BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part two

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ describes itself as providing listeners with “global business news“. Apparently that type of news was in short supply on October 13th because the day’s lead story was entirely unrelated to that topic.

“Israel has followed the US in announcing its intention to leave Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation. We examine the reasons why and ask what it means for Unesco’s future.”

The caption to the photograph used to illustrate the programme’s webpage reads as follows:

“Picture: the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City”

As readers may recall, the employment of the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” – rather than the BBC style guide stipulated titles Temple Mount and Haram al Sharif – was first seen in November 2014 immediately after the PLO published a ‘media advisory’ document informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s tactic of negation of Jewish history and it is therefore particularly ironic that this caption accompanies a report concerning a UN body where that tactic has become a regular feature.

Presenter Fergus Nicoll introduced the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Nicoll: “In a moment our main headline: Israel says it will join the United States in its withdrawal from the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO. We’ll discuss that. […]

[01:23] We’ve got a lot to get our teeth into today, starting with the relationship between Washington and the United Nations – specifically some of the UN’s constituent agencies. It’s often been a prickly, even hostile, affair. The UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation – UNESCO for short – is a case in point. Washington pulled US funding back in 2011 after Palestine was admitted as a member state of UNESCO despite having a non-member observer status in other parts of the UN structure. That funding cut prompted UNESCO to suspend US voting rights. So, does it matter that President Trump has now announced a formal withdrawal of US membership? UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova thinks so.”

The US announcement was in fact made by the State Department rather than by the president.

Bokova: “I express my deep regret. If you go back into history we will see not only that the United States is a founding member of UNESCO. The whole idea that you can build peace through education, science, culture, communication is basically an American idea.”

Nicoll: “The full US withdrawal will come into effect at the end of 2018. Crystal Nix-Hines was President Obama’s appointee as the US ambassador to UNESCO until earlier this year.”

Listeners then heard edited parts of an interview broadcast the previous evening on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ which was previously discussed here.

“I think it’s a terrible decision for the US to withdraw from the organisation it helped found in…right after World War Two to promote peace and international cooperation around the world.

Well there’s no question that the resolutions have come out of the executive board adopted by member states have been incredibly inflammatory and quite frankly…ah…offensive. But the thing that people don’t realise is that because the United States has a seat at the table on the executive board, we’re able to block the implementation of those resolutions.

…giving up our seat on the executive board, we now lose that critical ‘no’ vote…”

With listeners having already heard two negative views of the US announcement, Nicoll then introduced his first interviewee – Professor David Bosco – who began by stating the obvious.

Bosco: “When the United States is out of the organisation its ability to impact the organisation’s budget, its staffing, its priorities certainly becomes minimal. The relationship has not been good for several years and the US hasn’t been paying its dues because of the issue of Palestinian membership but at least the US was an observer, was involved in, you know, the deliberations for example about who will be the next director general of UNESCO.”

Nicoll next steered the conversation towards “the question of partisanship”, with Bosco claiming “you do find  that it’s during Republican administrations that relations [between the US and the UN] have been more fraught”. Nicoll next asked whether additional countries would be likely to follow suit and Bosco’s answer included the following:

Bosco: “I don’t think you’ll see other major players follow suit because I think the Trump administration’s image and rhetoric is so toxic right now that I don’t think others will want to be seen to be following in their wake.”

Nicoll then posed the following question:

Nicoll: “I’d like to get your take on the fundamental core question here: is UNESCO really anti-Israel?”

Bosco: “Well, so first of all it’s not a question of whether UNESCO in terms of its director and its staff and its employees are. Because when it comes down to it the things that lead it to be accused of being anti-Israel are resolutions passed by UNESCO members. In that sense I mean UNESCO, I wouldn’t say, is any more anti-Israel than the UN general assembly is or the UN human rights committee [sic] and there are valid cases to be made that they have unduly focused on Israel. And I think that goes for UNESCO as well. There was recently a resolution about the status of Jerusalem or there was a mention [sic] of Israel as an occupying power in Jerusalem that was seen as very hostile by Israel and by the United States. I think anti-Israel views are very strongly held by many of the members of UNESCO – I think I would put it that way. I think it’s a relatively low-cost way for the US and the Trump administration to signal their displeasure with what they see as an anti-Israel bias at the UN and their general kind of dislike of many of the things that the UN does.”

