for the same reasons: Israel annexed the land, seized from Syria, after the Six-Day War. Although Syrian, the local musicians are considered part of the Palestinian scene because they’re subject to similar restrictions: they are not even allowed to travel to Syria, so they can pass through Israel and the West Bank only.”

Yet again Ralston failed to adequately clarify that if some of his featured musicians from Jerusalem and the Golan Heights do not have passports, that is because they have chosen to pass up the opportunity to apply for Israeli citizenship.

“All four members of TootArd, whom promoters regularly label as Palestinian, grew up in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan area, and have permanent residency in Israel, but their official nationality is also ‘undefined’, and they have no passport.”

As we see what could have been an interesting article is seriously marred by the writer’s uncritical promotion of a politically motivated narrative which he advances by failing to provide the relevant background information and key context which would facilitate proper audience understanding of the topic. 

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The BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra goes north

Shortly after 8:45 p.m. on the evening of June 1st, two projectiles were fired from Syria towards the Golan Heights with one landing in an open area and the other falling short of the border.

Some 18 hours later the BBC News website published a report with a headline that told readers only of the Israeli response some seven hours after that attack – “Israel strikes Syrian targets near Golan Heights”.

The attack which sparked the incident was given barely half a sentence of coverage, with no details provided.

“Israeli aircraft have struck Syrian army targets after rockets were fired at the occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli military says.”

The report did however include a Tweet giving details of the targets in Syria later struck by Israel.

A previous incident which the BBC did not report at the time – May 27th – was also mentioned.

“On Monday, IDF said it had attacked a Syrian anti-aircraft system that fired on one of its warplanes. Syrian state media said one soldier had been killed in that incident.”

However readers were not informed that this is the second time this year that missiles have been fired from deep inside Syria at the northern Golan Heights – perhaps because that previous incident in January received scant and belated BBC coverage.

The majority of this report (69% of its total word count) is devoted to background including a lengthy section headed “What are the Golan Heights?”.

As usual, the BBC’s accounts of history begin in June 1967 with no mention of what happened before “Israel seized the Golan” or why it did so.

“Israel seized most of the Golan from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East war, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake the region during the 1973 war.”

A photo caption tells BBC audiences that “Syria will not agree a peace deal with Israel unless it withdraws from the whole of the Golan” and the article goes on to state that:

“Syria has always insisted that it will not agree a peace deal with Israel unless it withdraws from the whole of the Golan. The last US-brokered direct peace talks broke down in 2000, while Turkey mediated in indirect talks in 2008.”

Readers are not told that Syria was offered precisely that in the 1990s and once again we see that the BBC has adopted the Syrian narrative, according to which demilitarised zones established under the 1949 armistice agreement are part of “the whole of the Golan”. 

Since the US recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights earlier this year, the BBC has taken to using the same ‘international law’ mantra that it promotes concerning Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem also in relation to communities on the Golan – see previous examples here and here

“There are more than 30 Israeli settlements in the Golan, which are home to an estimated 20,000 people. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The report closes with a claim also seen in previous reports:

“The settlers live alongside some 20,000 Syrians, most of them Druze Arabs, who did not flee when the Golan was captured.”

Obviously most of those people were not around 52 years ago “when the Golan was captured” (the total population of the four Druze communities in the northern Golan was around 7,400 in 1967) and so the sloppy claim that twenty thousand people “did not flee” is inaccurate.

Notably, we see that the BBC presumptuously portrays the Alawite residents of Ghajar – who are Israeli citizens – and the Druze residents of the northern Golan who have chosen to take Israeli citizenship as “Syrians”.

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BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

As we saw yesterday, in among reporting on the European Song Contest, ‘Newsbeat’ journalists Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also promoted a problematic “history lesson” to the their audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in an item broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

The next day – May 14th – on the same radio stations, ‘Newsbeat’ aired a “special from Gaza” by the same two journalists. A much-used BBC mantra was already seen in the synopsis.

“Newsbeat reporters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney are in Gaza in the Middle East, one of the most populated places on Earth.”

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Steve Holden introduced the item (from 00:00 here).

Holden: “Hello. This week we are in Israel and the Palestinian territories as people from all over the world come to the city of Tel Aviv for an event that is loved by millions – Eurovision. […] Tonight the first semi-final will be taking place.”

Rosney: “But we couldn’t cover that without coming here – 90 minutes along the coast – to one of the most talked-about strips of land in the world: Gaza.”

Obviously they could indeed have covered the Eurovision Song Contest without travelling to an unrelated nearby territory but they chose not to – just as they chose not to avoid providing amplification for the BDS campaign’s calls to boycott the event.

Holden: “It’s a chance for us to get into why that is and why it’s made this year’s Eurovision one of the most controversial ever. So let’s get straight to it.”

Rosney: “Listen to that. That’s the sound of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a blazing hot day, white sand, blue water but you would never come here on holiday.”

Holden: “No you can’t visit Gaza. You need special permission to enter. We got permits as members of the press.”

