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

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Dan Efrony – former Military Advocate General of the IDF – writes about “The law of armed conflict: legality vs. legitimacy“.

“Since the 1980s, all of Israel’s armed conflicts have been fought against non-state actors, prominent among them, the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

These non-state enemies systematically and deliberately violate international humanitarian law, and specifically its basic principles which reflect customary international law that binds any state or non-state actor engaged in an armed conflict.

At the same time, they view the commitment of democracies like Israel to the rule of law as a weakness, which they can exploit to boost their gains in each front of the conflict, and within each level of activity, both tactical and strategic.”

2) Writing at ‘Fathom’, former MK Einat Wilf discusses what’s holding up a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“For most Israelis, the repeated Palestinian failures to say ‘yes’ to clear and distinct opportunities to end the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to build a peaceful state for themselves in territories evacuated by Israel, reinforced the view that more than the Arab Palestinians wanted a state for themselves, they wanted to deny a state to the Jewish people. Seventy years after the British Foreign Secretary told Parliament on the eve of partition that ‘for the Jews, the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish state’, while ‘for the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the land’, it seems the Arab Palestinians still see no reason to compromise with a project they view as ‘unjust’ and temporary. After all, if the crusader state lasted 88 years (including Jerusalem), then in 2017 – when Israel will mark 69 years – all the Arab Palestinians have to do is wait a mere 19 more years until the second crusader state will disappear.”

3) BICOM has produced a backgrounder to the Six Day War which can be accessed here.

4) At ‘The Long War Journal’ Amir Toumaj profiles the group behind the recently formed ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.

“The Iranian-controlled Iraqi militia Harakat al Nujaba this week announced the formation of its “Golan Liberation Brigade.” While it is not uncommon for entities to name themselves after areas they aim to “liberate,” the militia’s spokesman has said that the unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region in the Levant that has been controlled by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

If true, the unit would likely participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition in the part of the Golan Heights still controlled by Syria, before moving on to the much taller order of dislodging the Israelis across the border. This week’s announcement reflects Tehran’s priorities in southern Syria since finally taking the fiercely contested city of Aleppo late last year: crush Syrian opposition, and pose military threat to Israel from the Golan Heights.” 

BBC reports from Golan Heights omit basic context

The February 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a report from the Golan Heights by the BBC’s diplomatic and defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Marcus’ report (from 37:49 here) provided listeners with a good picture of the current situation along the border between Israel and Syria and the potential implications.

“The changes in Syria have brought Iran closer to Israel’s borders than ever. […]

It does create at least in theory the possibility of Iranian-Hizballah cooperation not only along the border between Israel and Lebanon but along the border between Israel and Syria as well. Israel has never faced that kind of situation on the northern border.”

However, audiences also heard a much less helpful portrayal of the events which brought about Israeli control over the Golan Heights in Marcus’ opening to the report.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in 1967. Israeli law was extended here in 1981, effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground.”marcus-golan-written

On February 8th a written report on the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“. While as interesting and informative as the audio report, the article similarly presents a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli law was extended there in 1981 – effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground. It is now a heavily fortified area.”

As regular readers will be aware, it is extremely rare for BBC audiences to be provided with the background information necessary for their understanding of the events which preceded Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights and additional areas in 1967. All too often we see that the BBC begins its accounts of history in June 1967 without providing the necessary context.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War approaching – and with it, one can assume, augmented BBC coverage of the topic – it is obviously all the more important for audiences to be provided with accurate, impartial and comprehensive information concerning the background to that war.

Related Articles:

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sundayclaims that it gives listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. However, the lead item in its January 15th edition fell outside that mission statement and, as its description in the programme’s synopsis shows, was in fact a transparently political story.r4-sunday-us-embassy-15-1

“Yolande Knell reports on the implications of a proposal by President elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item (from 00:61 here) as follows:

“Will Donald Trump follow through with his campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? The answer to that question could have huge implications for the Middle East. We’re joined from Jerusalem by our correspondent Yolande Knell. Yolande; it matters because the status of Jerusalem is absolutely crucial to the two-state solution that people, until now, say they want.”