In other words, once again BBC World Service audiences did not get any factual information concerning the scale of anti-Israel bias at UNESCO (and other UN branches) and were not told that the stream of UNESCO resolutions (sponsored and supported by assorted Arab states) erasing and denying Jewish history and heritage are part of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to delegitimise Israel. 

Nicoll then moved on to his two programme guests – Nancy Koehn and David Moser – mentioning an article he’d read which just happens to include comment from his previous interviewee.

Nicoll: “So Nancy, I was reading one piece – it was quite interesting – suggesting this was a kind of left field announcement; no American voter would have expected, you know, Mr Trump would give much attention to a group like UNESCO that looks pretty harmless on the face of it.”

Koehn’s reply included the following:

“…nothing will surprise – or increasingly little surprises, I think – the American citizenry in this incredible turbulence of the last ten months of the Trump administration when it feels like ten years to many of us because there’s so much happening and coming out of the White House on a daily basis.”

On the topic of the announcement itself Koehn told listeners:

“…the timing is not good. It just doesn’t make good diplomatic sync optical signalling sense for the United States to withdraw from an organisation created in the wake of World War Two to foment unity among nations […] at a moment when the world is growing increasingly volatile and divisive. It’s just – as we say in the business world – lousy optics.”

Turning to David Moser, Nicoll suggested that:

Nicoll: “…effectively, you know, if you throw, you know, your toys out of the pram – you say I’m not playing with this anymore – you don’t get a say anymore.”

Moser replied that he did not think that the current US administration “want a say in this domain anyway”, adding:

Moser: “This is all about education, science and culture: not exactly three main priorities of this administration.”

Quoting a French ambassador, he went on:

Moser: “…the ideals of UNESCO are in America’s DNA. Well America’s DNA has suddenly this season mutated. It’s a different kind of DNA. […]

For Trump this is low-hanging fruit. This is exactly the kind of thing that he does not value.”

Listeners later heard Moser claim that “the United States is stepping back from the world order and taking less of a decisive role, leaving a gap for China to fill”.

Nicoll next repeated Bosco’s questionable theory that “you can’t blame the institution – it’s the members of the institution”, adding:

Nicoll: “I guess you could say historically across the UN that’s true. The United Nations security council isn’t the way it is as such; it’s the behaviour of the P5 including, you know, the US votes on Israel, China, Russia’s votes on other issues.”

The last word in this long item went to Koehn who opined that:

Koehn: “So if Trump is in effect thumbing his nose at UNESCO – a low hanging fruit indeed – […] again it says something about the president’s perceptions of US responsibilities and US presence in the global community that […] the US pulls back, the US thumbs its nose at.”

In this BBC World Service programme and in the edition of ‘Newshour’ aired the previous evening which addressed the same topic, listeners heard a total of five uniformly negative opinions of the US State Department’s announcement to withdraw from UNESCO – with no alternative views offered at all. They likewise heard monochrome commentary on the story from the point of view of US politics: hardly an example of the BBC’s supposed commitment to “due impartiality”.

In neither programme, however, did listeners hear an accurate, comprehensive and impartial portrayal of the extent of – and reasons behind – the anti-Israel bias at UNESCO that prompted the US to take the step under such copious discussion.

Apparently the BBC World Service needs to be reminded that it is obliged to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part one

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again

 

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BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part one

As we saw in a previous post, the BBC News website’s reporting on the October 12th announcement from the US State Department regarding withdrawal from UNESCO did not provide BBC audiences with the background information essential for understanding of one of the three cited reasons for that action – anti-Israel bias. Rather, in addition to repeatedly placing that phrase in scare quotes, the article told readers of “perceived anti-Israel bias” at an organisation that passed no fewer than 46 anti-Israel resolutions between 2009 and 2013.

So did listeners to BBC World Service radio fare any better? The same story was the topic of an item aired in the October 12th edition of the programme ‘Newshour‘ which was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 17:57 here) as follows:

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

Franks: “The US has announced it’s pulling out of the UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO and it’ll be joined by Israel. The State Department said that the decision comes out of concerns with what it called ‘continuing anti-Israel bias’ at the agency. The formal withdrawal will come into effect at the end of next year.”