The mantra seen in the synopsis was then repeated again:

Rosney: “It’s one of the most densely populated places on earth; smaller than the Isle of Wight but with almost 2 million people packed in. Palestinian territory bordered by Israel and Egypt.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, a map produced by the BBC in 2018 shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

Adhering to BBC editorial policy throughout the last 15 months, Holden went on to euphemistically describe the weekly ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Holden: “Over the next 15 minutes we’re gonna be talking about why it’s often in the news, the protests that happen here practically every week, the restrictions that affect daily life and the tension with Israel.”

Rosney: “Now it’s important to remember that Gaza is poor. According to the World Bank – an organisation which tries to reduce poverty – of which it says 40% of the population here are in. And youth unemployment rate is well above 60%.”

Holden: “Yeah and it’s also got one of the world’s youngest populations. Get your head around this: more than 40% of the people here are younger than 15 years old.”

Notably, neither Holden nor Rosney bothered to join the dots between poverty, youth unemployment and population density and the obviously relevant factor of birth rate.

‘Newsbeat’ audiences then got their second ‘history lesson’ in two days.

Rosney: “So before we find out why life is like this, we need to understand its history. So here’s Kat Collins.”

Newsbeat reporter Kat Collins came up with an account that has inaccuracy, misleading information or significant omission in almost every line, so let’s take them one by one.

Collins: “A strip of land home to nearly 2 million people, mainly Palestinian refugees. Hundreds of thousands of them living in refugee camps.”

Listeners were not told why there are still “hundreds of thousands” of refugees 71 years on or why Palestinians who have been living exclusively under Palestinian control for the past 14 years are still kept in refugee camps.

Collins: “A key point in Gaza’s history was World War Two and the mass murder of 6 million Jews under the Nazis.”

Here Collins promoted a classic narrative used by anti-Israel activists: the notion that Palestinians are suffering because of the Holocaust – or “mass murder” as Collins preferred to call that genocide.  

Collins: “After the war Jewish people were promised their own country.”

No: the Jewish nation was promised a homeland by the League of Nations after the First World War.

Collins: “Israel was created: carved out of land that was known as Palestine.”

Listeners were not told the origins of the name Palestine and so would be likely to automatically assume – wrongly – that Palestine was the nation state of the Palestinians mentioned just seconds later. 

Collins: “But the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab countries refused to recognise Israel as a country. Again there was war and thousands of Palestinians escaped to places like Gaza next door.”

Collins did not bother to inform listeners that Arab countries and the Palestinians conducted violent attacks long before Israel declared its independence or that roughly half of the refugees fled before Israel came into being. The fact that the Gaza Strip was part of the land designated by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland and the Egyptian occupation of that area in 1948 of course did not get a mention.

Collins: “In the 1960s, another war. Israel captured Gaza.”

Listeners heard nothing of the background to the Six Day War, including the fact that the Gaza Strip was at the time under the control of its main instigator.

Collins: “Decades of fighting continued between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout the 1990s Gaza was given more power though and in 2005 Israeli troops left the area.”

Apparently Collins believes it is appropriate to portray Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “fighting” between the two sides. Her reference to the 1990s is unclear but perhaps relates to the Oslo Accords. Of course in 2005, all Israelis – soldiers and civilians alike – left the Gaza Strip and even the Israeli dead were exhumed. Collins then went on to promote the falsehood that there was “peace” after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip when in fact terror attacks only increased.

Collins: “But peace didn’t last long and Israel still controls who and what goes in and out of Gaza. It says the blockade is for security reasons.”

Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip also has a border with and crossing into Egypt. Neither were they informed that the blockade was implemented because of Palestinian terrorism.  

Collins: “Palestinians there regularly fire rockets into Israel. They want Gaza to become part of a new State of Palestine with independence. Israel’s also attacked Gaza many times, saying it wants to stop the rocket fire.”

The Palestinian factions attacking Israeli civilians with rockets so not do so because they want “a new State of Palestine”. They do so because they want Israel to cease to exist.  

Collins: “The opening ceremony for Gaza’s international airport. That was 1998 but not long after it was bombed by Israel. It’s never reopened.”

Collins failed to clarify that the airport was put out of action during the terror war waged by the Palestinians known as the Second Intifada.

Collins: “With access restricted, not many things get in or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in but aid agencies say people aren’t getting much meat or fresh fruit and vegetables.”

In fact everything gets into Gaza with the exception of dual use goods that can be used for the purpose of terrorism, for which a permit is required. Collins did not name the ‘aid agencies’ she cited but we have been unable to find any such claims from a serious source.  

We did however find a professor from the Gaza Strip who stated that:

“…there is no shortage of food products in Gaza. “You can get anything you’re looking for at the supermarkets,” he testifies. “Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products. The problem is that we’re falling between the Ramallah armchair and the Gaza stool: Abbas issued an order to cut government workers’ salaries, and some 100,000 families fell under the poverty line. Your heart explodes when you pass by the packed food stands, and the head of the household stands there and has to decide whether to buy cheese and bread or watermelon.”