Predictably, Knell’s response had the history of the millennia-old city beginning just fifty years ago, with no mention of the preceding 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Knell: “That’s right and Jerusalem has proven time and time again to be one of the most explosive issues; one of the most difficult issues to solve in this decades-old conflict, not least because of its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. And of course Israel captured the east of the city – which includes the Old City – in 1967 in the Middle East war. It went on to annex East Jerusalem, declare all of Jerusalem its united, eternal capital – although that’s never been recognised internationally. And the Palestinians are basically saying that any move for a US embassy – bringing it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – would kill the two-state solution; this long-standing goal of international policy on this conflict. It’s enshrined in UN resolutions: the idea of creating a Palestinian state to live peacefully alongside Israel. It will be based in Gaza, the West Bank and have East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Stourton: “I think I’m right in saying the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in the Vatican this weekend. He’s been talking about some of this, hasn’t he?”

In her response to that question, Knell introduced the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders” – a concept which not only does not exist, but was specifically and deliberately rejected by the parties to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Knell: “That’s right – very deliberate timing. He was actually at the Vatican to inaugurate an embassy for the State of Palestine. This is after the Vatican recognised a State of Palestine on pre-1967 borders and he was there for talks with the Pope. He told reporters while he was there that this…again, this move would destroy the two-state solution and he talked to the Pope about the need for Jerusalem to be an open city for three religions, we’re told. The Vatican’s position is that it seeks an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem: a status that would safeguard its sacred character.”

Stourton: “The…Donald Trump is not the first American president to have talked about the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Ahm…it hasn’t happened though in the past. How strong is the evidence that he’s really serious about this?”

Knell: “Well, because Donald Trump made this campaign promise and so many previous presidential contenders have – George W Bush and Bill Clinton at least and then they didn’t do it – that means that people really didn’t take it very seriously at first. But then we heard from one of his advisors – from Kellyanne Conway – that this was for him a very big priority. There was also the State Department official who came out saying to the press that it had been asked for logistical advice on a move. And then we know as well that the nominee for ambassador to Israel chosen by Mr Trump, David Friedman – somebody with very hardline views – he wants this very much. He issued a statement when he was nominated saying that he looked forward to moving the US embassy to Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem: those were his words. So when I’ve been briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days – one of their fears is this announcement could come in the inauguration speech of Mr Trump.”

According to reports from the time, the words Knell claims to quote were actually these:

“In the statement, Freidman said he was “deeply honored and humbled” that Trump selected him to represent the US in Israel, and that he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.””

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “What about the international background to all this because there’s this…as we have in the news, there’s this conference in Paris today on this question.”

Knell: “Yes and it’s also coming after a UN Security Council resolution was passed last month restating this commitment to the two-state solution and well-informed sources are basically saying that a draft statement from the Paris talks is going to come out with a similar kind of statement. It will affirm also the international community will not recognise changes to the pre-1967 lines for Israel unless they’re agreed with the Palestinians. It will make clear that a negotiated solution is the only way to ensure enduring peace but it’s also going to warn, I think, against unilateral moves. That could be a reference to the idea of Donald Trump moving…eh…moving the embassy because that would basically recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

In fact, the reference to “unilateral steps” in the text of the conference’s closing statement specifically relates to the two parties to the conflict rather than to the US or any other outside country.

Stourton: “And, Yolande, finally: do you detect internally any appetite for renewed negotiations between the two sides?”

Once again, BBC audiences heard a sanitised version of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014 that promotes false equivalence in Knell’s response to that question. However, Knell made sure to close with some very clear signposting with regard to which side listeners should view as being responsible for the lack of current negotiations.