Franks then introduced the item’s sole interviewee:

Franks: “Crystal Nix-Hines was President Obama’s appointee as the US ambassador to UNESCO until earlier this year.”

Nix-Hines: “I think it’s a terrible decision for the US to withdraw from the organisation it helped found in…right after World War Two to promote peace and international cooperation around the world. And it’s, you know, yet another example of the Trump administration withdrawing from the international community and abdicating its leadership role.”

Franks: “Well you say it was set up in the wake of the Second World War with noble intentions; the argument now is that it has departed from those aims and it is a highly politicised and – in the words of its critics – anti-Israel talking shop.”

Nix-Hines: “Well there’s no question that the resolutions have come out of the executive board adopted by member states have been incredibly inflammatory and quite frankly…ah…offensive. But the thing that people don’t realise is that because the United States has a seat at the table on the executive board, we’re able to block the implementation of those resolutions. We vote no every single time. Sometimes we’re the only member to do so and because of that the UNESCO secretariat does not enforce the resolutions because they aren’t adopted by consensus. By staying out of the organisation, giving up our seat on the executive board, we now lose that critical ‘no’ vote and the resolutions are free to proceed.”

Franks made no effort to pursue the topic of the factors lying behind the politicisation of UNESCO or to explain to listeners that the stream of resolutions (sponsored and supported by assorted Arab states) that erase and deny Jewish history and heritage in the region are part of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to delegitimise Israel. With the BBC often failing to report – or reporting badly – on Palestinian actions at UNESCO, most listeners would be unable to fill in the blanks for themselves. He continued:

Franks: “Well except that I suppose the argument could be used that, I mean, essentially you’re accepting the criticism of UNESCO for having a slant – a bias – against Israel, for denying the Israeli or the Jewish cultural and religious and historical links to sites in Jerusalem, the site in Hebron and actually, you know, using your veto is one thing but actually walking away from the organisation is a…a braver and more honest thing to do until it sorts itself out.”

Nix-Hines: “I disagree. You can’t effect change if you’re not part of the organisation and working to encourage positive change.”

Nix-Hines went on to claim that “UNESCO is the only international organisation that teaches Holocaust education” and “the only organisation that is really doing anything serious to develop educational tools to help young people resist violent extremism and encourage tolerance and multiculturalism” before making a statement that Franks chose not to explore further.

Nix-Hines: “And why should, you know, a power like the United States let the Palestinians and their supporters drive us out of an organisation that we helped found and we’re moving in the right direction?”

Franks’ final question related to the possibility of change at UNESCO that might “persuade the US to reverse its decision”.  His interviewee’s response included further political comment:

Nix-Hines”…we [the US delegation] encouraged the organisation to return to that depoliticised time. And they could still do that and it would be a positive step in the right direction. But nonetheless it’s important to stay engaged in these international organisations – as the Obama administration realised – to promote real change.”

Listeners to this item once again heard superfluous qualification appended to the phrase anti-Israel bias. They heard one particular view of the US administration’s announcement – along with one particular shade of political comment – with no alternative view offered.

They did not however hear Tim Franks present any sort of serious challenge to the person who represented the United States at UNESCO for two and a half years on the question of why she and others failed to make any progress in ‘depoliticising’ the organisation in that time.

Listeners to another BBC World Service radio programme the next day heard a repeat of some of Nix-Hines’ comments. That broadcast will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again 

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again

The October 12th announcement from the US State Department regarding withdrawal from UNESCO was the subject of an article that originally appeared on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages under the interestingly punctuated title “US quits Unesco over ‘anti-Israel bias'” and several hours later had its headline changed to “Israel to join US in quitting Unesco“.

The first five versions of the article carried the original headline with versions 2 and 3 telling BBC audiences that:

“…last year, Israel suspended cooperation with Unesco after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.”

And:

“…earlier this year, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a World Heritage site.”

The UNESCO resolution mentioned in that first paragraph was passed in October 2016 and the site warily described by the BBC as having “Jewish ties” is none other than the holiest place in Judaism – Temple Mount. BBC reporting at the time failed to provide audiences with the background information which would enable understanding of that resolution’s context: the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history that is part of its tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

The resolution to which the second paragraph refers was passed in July 2017 and BBC reporting at the time likewise inaccurately claimed that the Israeli prime minister had condemned UNESCO’s designation of the location as a World Heritage site when in fact Israel’s objections were rooted in UNESCO’s designation of the old city of Hebron as a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Only in version 4 of this article (which appeared well over two hours after its initial publication) was some clarification added to that second paragraph:

“…earlier this year, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.