The Palestinian Authority’s financial sanctions against Hamas – which also affect power supplies, sewage treatment and medical supplies – had however no place in the BBC’s ‘history’. Neither did the violent coup instigated by Hamas in 2007.

Collins: “In 2006 the Palestinian militant group Hamas became Gaza’s ruling party. Supporters say it is a legitimate fighting force defending Palestinian rights but countries like the UK, the US and Canada call its members…terrorists.”

Collins of course did not bother to clarify that the ‘right’ Hamas purports to defend is its declared aim of eliminating the world’s only Jewish state. Obviously she preferred to lead ‘Newsbeat’ audiences towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action.

With ‘Newsbeat’ claiming to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, we once again get a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

The rest of this report will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

Earlier this month we saw that the BBC had sent two reporters from the offshoot of BBC News which is the manifestation of the corporation’s belief that 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK cannot consume current affairs without a middleman – ‘Newsbeat’ – to cover the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

In among their Eurovision coverage Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also managed to produce “a little bit of a history lesson” for Newsbeat’s target audience which was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

Seeing as ‘Newsbeat’ claims to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, that eight-and-a-half-minute long item gives us a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

Steve Holden introduced the report (from 06:45 here).

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Holden: “Shalom from the city of Jerusalem. All this week ‘Newsbeat’ is coming to you from Israel and the Palestinian territories. […] We’re in the Middle East, surrounded by countries including Egypt, Jordan and Syria. It’s a fascinating place but also to some a controversial one, which we’ll talk about soon. We are here because this week Israel hosts the world’s largest live music event, the Eurovision Song Contest.”

By that measure one can only hope that the war in Afghanistan and the military coalition intervention against ISIS will be over by next May, otherwise ‘Newsbeat’ will have to make sure that reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands also pop over to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan as well as several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Holden continued:

Holden: “So right now we are in the heart of Jerusalem: its Old City. It is full of market traders, food stalls, so many tourists. And I know this is radio but the smells here are incredible: think a mix of fresh strawberries, all kinds of spices and incense. It is amazing. It’s an organised chaos here; there are so many people but these motorbikes snake down these tiny alleyways and everyone shouts. Think of Jerusalem like a crossroads for religion. It is considered holy for many including Jews, Christians and Muslims. […]

This region is home to both Israelis and Palestinians so gonna give you a little bit of a history lesson now because the British used to rule here years ago when the area was called Palestine. Following the Second World War Israel established its state here. It was a homeland for Jewish people and in the war that followed, when surrounding Arab countries fought that new Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes. Now, after another war in the 1960s, Israel captured places that you might have heard of like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank which it still occupies now – places that Palestinians want as their future state. Now those conflicting claims have seen unrest [sic] in this region for decades with each side blaming the other.”

As we see the BBC is not interested in explaining how Britain came to “rule…the area” or in telling audiences about the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine. Relatedly, the word ‘the’ is missing from Holden’s portrayal of Israel – actually a homeland for the Jewish people. As is so often the case in BBC content, Holden’s portrayal leads listeners to the erroneous belief that the displacement of Palestinians took place only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948 and the Arab attacks which followed their rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947 are erased from view. Having also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War, Holden went on to describe nearly 700 attacks with military grade projectiles against Israeli civilians in two days in early May as “violence…in the Gaza Strip”.

Holden: “Here with us this week is the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman who is based in Jerusalem. Ah…violence flared up very recently in the Gaza Strip which is about 90 minutes from here. Explain what happened.”

Bateman’s explanation included the BBC’s usual euphemism for terrorists and failed to clarify that the two Israeli soldiers were on the Israeli side of the border when shot by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “There were militants in Gaza who really control the Gaza Strip. They shot at two Israeli soldiers, wounding them. Israel then fired back and two militants were killed in an air strike. There were then two days of very intense violence that followed. 700 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel that killed four people in Israel. The Israelis carried out wave after wave of air strikes against the Gaza Strip – in response, they said – and 25 Palestinians were killed. And really the context to all of it is that the Palestinians in Gaza say they want an easing of the blockade that Israel says it carries out for security reasons. The Israelis say, well look, they just want calm on the boundary.”

Bateman’s description of Israeli air strikes as being “against the Gaza Strip” is of course inaccurate – the targets were terrorist assets and installations. His claim that “25 Palestinians were killed” does not inform listeners that at least 74% of them were identified as terrorist operatives or members of the terrorist organisations. Bateman’s portrayal of what “Palestinians in Gaza say they want” of course does not help the BBC’s “younger audiences” understand that what Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad want is to eradicate Israel and that is why counter-terrorism measures including “the blockade” are in place.

Holden: “Now world governments have been trying to stop that from happening for years. What’s the latest?”

Notably Bateman’s portrayal of the two-state solution follows the usual BBC policy of ignoring the all-important part of the formula: ‘two states for two peoples’.