Knell: “Ahm…both sides say that they’re ready to have talks but then the talks have been frozen since April 2014. They fell apart and I think that’s why there is now this…a lot of frustration from the international community. You have 70 countries and international bodies like the EU, the UN, the Arab League, other organisations, coming together for these talks. When you talk to analysts they really see these as a last-ditch attempt to try to save the moribund peace process but they don’t expect much to come out of these talks because – as much as the Palestinians are supporting them – the Israelis say that these are futile, they’re rigged, this pushes peace backwards and they’re not even going to go for a meeting with President Hollande in the coming weeks to be debriefed on what happened.”

Fatah Facebook account

Fatah Facebook account

Since mid-December the BBC has produced several items concerning or mentioning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. All those reports – including this one – have amplified the Palestinian messaging on that topic but BBC audiences have yet to hear any opposite viewpoint – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand.

Seeing as we now know that Yolande Knell is “briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days”, that lack of due impartiality is perhaps more comprehensible.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

 

 

 

 

Compromised BBC backgrounder surfaces again

On January 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia“. Included in that report was an insert of background information titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”, which previously appeared in an article concerning the same story in June 2016.tiran-art-jan-17

The insert includes the following context-free information:

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

As was noted here over six months ago:

“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.”

That observation obviously still applies.

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 partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

As documented here last month, the December 28th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a number of inaccuracies. [all emphasis added]twt-28-12

“[BBC presenter] Ley told listeners that:

“Last week President Obama authorised a change of tactics towards Israel. The US opted not to deploy its veto on a Security Council resolution condemning building by Jewish settlers on what had been Palestinian land until the Six Day War.” […] 

Ley continued:

“It was a war which lasted less than a week yet the territory seized by Israel then is still de facto controlled by Tel Aviv today.”

Referring to “Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia”, he later told listeners that:

“They also share Tel Aviv’s anxiety about the growing importance of Iran in the region.” […]

Ley also told audiences that:

“The attitude of Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia has become more ambiguous since they fought with Israel in 1967. Whilst continuing to make the case for a separate Palestinian state, most now accept the existence of the Jewish state.””

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those inaccuracies and the response received includes the following:reply-twt-complaint

That correction reads as follows:

correction-twt

BBC Watch will be pursuing the outstanding issues.

 

BBC News website produces a backgrounder on ‘settlements’

One of the most frequently recurring topics in the BBC’s Israel-related related content is that of ‘settlements’ and particularly construction in the places described as such. Examples from the past year alone include:

The return of the BBC’s political narrative on Israeli construction

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part one

BBC’s account of Quartet report exposes the holes in its own narrative

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Another BBC airbrushing of the Quartet report

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

More BBC promotion of the ‘Peace Now’ narrative on construction

BBC amplifies UN criticism of Israeli PM without providing relevant context

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

BBC News amplifies inaccurate US claim of ‘new settlement’

The majority of the BBC’s reports include a standard insert:

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As has been observed here on countless occasions, that standard insert breaches the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform BBC audiences of the existence of legal opinions which contradict the corporation’s own adopted political narrative.

Particularly given that repeated failure to meet the BBC’s professed standards of ‘due impartiality’ it was interesting to see that on December 29th (in the wake of UNSC resolution 2334 and John Kerry’s related speech) the BBC News website published a backgrounder – titled “Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?” – which opens as follows:settlements-backgrounder

“The issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has long been a major source of dispute between Israel and most of the international community, including its own closest ally, the US.

Here is a brief guide to what it is all about.”

To the credit of whoever wrote this article (readers are not informed of the author’s identity) it includes context which, as has been frequently documented on these pages, BBC audiences have been denied for years. [emphasis added]

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The West Bank and East Jerusalem had previously been occupied by Jordan since the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War.”

And:

“Israel has also established settlements in the Gaza Strip, seized from Egypt in the 1967 war, but it dismantled them when it withdrew from the territory in 2005. It also built settlements in the Sinai Peninsula, seized too from Egypt in 1967, but removed them in 1982 as part of a peace agreement with Cairo.”