He accused Unesco of ignoring Judaism’s ancient connection to the city, which includes the crypt where its matriarchs and patriarchs are buried.”

An insert of analysis from Jonathan Marcus that was added from version 4 onward included the following: [emphasis added]

“But it is the organisation’s perceived anti-Israel bias that is the fundamental issue here. It has condemned Israel in the past for its activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and earlier this year it designated the old city of Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site – a step Israel insisted denied centuries of Jewish history there, not least the Tomb of the Patriarchs that dates back to biblical times.”

UNESCO’s bias against Israel is of course more than just “perceived” – as recorded by UN Watch, between 2009 and 2013 inclusive:

“UN Watch has counted no less than 46 UNESCO resolutions against Israel, one on Syria, and zero on Iran, North Korea, Sudan or any other country in the world.” 

UNESCO’s outgoing director general has criticised the body she headed in the past and the previous UN Secretary General admitted ‘disproportionate’ focus on Israel at the UN as a whole, as did his predecessor as far back as 2006. Earlier this year the full complement of US Senators sent a letter to the new UN head demanding an end to the “unacceptable” anti-Israel bias at that organisation and former US officials including  Susan RiceHillary Clinton and Samantha Power have made the exact same point. In March 2015, while speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, the then US Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country,” he said, decrying the fact that no country other than Israel has a permanent agenda item on the council’s schedule. “The (council’s) obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization.”

Bizarrely though, the BBC continues to put the phrase anti-Israel bias in scare quotes and to portray endemic UN bias to its audiences as “perceived”.

Related Articles:

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

 

 

 

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC reporting on last week’s UNESCO resolution concerning the old city of Hebron – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs – has consistently failed to adequately clarify to audiences both the real reasons for Israel’s objections to the motion as well as the fact that the professional body assessing the proposal submitted by the Palestinian delegation did not recommend its adoption and criticised it for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links”.

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 2/7/17

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution BBC News website, 7/7/17

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 7/7/17

An additional report concerning that story was broadcast (from 30:07 here) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 7th. In his introduction to that item, presenter James Coomarasamy once again failed to clarify to listeners in the BBC’s own words that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Coomarasamy: “Israel has denounced a decision by UNESCO to declare the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank a protected world heritage site. The resolution passed by a committee of the UN’s cultural agency also put it on a list of sites considered to be in danger. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a delusional decision.”

Listeners next heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister speaking in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship ensured for everybody. Throughout the Middle East mosques, churches and synagogues are being blown up. Places where Israel is not present. So we will continue to guard the Cave of the Patriarchs to ensure religious freedom for everybody and we will continue also to guard the truth.”

Coomarasamy then told listeners that they were about to hear information concerning “the history” behind the story.

“So what is the history behind the Israeli prime minister’s clear annoyance at this decision? Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

The history of the Tomb of the Patriarchs is of course well documented, with Abraham’s purchase of the site appearing in the Book of Genesis. While one can of course choose to believe that biblical story or not, what is not disputed is that the site was of such importance to Jews that Herod built a structure over the burial caves that is described by UNESCO’s professional team as having been “built in the 1st century BCE” – i.e. hundreds of years before the Islamic conquest of the region.

However, instead of providing audiences with a factual account of the site’s history, Tom Bateman preferred to give a narrative based portrayal of the story that cites ‘views’ – with views of course by definition being open to question and debate. [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Well he’s upset because Hebron, which is in the occupied West Bank, in his view and in the view of many Israelis has a connection to Judaism that goes back thousands of years. And the Cave of the Patriarchs that he talked about there, whilst the site itself is revered by all three of the monotheistic religions, to Judaism it is the burial-place of Abraham. Ah…and so it is his view that what’s happened here is that the Palestinian delegation has gone to UNESCO and has effectively used it for a politically motivated decision to try and enshrine Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city. Now for the Palestinians the view is rather different. It is that they believe that the site is endangered because of what they see as threats from occupation, from the Jewish settlements that are there in those…right in the centre of the old city and so they have for some time now been pushing for this vote and it went their way at UNESCO in Krakow at the meeting by 12 votes to 3.”