Bateman: “Well the formulation for peace really from the international community for many years has been something called the two-state solution and what that would really mean was you have the State of Israel living in peace and security alongside an independent Palestinian state so the Palestinians would have their own country and the right to run that. What we’re gonna get, in the next few weeks it looks like, is a new plan from the Trump White House in America. President Trump he says he wants to do the deal of the century – the ultimate deal, he’s called it – between Israelis and Palestinians. Now the Americans say it requires new thinking; all the ideas in the past have simply failed. But there are critics already of this, including the Palestinians and their leadership who say they won’t talk to the Americans over all of this. They think the plan is gonna be biased in favour of Israel.”

Holden: “And we’re starting this week in Jerusalem. It’s a city that is complicated. It’s got a very complex history.”

Erasing the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem from the picture even while referring to its effects, Bateman also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War.

Bateman: “You have here two very distinct populations so in the west of the city you have Jewish Israelis. In the east of the city largely you have Palestinians, Arabs. There was a time when the city was very divided; literally there was barbed wire and concrete walls running across the centre of it. When Israel captured it in that war you mentioned in the 1960s they took the whole city and since then they’ve claimed it as what they call their eternal, undivided capital. Now Palestinians in the east don’t want that. They want the east to be the capital of their future state and so it remains a city whose future is in question and really one of the most contested places on earth.”

Holden then introduced a report from his colleague Daniel Rosney who went on walk about in Jerusalem on Independence Day to do vox pop interviews.

Rosney: “This is Damascus Gate: one of the entrances to the Old City but it’s also one of the ways that you get to the east of the city where many Palestinians live. Around here there are Border Police with big guns and they sit in booths. For Israelis this keeps the city undivided but for Palestinians this is the face of their occupation.”

Actually, for Israelis those Border Police officers are defence against the frequent terror attacks by Palestinians that ‘Newsbeat’ chose to erase from this report entirely. Rosney was apparently surprised that residents of the eastern part of the city were not celebrating Independence Day.

Rosney: “Back outside and you can see that in East Jerusalem some of the roads just aren’t as good as they are in West Jerusalem and it’s not got that same celebratory vibe today.

Referring to one of Rosney’s interviewees, Holden closed the report with another misrepresentation of when and why some Palestinians became refugees.

Holden: “As we just heard in Daniel’s report, Rajid [phonetic] wasn’t celebrating Israel’s Independence Day but later this week he will mark Nakba Day remembering the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced from their home after Israel declared independence. More on that tomorrow when we’re going to be in Gaza hearing from those directly affected by the conflict.”

Apparently as far as ‘Newsbeat’ is concerned “those directly affected by the conflict” do not include the residents of southern Israel targeted by thousands of missiles over the years or the many thousands of Israelis impacted by other types of Palestinian terror attacks.

BBC’s Tim Franks in the Golan Heights – part two

In part one of this post we saw how, on a visit to the Golan Heights, ‘Newshour’ presenter Tim Franks purported to interview a resident of the community set to be expanded and renamed after the US president. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “He lives in this tiny hamlet and tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials about their plans to build a new settlement on his village’s land and name it in honour of Donald Trump.”

As we showed, the man concerned does not live in Beruchim and that meeting was not with “government officials”.

Following that interview, Franks’ long report (from 30:06 here) in the May 22nd afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ continued with a trip to Majdal Shams which he insisted on describing as a “village” even though it has over 11,000 residents and once again using the term “Syrian Druze” despite the fact that by no means all of the Golan’s Druze residents identify as such.

Franks: “You get a different view further north in the Golan Heights. In this Druze village – Majdal Shams – you literally get a different view because you can see from its slopes into Syria. For decades this frontier marked by this sinuous ceasefire fence was the quietest that Israel had. That changed with the Syrian civil war. Militant Islamist groups and Iran building up a presence just the other side of these hills. […] So what does this leave the Syrian Druze in Majdal Shams feeling? One good place to try to get a thoughtful response is the owner of the local bookshop, Amal Safadi.” […]

Having already signposted his interviewee’s response and once again failing to inform listeners that Israeli law was applied to the Golan Heights 38 years ago, Franks went on:

Franks: “With the American announcement that they would recognise the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, what’s your attitude towards the idea of the local people here taking Israeli citizenship? Have you taken Israeli citizenship?”

Franks obviously must have known the answer to that ‘question’ before he asked it. Safadi has made her views clear in other media interviews (as have some members of her extended family) and she was obviously selected in advance by his production team to represent a certain side of the story. Listeners heard a translated version of her responses in Arabic.

Translator: “She says I will never think to take the citizenship. Our citizenship as Syrians is historical. We’re here from thousand years. This decision is political: nothing will change on the ground.”

Franks did not bother to try to clarify where “here” is and hence avoided the need to remind listeners that Syria as an independent state came into existence in 1946 or tell them that Majdal Shams was settled in the 18th century.

Franks then brought up imaginary scenarios which have not been proposed by any Israeli official either recently or in the past 38 years since the Golan Heights Law was passed.