And:

“Under the 1993 Israel-Palestinian Oslo peace accords, the issue of settlements was to be deferred until final status talks – a reason why Israel objects to pre-conditions and UN resolutions on the matter.”

Later on in the article, in answer to the question “So is a deal on settlements impossible?”, readers are told:

“Not necessarily, despite appearing insurmountable. Israel has said it is prepared to make “painful concessions” for peace, and it has previously shown it will relinquish settlements – such as in Sinai and Gaza, and four small sites in the West Bank in 2005.

It has agreed to negotiate the fate of existing settlements, and Jerusalem, as part of permanent status talks.

Israel has said in any final deal it intends to keep the largest settlement blocs, which are close to the pre-1967 ceasefire line.

This position seemed to get the endorsement of the US under former President George W Bush, who, in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, said it was “unrealistic” to expect a full withdrawal from the West Bank in a final peace deal.”

The writer could have also mentioned the Clinton Parameters and the Olmert Plan at this point – both of which included proposals for keeping the large settlement blocs in situ in return for land swaps. Nevertheless, this is only the second time in the whole of the past year that BBC audiences have been alerted to the existence of that possibility, with the corporation’s content more usually found promoting the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’ and amplifying its demand for their complete removal.

In a section headed “Are settlements illegal under international law?” readers find the following:

“Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal.

The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people into occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power.

It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was preserved under the UN’s charter.

The US describes the settlements as “illegitimate” and has refrained from calling them “illegal” since the Carter administration in 1980.

In December 2016, a UN Security Council resolution said settlements had “no legal validity and constitute[d] a flagrant violation under international law”. However, like previous resolutions on Israel, those adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter are not legally binding.”

While more could have been done to help audiences understand the legal background to the view held by Israel (and others too), it is extremely rare to find any mention of pre-1967 history in BBC content relating to the topic of Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and the parts of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan for 19 years from 1948.

This article could have done more to explain to readers why the branding of Judaism’s most holy site and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem as ‘occupied territory’ is so contentious. It should also have mentioned the much neglected topic of Jewish land ownership prior to 1948 in locations such as Hebron, Gush Etzion and Neve Ya’akov which the BBC now describes as ‘occupied’.

Unsurprising to those following the BBC’s portrayal of this topic over time is the inclusion in this article of data provided by the political NGO ‘Peace Now’.

“According to the Israel anti-settlement group Peace Now, there are 131 settlements in the West Bank, comprising about 385,000 Israeli Jewish settlers, and 97 outposts – settlements built without official authorisation.

The group says there are 12 settlements in East Jerusalem, inhabited by about 200,000 settlers.”

The article also directs readers to a partisan report on the website of another political NGO which campaigns on the same topic – B’Tselem – with the promotion of that link obviously compromising BBC impartiality.

“Built-up settlement areas occupy about 2% of the West Bank but critics point out that the land controlled by settlement activity, such as agriculture, amounts to much more than that and requires heavy military presence.”

While this backgrounder is by no means perfect, it does at least present a more nuanced picture than is usually the case and includes information which BBC audiences have been denied for too long. Whether or not future BBC reports on this topic will follow suit remains to be seen.  

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

 

Shaun Ley’s multiple Middle East mangles on BBC Radio 4

An item in the December 28th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ related to the speech given by the outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry on the same day. Throughout that item (from 07:59 here), host Shaun Ley promoted several inaccuracies. [all emphasis in bold added]twt-28-12

Ley told listeners that:

“Last week President Obama authorised a change of tactics towards Israel. The US opted not to deploy its veto on a Security Council resolution condemning building by Jewish settlers on what had been Palestinian land until the Six Day War.”

Prior to the Six Day War Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation following that country’s attack on the newly declared Israeli state in 1948. That occupation was not recognised by the international community. Before the Jordanian invasion, the same areas were administered by Britain under the terms of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Prior to British conquest during the First World War, the areas were controlled by the Ottoman Empire for some 500 years. Nevertheless, Ley promoted the totally inaccurate claim that Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem were “Palestinian land” until 1967.