Bateman also refrained from providing audiences with any information concerning the history of the Jewish community in Hebron up to the 20th century or the more recent history – the Hebron Protocol – that would help listeners understand that there are “Jewish settlements …right in the centre of the old city” because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement twenty years ago. He did however find it important to describe “pretty chaotic scenes” at the UNESCO vote before Coomarasamy made a vague reference to some more history: that of the Palestinian delegation’s repeated exploitation of the UN’s cultural forum for the denial of Jewish history and delegitimisation of Israel.

Coomarasamy: “And Israel’s going to reduce its funding to the UN; as you say there’ve been a number of decisions by the UN that Israel is unhappy about. This is just going to make, I guess, that relationship even worse.”

Bateman: “Yeah that’s right. I mean we’ve heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say repeatedly that parts of the UN, and particularly UNESCO, are biased against Israel; they’re politically motivated, they’re in hock to Israel’s adversaries. And when he said – as we heard in the clip there – that this was delusional yet again by UNESCO after a vote that they felt severed Judaism’s historic ties to Jerusalem itself – to the Western Wall – ah…earlier this year, so he has said after this vote that he’s gonna withdraw another million dollars of funding to the United Nations and instead, he says, he will put that money into a heritage museum in Hebron.”

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story, Bateman’s equivocal ‘he said-she said’ account and his refusal to even provide historical facts without introducing false equivalence and ‘narratives’ obviously does not meet the corporation’s mission of providing “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

 

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

h/t DS

On the evening of July 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard extensive coverage of that day’s UNESCO resolution declaring the old city of Hebron an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site – but with one word critical for audience understanding of the story repeatedly omitted.

The programme’s synopsis reads: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has strongly criticised UNESCO’s declaration that Hebron is a World Heritage site.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal gave listeners the headlines at the start of the programme (from 00:40), including:

“Israel has strongly criticised a UN decision to declare Hebron a world heritage site. We’ll get the Palestinian response.”

Listeners then heard what it later became apparent was an edited and spliced statement from Manuel Hassassian:

“I’m not only pleased but I’m thrilled that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

The programme continued with a news bulletin read by Charles Caroll in which (at 05:32) listeners heard the following:

“The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the decision of the UN cultural body to declare the old city of Hebron a protected world heritage site. He called it delusional. Palestinian diplomats had urged UNESCO to fast-track the site’s addition to the list of world heritage sites in danger. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has more details.”

Bateman: “There were heated scenes during the meeting of the UN’s cultural body in Krakow as delegates asked security to remove the Israeli ambassador who’d confronted the chair on the platform. The vote, which followed a submission from the Palestinian delegation, designated the old city of Hebron an endangered world heritage site. The city is holy to all three monotheistic faiths. Rising from its ancient centre is the imposing site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque. The city is also one of the West Bank’s most acute flash points. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the centre, surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians.”

In other words, in the first six and a half minutes of this programme listeners heard three portrayals of the story, all of which omitted any mention of the highly relevant fact that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

The same story was the topic of a long item broadcast later on in the programme (from 30:12) and Razia Iqbal’s introduction to that item likewise failed to inform listeners of the real reason for the controversy. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The ancient city of Hebron is significant for all three monotheistic faiths and it’s often been a contested city. Today it finds itself at the centre of controversy because the UN’s cultural agency has voted to declare the old city of Hebron, which is in the West Bank, as a protected world heritage site. The Palestinians had urged UNESCO to fast-track the process, alleging that Israel was carrying out a number of violations in Hebron where a small community of Jewish settlers lives in the middle of more than 200,000 Palestinians. Israel was deeply opposed to the move and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned UNESCO’s decision as delusional.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister’s statement in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship guaranteed for everybody.”

Iqbal next introduced an interviewee who appeared days before in a BBC World Service item relating to the same topic and like her colleague, she too presented him as a “tour guide”, failing to inform audiences of the fact that he is an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group registered in the US.

Iqbal: “The words of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elihau McLean is a Jerusalem based tour guide who runs what are described as dual narrative tourist visits to Hebron. He’s been telling me why Hebron is such a…so historically significant.”