Franks: “If the Israeli government decides now that you have to take citizenship or maybe they will say you don’t deserve all the rights of living here.”

Translator: “She is saying we had the same story in 1982 and they tried to force us to take the citizenship. Even we were less educated by then but now we are more stronger and our decision will be more strong these days.”

Franks: “People around the world listening to you might understand that you’ve got a very strong sense of identity – that you are a Syrian Druze – but they’ll also say just look over there inside Syria where there’s chaos, there’s conflict. At least here you’ve got rights and you’ve got relative prosperity as well. Why aren’t you happy to be here and take the advantages that Israel can give you?”

Translator: “She says you have a mother, right? If your mother is sick will you leave her? No, you will stay there and support her. Syria is our mother and we need to support our mother instead of leaving her.”

Making no effort to get beyond Safadi’s slogans and examine factors such as the relevant fact that many Druze residents of the Golan Heights have relations in Syria for whose safety they fear, Franks next told listeners that “elsewhere in Majdal Shams though, the taboo is beginning to crack”.

In fact there has been a rise in the number of Golan Druze applying for Israeli citizenship since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. 

Majdal Shams

Franks then interviewed a Majdal Shams resident who did so two years ago.

Franks: “He needs it, he says, so he can travel more easily for work and also so that once abroad, he doesn’t get hassled or intimidated for having no declared citizenship.”

After his interviewee had told him that opinions for and against the move among people he knows were “fifty-fifty”, Franks responded:

Franks: “I don’t really need to tell you this but the argument that is used by a lot of people here is that this is occupied territory; it doesn’t belong to Israel. One day it will go back to Syria.”

Following his interviewee’s reply to that and an additional question, Franks took the time to stress to listeners that his decision was “the pragmatic, non-ideological decision to take Israeli citizenship”.

The final section of Franks’ report was introduced with another undated reference to “annexation”, an unexplained reference to “strategic importance” and a misleading statement concerning water.

Franks: “So what’s driving the actions of the Israeli state up here? Given Israel’s decision to annex the territory, given the government’s delight at Donald Trump’s recent support for that annexation, given the Golan’s strategic importance, militarily and in terms of the country’s water supply, has there ever been serious thought to a territorial exchange with the Syrians? Well the answer is yes – all the way from the 1990s until as recently as the start of this decade. […] What stopped everything was – no surprise – the Syrian civil war.”

Franks’ final interviewee was former national security advisor Uzi Arad who explained how the war in Syria had led to “the notion that Israel would now forfeit” the Golan Heights looking “recklessly silly”. Franks was however far more interested in Arad’s assessment of “the American move”.

Arad: “Don’t press the point. Clearly this Assad is a real (bleeped out) as a person, as a leader. Clearly Syria needs something better but he had successfully won the nation and he has support to that from Russia. If you provoke him you would make him insist that for him the liberation of the Golan remains a priority. So why? Why pushing them into that corner? We stay there anyway.”

Franks then closed his report:

Franks: “The Golan is beguiling and beautiful. It’s also deceptive. The struggle with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in Gaza – that’s the most visible, most frequently violent manifestation of Israel’s uneasy place in the Middle East. But it’s away from them, up in the north, that the potential for the greatest conflict may come.”

In the years since the Syrian civil war began BBC audiences have seen reports from a number of BBC and other journalists visiting the Golan Heights, most of which have presented a drearily monochrome portrait of the Golan Druze that fails to reflect changes in their society. In addition to being blighted by basic inaccuracy and omission of relevant context, Tim Franks’ almost thirteen-minute-long report largely stuck to the same jaded political narrative and even promoted irrelevant and imaginary scenarios concerning the Israeli government.  

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

Once again, BBC history begins in June 1967

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Tim Franks in the Golan Heights – part one

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard another long report (from 30:06 here) by Tim Franks in the programme’s May 22nd afternoon edition. The same report was also aired in the May 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ (from 35:30 here).

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “Two days ago I was reporting for you from what we tend to think about when we talk about occupied territory: the congested, contested area of the West Bank and Palestinians and Israeli settlers. Today we’re gonna head to the north-eastern tip of Israel – to the Golan Heights. This is a small country so from here – Jerusalem – to the Golan it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive and into stunning landscape.

This is also occupied territory but, my goodness, it feels so different to the West Bank. Despite the signs you come across occasionally as you travel through this place warning you to keep out of minefields, this is quiet, it’s beautiful, in parts mountainous, in parts fertile. It’s the slice of land that separates Israel from south-west Syria. Israel captured the Golan Heights during the Six Day War in 1967 leaving thousands of Syrian Druze this side of the ceasefire line. There’s now about twenty thousand of them who, back in March, heard the news that Donald Trump was – unlike the rest of the world – going to recognise Israel’s unilateral annexation of the territory. We’ll find out later what some of those Syrian Druze make of that in a moment.”