Ley continued:

“It was a war which lasted less than a week yet the territory seized by Israel then is still de facto controlled by Tel Aviv today.”

Referring to “Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia”, he later told listeners that:

“They also share Tel Aviv’s anxiety about the growing importance of Iran in the region.”

As pointed out by our colleagues at CAMERA in relation to a correction secured from AP (and additional outlets) on the same issue earlier this month:

“This is a case of an error in the journalistic practice of naming a nation’s capital as shorthand for the country’s government. For instance, “Washington” is shorthand for the U.S. government because it is the capital. […]

But Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. The Prime Minister’s bureau is located in Jerusalem, next to the Foreign Ministry, the Bank of Israel, and across the street from the Supreme Court and the Knesset. While Israel’s Ministry of Defense is in Tel Aviv, the U.S. Department of Defense is in Arlington County, Virginia and yet the AP does not refer to “Arlington County” selling F-35s to Israel, for instance.”

As we know, the BBC presumptuously refuses to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but nevertheless, Ley’s choice of wording leads listeners to believe that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital – which is clearly inaccurate.

Ley also told audiences that:

“The attitude of Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia has become more ambiguous since they fought with Israel in 1967. Whilst continuing to make the case for a separate Palestinian state, most now accept the existence of the Jewish state.”

The Gulf Arab states are Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. None of those countries recognises or has diplomatic relations with Israel and all but one forbid entry to Israeli passport holders, meaning that Ley’s claim that “most” Gulf states “accept the existence of the Jewish state” is unsubstantiated. With the exception of Iraq and some minor air support from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, his claim that the Gulf Arab states “fought with Israel in 1967” is also misleading.

Later on, Ley managed to introduce an apartheid analogy into his commentary while implying the existence of some mysterious additional unpopulated “occupied territories”.

“If the occupied territories, as they’re called, including the populated ones – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – were formally absorbed into a single Israeli state, Mr Kerry suggested people would be separate and unequal – a phrase bound to anger many Israelis because of the implication that this is something similar to the racial segregation once practiced in South Africa and the United States. Israel insists that it treats all its citizens equally…”

Subsequently listeners heard an interview with the PA’s Husam Zomlot in which a reference to Israeli “tanks that is [sic] besieging entire communities” went unchallenged by Shaun Ley.

Part of the BBC’s public purpose remit is to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” in its domestic content – which includes Radio 4. Shaun Ley’s commentary is so ridden with inaccuracy and incompetency that it clearly does not meet that remit.

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

September 1st marked the 49th anniversary of the Arab League’s issuing of the Khartoum Resolutions.Khartoum summit

“…the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, “their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.’ The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent ‘phone call’ from the Arab world might be a pipe dream”.”

For years the BBC has cited the Six Day War as the central factor in its portrayal of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and even beyond. In 2007 the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen told radio audiences that:

“The legacy of 1967, military occupation and violent resistance, the unresolved refugee crisis and the competition for control of land and water…lies behind most of the shameful brutal and tragic events I have witnessed in 16 years of covering the Arab Israeli conflict for the BBC.”

“It would be bad enough if the misery of the past 40 years was confined to the Palestinians and the Israelis. But now at the start of the 21st century, their war affects all of us.. It’s at the center of the conflict between the West and the Islamic world… Ignoring the legacy of 1967 is not an option.” [emphasis added]

One might therefore expect that audiences would be able to find information concerning the Khartoum Resolutions on the BBC News website but a search for that term yields no results whatsoever.

The website’s current profile of the Arab League offers no information on that subject either and neither does its predecessor which is still available online. An old ‘timeline’ of the Arab League dating from 2011 includes the following entry for 1967 and a subsequent ‘timeline’ from 2013 offers the same information.

Arab League timeline

Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War and no doubt the BBC’s coverage of the topic will be extensive. Whether or not that coverage will finally include the provision of BBC audiences with information concerning the Arab League’s rejection of peace after losing that war remains to be seen.

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.

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