McLean: “Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. We understand it to be the second oldest city in the holy land after Jericho. Hebron is at least 4,000 years old. There’s an archaeological site in a hilltop called Tel Rumeida or Tel Hebron that dates back to the early Bronze Age about 4,500 years ago and that’s the site of the biblical city of Hebron that’s mentioned in the Bible. That’s also where King David established his kingdom – the kingdom of Judea – over 2,500 years ago. There’s ancient history in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “And it’s significant and important to Jews as well as Muslims and Christians.”

McLean: “That’s right. It’s…first of all Jews have four holy cities in the world. The first holiest city is Jerusalem and our second holiest city is Hebron. Muslims have four holy cities; Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Muslims consider Hebron their fourth holiest city after Jerusalem. So it’s holy to Jews and Muslims, certainly, as well as Christians.”

Iqbal: “And politically, how is it currently divided between the Palestinians and Israeli ownership?”

McLean: “So Bill Clinton invited Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997 to a small river in the state of Maryland called Wye River and they negotiated the Hebron Accords where Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of the city and hand it over to Palestinian Authority control. That 80% is called the letter H one – Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – where 30,000 Palestinians live and about 1,000 Israeli Jews live in that 20%. It’s called H2 and that is the heart of the old city where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, the Kasbah – the old Arab market. So that’s where most of the tension is; in the old city and in the middle of a region called H2 under Israeli control.”

Iqbal: “What’s your view today in the context of what you do – but also just generally – that UNESCO has declared the old city that you’re talking about as a protected world heritage site? What do you make of that?”

McLean: “I run weekly dual narrative tours and we bring the tourists to Hebron. We have a Palestinian partner organisation so they get a Palestinian tour guide to hear the Palestinian narrative and then they hear the Israeli narrative. So they hear Palestinian speakers, they get to meet soldiers, they get to meet settlers, they get to meet and hear all voices. Our tour is the only nuanced tour of Hebron. With that in mind, I would say that it’s…I feel it’s a bit absurd the UNESCO decision. From what I understand it acknowledges the old city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs specifically and exclusively as Islamic heritage sites which is a bit absurd considering the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the foundation of Jewish history. It’s the longest standing holy site of Judaism – even more than the Temple itself. That building was never destroyed. It was built by King Herod two thousand years ago: hundreds and hundreds of years even before the arrival of Islam. So how can…even from an Islamic or historical or archaeological point of view… anyone who understands biblical history understands that this is an ancient heritage site. And then it was a church and then it was a mosque. So if we can acknowledge that all three faiths are connected there, I think UNESCO would have a lot more credibility.”

Iqbal: “That was Eliyahu McLean; a Jerusalem tour guide. I’ve also been speaking to Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK. I asked him for his reaction to UNESCO’s decision.”

Observant audience members would then have realised that they were hearing the first part of the ‘quote’ promoted at the beginning of the programme – as well as what the BBC preferred to edit out of its headline.

Hassassian: “I am not only pleased but I’m thrilled that there is acknowledgement by the international community through UNESCO that Hebron is an occupied city and it should be under the sovereignty of the Palestinian leadership.”

Iqbal: “Well, the UN recognises that Hebron is in the West Bank so that’s not the issue. The issue is the resolution pointing out the committee sees that those areas inside the old city of Hebron that are deemed to be in danger are now protected under a kind of world heritage site notion. What does that mean to the Palestinians?”

Listeners then heard the second half of that spliced quote:

Hassassian: “It means that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “There has been concern voiced that the application made by the Palestinians to UNESCO only focused on the Islamic period in Hebron’s history and didn’t acknowledge the Christian and Jewish history of key sites in the area. What’s your view of that?”

Seeing as so far listeners had only heard of such concerns from the Israeli prime minister and from an Israeli interviewee, they would be unaware that similar concerns were also raised by the professional body that examined – and recommend not to accept – the Palestinian proposal as well as by several Western countries present at the debate.

Hassassian: “Well you know nobody can deny the fact that…I mean the site in itself also there is of course a tacit agreement and acknowledgement to the Tomb of the Patriarchs there. Nobody is denying that factor and it has been said explicitly in the document that this is, you know, a site that is Muslim, Christian and…err…of course Jewish.”

Iqbal: “Are you saying though that the sites that are clearly of value and significance to all three monotheistic faiths are not being taken care of?”