Significantly, Franks’ portrayal of history as beginning in June 1967 – a typical BBC practice – failed to inform listeners why Israel “captured the Golan Heights during the Six Day War” and what happened in the years before that to prompt such a move. Additionally, while repeatedly referring to “annexation” of the region, Franks failed to clarify to listeners at any point that Israeli law was applied to the Golan Heights thirty-eight years ago.

Notably, Franks elected to exclusively use the term “Syrian Druze” despite the fact that by no means all of the Druze population of the Golan Heights identifies in that manner.

Franks: “First though, I’m going to meet one of the twenty thousand Israelis who live in the Golan Heights. He’s called Menachem Ender. He lives in this tiny hamlet and tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials about their plans to build a new settlement on his village’s land and name it in honour of Donald Trump.”

Although Franks refrained from naming that “tiny hamlet”, as the Jerusalem Post and others reported ten days before his report was aired, the community tapped to be the location of that “new settlement” is Beruchim.

“Makor Rishon reported last week that the community, which will be a mixed secular-religious settlement that in its first stage will number some 120 families, will be set up in the northern Golan at Beruchim, where plans for a previous settlement were approved in 1991, and where there have been unsuccessful efforts over the years to establish a community.”

Ynet added:

“Today, Beruchim is the home of 10 people, and several other newcomers who wish to establish a leadership seminar for pre-army teens in the settlement.

The community was established in 1991, by then-housing minister Ariel Sharon, who sent a group of new immigrants from the Soviet Union to live there. It was established near Qela [Kela Alon] and meant to be a thriving extension of it, but failed to live up to the expectations.

Residents of Qela were outraged about the decision to change their existing community’s name, and hung signs protesting the move on their entrance gate, apparently under the impression that the entire perimeter of Qela and Beruchim will become the new Trump community.

However, the residents had false information, and it was clarified Sunday [May 12th] that the new settlement will not replace Qela, but rather built on top of Beruchim; a draft plan already exists and offers 110 new homes be built in Beruchim, that will house both religious and secular residents.”

An article published by Ha’aretz on the same day that Frank’s report was broadcast shows that he apparently did not bother to check facts adequately in the four days between recording and going on air. The man interviewed by Franks – Menachem Ender – appears in the Ha’aretz report where he is identified as a resident of nearby Kela Alon rather than a resident of the site of the new community to be named after the US president.

“Some 200 meters (650 feet) from Beruchim lies a very different place: The well-tended, middle-class settlement of Kela Alon, home to 85 families. Officially, Kela Alon and Kela-Beruchim are part of the same municipal entity, known simply as Kela. This led to confusion among Kela Alon residents when they heard of the Trump plan through the media, believing their settlement would be expanded and renamed for the U.S. president.

Their unhappiness is still visible on the main road to the neighborhood: Two homemade signs, one leaning against a tractor, read “Kela Alon is not for sale” and “Ramat Trump — not here!”

Mene [Menachem] Ender, 72, says the initial opposition was based on a misunderstanding of the government’s plans.

Ender, who moved to the Golan 45 years ago “out of Zionist motivation — I’m not ashamed to admit it” — after fighting in the Yom Kippur War, has lived in Kela Alon for the past two years. He says members of his community were disturbed by initial details of the plan, about which they had not been consulted. They feared it would transform their town.”

Franks’ claim that “tonight he’s got a meeting with government officials” is also shown to be inaccurate in the same Ha’aretz report.

“In a damage-control effort, the regional council has sought to calm the community, explaining that any new development would take place in Beruchim, not Kela Alon.

On Sunday, leaders of the Golan Regional Council met with 150 concerned residents and assured them that the new “Trump town” would be a separate entity from their own and that they would only benefit from its presence.”

That meeting with local council officials – not “government officials” – took place on May 19th – the day that Tim Franks was in the Golan Heights. We can identify the date of Franks’ visit because later on in the item he tells listeners that:

Franks: “Israel has launched hundreds of air sorties, particularly against Iranian positions [in Syria]. There was an airstrike just last night.”

That incident – which has not been acknowledged by Israel and was not reported by the BBC at the time – took place on the night of May 18th.

The rest of Franks’ report will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

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BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

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.

As is the case in much BBC reporting relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, readers found the usual BBC mantra on ‘international law’ and the inevitable erasure of all history before June 1967.

“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’.

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Once again, BBC history begins in June 1967

Visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 23rd were informed that: “Israel to name Golan town after Trump”.

Those who bothered to click on the link discovered in the report itself report  – “I will name a Golan town after Trump, says Israel’s Netanyahu” –  that the story is distinctly less cut and dried than that headline claims.

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he intends to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump.

Mr Netanyahu said the move would honour Mr Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in March. […]

“I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J Trump”, he said in a video message.”

In other words, such a proposal would first have to pass a vote in the cabinet and then – assuming the community was indeed a new one – go through years of planning permission before a new town or village bearing the name of the (by then most likely former) US president could come into being. 

Seeing as there was obviously not much meat to a story based on two similar videos in Hebrew and English together totaling less than one and a half minutes, over 60% of the BBC’s report was given over to background information and as usual the BBC’s portrayal of history began in June 1967.

“Israel seized the Golan from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. The move has not been recognised internationally. […]

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East war, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake the region during the 1973 war.”

Obviously that framing tells BBC audiences nothing at all about what happened before “Israel seized the Golan” or why it did so.

“In the years and months leading up to the 1967 war, Syria had played a crucial role in raising tensions by engaging in acts of sabotage and incessantly shelling Israeli communities. The second half of 1966 and spring of 1967 saw increasing friction and incidents between the IDF and Syrian forces. […]

By 1967 more than 265 artillery pieces were aimed down at Israel, and on the plateau itself Syria had constructed a dense network of fortifications, trenches and concrete bunkers with overlapping fields of fire, all sitting behind dense mine fields. Just before the outbreak of the war the Syrians forces in the Golan totaled over 40,000 troops with 260 tanks and self-propelled guns, divided up among three armored brigades and five infantry brigades. Facing them, the Israelis were heavily outgunned, with just one armored brigade and one infantry brigade. […]

During the first day of the war, on June 5, Syrian planes attacked communities in the north of Israel, including Tiberias, and attempted to attack the Haifa oil refineries. The Israeli air force responded later that day with an attack on Syria’s airbases, destroying 59 Syrian aircraft, mostly on the ground.

In the early morning hours of June 6, however, Syria intensified its attacks, launching a heavy artillery barrage against Israeli civilian communities, and then sending two companies of infantry across the border to attack Kibbutz Dan. […]

On June 8, the fourth day of the war, Syria accepted a UN cease-fire, and for five hours there was a lull in the shelling. But then the barrages resumed, and state radio announced that Syria did not consider itself bound by any cease-fire.”

The public purposes set out in BBC’s Royal Charter oblige it to “build people’s understanding” and “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues”. 

Obviously the omission of the background to the Six Day War that is so often seen in BBC content and the employment in its place of simplistic statements such as “Israel seized the Golan from Syria” do not contribute to meeting those public purpose obligations. 

 

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

All three of the BBC News website’s March 21st and March 22nd reports concerning the US president’s announcement of the intention to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights included links to the BBC’s profile of that area which was last updated on March 14th.

In that profile BBC audiences are told that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.”

While that may have been the case in the past, does the Golan Heights really currently provide “a third of Israel’s water supply”?

A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water.

“The Israeli water sector has natural and artificial sources of water. The main natural sources are the Kinneret Basin, which includes aquifers and rivers that flow into the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer. Natural fresh water makes up some 40% of water consumption. In addition to the sources of natural water, two sources of artificial water play a vital role in the water sector: desalinated water (mostly seawater), which in 2016 provided 25% of water consumption, and reclaimed wastewater, used mostly for agriculture, which in 2016 provided 25% of the water consumed across all sectors.”

Moreover, rainfall on the Golan is just one of several sources of water supply to the Sea of Galilee and, as the Knesset report goes on to say:

“For years, Israel has faced a water crisis, which has manifested itself in low precipitation and dwindling natural resources (groundwater and sources of surface water, primarily the Sea of Galilee). The drought in Israel’s north, an area that usually receives greater precipitation, is particularly severe.”

“…the volume of water flowing into the Sea of Galilee in the past four years is the lowest ever on record: in August 2017, water flow to the Sea of Galilee reached a record low—that month, the Sea of Galilee lost 26 MCM of water (the previous record was set in August 2014). As a result, the water level in the Sea of Galilee is expected to drop and may break the record low set in 2001, despite the fact that almost no water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee in recent years.” [emphasis added]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Readers of this profile also find the following:

“Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.

In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.

But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee [sic] and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no such thing as a “pre-1967 border”. There is however a 1923 border set out by the then mandatory powers Britain and France.

“The territorial aspects of the Syrian-Israeli dispute date to 1920–23, when Great Britain and France devised a boundary between Syria (then including “Greater Lebanon”) and Palestine, two entities that would fall under League of Nations mandates. Often referred to as the “1923 international boundary,” the line was drawn to keep the upper course of the Jordan River (between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee) and the Sea of Galilee itself entirely within Palestine and to give Palestine a few kilometers of frontage on the Yarmouk River. Between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, the boundary ran between fifty and four-hundred meters east of the Jordan River, just below the Golan Heights. Along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, it ran parallel to the shore and ten meters from the water’s edge. Sovereignty over these water resources was vested in Palestine.” [emphasis added]

There is also a 1949 Armistice Agreement Line, which was specifically defined as not being a border. Article V of the agreement states:

“1. It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.