Hassassian: “Well because Israel controls – we have to understand this – Israel controls the site and Israel has accepted the 300 settlers to reign supreme in that part and to take over, you know, by sheer and brute force the control of that area. Now this resolution comes to say that there is no monopoly, especially using religion, as an excuse to control that part of Hebron.”

Failing to challenge Hassassian’s blatant lie or to remind listeners – and him – that there are Israelis living in that part of Hebron because the Palestinian Authority agreed to such an arrangement twenty years ago and while refraining from clarifying that this latest Palestinian stunt is precisely intended to use religion as a means of controlling that part of the city, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “What difference is it going to make on the ground?”

Hassassian: “It makes a big difference. The difference is is [sic] the fact that this is part and parcel of a city that has 200,000 population. They have the right to go there, to practice their religion. It is under the sovereignty of the Palestinians with accessibility to other religions to practice their rights.”

Iqbal: “But hasn’t that been the case already?”

Hassassian: “No it has not been. If you go there, and I was there, ma’am, like six months ago, I had to go through hell in order to enter, you know, the Abrahamic mosque. I had to go through intensive security search and I had to show that I am a Muslim or not. You know: just allow me to enter.”

Iqbal did not bother to ask Hassassian if the security search he had to endure has anything to do with the prevalence of Palestinian terrorism in Hebron or whether the need to show whether he is a Muslim is related to the fact that certain areas of the site – which is run by the Waqf – are open to Muslims but off-limits to Jews for all but ten days a year.  

Iqbal: “And, and you are now saying that it will be absolutely the case that those Israelis and those people who practice Judaism will have access to those sites also, without the kind of treatment that you’re alleging you have to go through when you want to visit the mosque?”

Hassassian: “When there is peace and when is our state not only recognised by the United Nations General Assembly but hopefully by the Security Council and when Israel accepts the Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, I think everything is negotiable.”

Although that would obviously have been a good time – especially in light of that revealing response – to inform listeners of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is supposed to “ensure free access” to Jewish holy sites in areas under its control – and that already that clause is not properly upheld – Iqbal closed the item there.

Iqbal: “Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom.”

As was the case in two other BBC reports on this story (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences were not provided with the relevant context of the PA’s repeated efforts to erase Jewish history and heritage by tabling politicised motions at the UN’s cultural body and neither were they informed that the professional body that examined the Palestinian proposal did not recommend its adoption.

In this report, however, the BBC also failed to present the crux of the story accurately to Radio 4 listeners by repeatedly refraining from including the word ‘Palestinian’ in its description of the UNESCO resolution.

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BBC’s erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution 

 

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution

As was expected, on July 7th UNESCO passed a resolution declaring the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site.

That story was the topic of a report titled “Unesco declares Hebron’s Old City Palestinian World Heritage site” that was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day and is remarkable for what it does not tell BBC audiences.

The article fails to inform readers that the professional body – ICOMOS – that evaluated the Palestinian application did not support it and stated that “ICOMOS considers that the comparative analysis has not so far justified consideration of this property for the World Heritage List”.

“The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) — a professional body that investigates claims that historic sites are endangered on behalf of UNESCO — earlier rejected the Palestinian claim that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was an endangered site. Its assessment on Hebron, published on Sunday, criticized the Palestinian proposal for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links.””

The BBC’s report quotes a PA statement:

“Today, Palestine and the world, through Unesco, celebrate Hebron as part of world heritage, a value that transcends geography, religion, politics, and ideology,” a Palestinian foreign ministry statement said.

“This vote celebrated facts and rejected the shameless high-profile political bullying and attempts at extortion.””

Notably, that particular statement was chosen for amplification rather than other distinctly more political ones made by Palestinian parties such as a Fatah spokesman:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement welcomed the vote. Fatah spokesman in Europe Jamal Nazzal said it was “historic justice” and was “another reflection of the international position which opposes Israeli policy, and of our position which rejects recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation.””

Or the PA’s foreign minister:

““This vote is a success for a diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of the Israeli and American pressure on the member states … and a failure and a tremendous defeat Israel,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

“Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List,” Maliki added.

“Israel’s occupation of our state does not give it sovereignty over any patch of our land in any way,” Maliki said.”

Not unrelatedly, the BBC’s report fails to inform audiences of the fact that this is far from the first time that UNESCO has been exploited for politically motivated denial of Jewish history since the Palestinian Authority joined that UN body in 2011.