2. In pursuance of the spirit of the Security Council resolution of 16 November 1948, the Armistice Demarcation Line and the demilitarized Zone have been defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of the two Parties in such manner as to minimize the possibility of friction and incident, while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the Demilitarized Zone, without prejudice to the ultimate settlement.” [emphasis added]

As documented by Frederic C. Hof:

“During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian troops penetrated Palestine-Israel in several areas. When an armistice was signed in July 1949, Syrian forces still held blocs of territory west of the 1923 international boundary. The parties agreed to a compromise: Syrian forces would withdraw from the farthest extent of their advance (the truce line—later the Armistice Demarcation Line [ADL]) to the 1923 international boundary, and Israel would refrain from introducing military forces into areas vacated by Syria. Thus was created a demilitarized zone consisting of three, non-contiguous blocs of land in what had been mandate Palestine totaling 66.5 square kilometers. In some places the ADL corresponded to the 1923 international boundary, and in others it penetrated into the former Palestine mandate. The demilitarized zone was everything between the ADL and the 1923 international boundary. Syria — quite inexplicably — agreed that the ADL along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee would correspond to the 1923 international boundary (i.e., the 10-meter strip), even though its soldiers and civilians enjoyed access to the sea’s waters before, during, and after the 1948 fighting. Therefore, any time a Syrian national—military or civilian— crossed the invisible line to swim or fish an armistice violation occurred. Israel claimed sovereignty over the entire 66.5 square kilometer zone. Syria did not, reserving its claims for a future peace conference.” [emphasis added]

There is also what is termed the Line of June 4, 1967 (link includes map). That line is also not a border: it represents the positions – despite the Armistice Agreement – held by Israel and Syria on the eve of the Six Day War.

“Neither side lived up to its [Armistice Agreement] obligations. Syria retained pieces of the demilitarized zone, including the Palestinian Arab town of El Hamma on the Yarmouk River, and treated the 10-meter line paralleling the northeastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee as if it did not exist. […] Secret talks in 1952–53 to partition the demilitarized zone failed. Between 1954 and 1967 there was a “game of inches” for control of the zone, always fought to the advantage of Israel. On the eve of war in June 1967, Syria still controlled the 10-meter strip and some 18 of the zone’s 66.5 square kilometers, including El Hamma (along with a small salient to its west along the Yarmouk River), the east bank of the Jordan River between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, some high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and a small patch of land overlooking the Hula Valley.” [emphasis added]

Hof goes on:

“As a result of American shuttle diplomacy, Syria came to believe, by July 1994, that Israel would seriously contemplate full withdrawal “to the line of June 4, 1967” in return for a peace treaty satisfactorily addressing Israel’s core concerns. Syria demanded that all land wrested by Israel from Syrian control in June 1967—18 square kilometers of demilitarized zone in the Jordan Valley and the 10-meter strip along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights—be returned to Syria in its entirety. […] Syria wanted a line that had, for the most part, not been demarcated: a line that, in several key areas, corresponded neither to the 1923 international boundary nor to the 1949 ADL. Syria wanted the eve of war (1967) status quo restored and a boundary drawn reflecting, in effect, a snapshot of who was where on June 4, 1967.”

In other words, the BBC falsely claims the existence of a “pre-1967 border” and its assertion that the existence of a border to the east of the shore of the Sea of Galilee is something that only “Israel says” exists is untrue.  

The claim that a return to a “pre-1967 border” would “give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee” is inaccurate, seeing as the only border in existence prior to 1967 was the one agreed upon in 1923 by France and Britain which left access to the lake within the borders of Mandate Palestine. 

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BBC gets Golan Heights population wrong again

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 21st heard (from 17:47 here) the following report: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “President Trump has said it’s time for the United States to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – territory which was captured from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. The announcement – in the form of a Tweet – has been welcomed by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu but is highly controversial as our world affairs correspondent Paul Adams explains.”

Adams: “Not for the first time Donald Trump has chosen Twitter to make a foreign policy announcement with huge ramifications. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war – the same conflict which saw it occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It never formally annexed the Golan but passed a law in 1981 which had much the same effect. Twelve thousand Israeli settlers have moved there. Now President Trump says it’s time to recognise what he calls Israel’s sovereignty. The Golan, he said, was of critical strategic and security importance to Israel. If he follows through, Israel will be delighted – as it was when he decided to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year. Bit by bit Mr Trump seems determined to change the course of long-established American Middle East policy.”

The population of the Golan’s one town, Katzrin, is currently around 8,000. The combined population of the other smaller Israeli communities on the Golan Heights (not including the four Druze communities and the Alawite village of Ghajar, where the residents are also Israeli citizens) is around 17,600. The total number of what Paul Adams terms “settlers” in the Golan Heights is therefore around 25,600 – i.e. more than double the number of people he claims “have moved there”.

With nearly 52 years have passed since the Golan Heights came under Israeli control, a significant proportion of the people living in the region did not ‘move there’ at all but were born as second and third generation Golan Heights residents. Seeing as it is however highly unlikely that Paul Adams was seeking to differentiate between those who came to live in the Golan Heights after 1967 and those residing there since birth, we can conclude that Adams’ inaccurate claim of 12,000 “settlers” is once again the result of inadequate research.

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