That practice was specifically called out by some of the countries taking part in the July 7th UNESCO debate:

Canada:  Canada is disappointed by the continued politicization of the work of the World Heritage Committee as evidenced by this decision taken on the old city of Jerusalem and its walls earlier this week, and now by the decision to include the old town of Hebron/al-Khalil on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Canada takes issue with the decision just taken which fails to take into account the independent advisory body’s findings. Findings plainly outlined in the draft decision prepared by the Secretariat. These repeated decisions not only hurt UNESCO, they do not advance prospects for the comprehensive, just and lasting peace to which we aspire for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians.

United States:  The decision to inscribe Hebron/al-Khalil Old Town on emergency basis is divisive, confusing, and impossible to justify. This site is not under any real or immediate threat. Indeed, the only urgency here is an urgency to express political anger. Had the Committee shown patience, this inscription might have represented, at some time in the future, an example of the World Heritage Convention acting as the international community’s best and most important tool for cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and peace. Instead, the politically motivated decision today to inscribe, only further stains UNESCO’s reputation and further divides this house.

Australia: Australia regrets this decisive decision and the damaging way in which it was reached. We are concerned that this was not only harmful to Israeli and Palestinian relations but obviously damaging the World Heritage Committee and to UNESCO.

We are concerned that the heavily politicized and unbalanced language in these resolutions continue to be seen to alter the status quo of Islamic, Jewish and Christian holy sites and they are not consistent with the effort to preserve the outstanding universal values of these sites.

Australia has consistently not supported these resolutions that target Israel in multilateral forum and we do not consider that these brings both parties closer to a negotiated settlement. We are focused on supporting those initiatives which reflect and maintain progress towards a negotiated settlement so that Israel and a future Palestinian state can exist side by side in peace and security. These sorts of decisions do not advance that agenda. It furthermore fails in recognizing the advice of our advisory bodies and we encourage all sides to refrain from further provocative actions and statements that undermine prospects for peace and the interests of our organization.”

The BBC, however, elected to ignore the statements by Canada and Australia and reports only a selective version of the US representative’s comments:

“The US had argued that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was “under no immediate threat” and that adding it to the list of sites in danger “risked undermining the seriousness such an assessment by Unesco should have”.

It had also warned that the resolution might undermine efforts by US President Donald Trump to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The real story behind this latest UNESCO resolution is of course the continuing politicisation of that body and the hijacking of its mission for the purpose of delegitimisation of Israel through erasure of Jewish history. BBC audiences, however, are serially deprived of that crucial background information under an editorial policy that fails to comply with the corporation’s public purposes.

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Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

As readers may know, the old city of Hebron is on the agenda at a UNESCO conference that opened this week.

“The meeting will run through July 12 and debate contentious issues like a Palestinian motion to deny Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem and have the West Bank city of Hebron designated as a “World Heritage Site in Danger.” […]

Given the Arab nations’ automatic majority in international forums, the Palestinian proposal is likely to be accepted. […]

The Tomb of the Patriarchs could become the third cultural site on UNESCO’s “List of World Heritage in Danger” that is registered as located in the “State of Palestine.” The other two are the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and the “cultural landscape of Southern Jerusalem,” around Battir.”

Of course this is far from the first time that UNESCO has been exploited for politically motivated denial of Jewish history since the Palestinian Authority joined that UN body in 2011. As in previous cases, professionals have not recommended adoption of the PA’s latest proposal.

“UNESCO experts have warned the Palestinian Authority that it has overly focused on Hebron’s Muslim history at the exclusion of the Judeo-Christian heritage in its request that the West Bank’s city’s “Old Town” be inscribed on the “World Heritage in Danger” list. […]

The PA’s written proposal had focused on Hebron’s “Old Town” history from the Mamluk period of 1250 and onward, which includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, whose Herodian structure houses both Jewish sanctuaries of worship and the Ibrahimi Mosque. […]

“This means that the association of Hebron with Jewish and early Christian societies is given little recognition, and Tell Rumeida [an area of Biblical Hebron] and other sites are excluded from the boundaries,” the report continued.” […]

This is the third time in a row that ICOMOS has failed to recommend a Palestinian Authority proposal for inscription on the “World Heritage in Danger” list; it rejected both the 2012 proposal to put Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and 2014 request to place the ancient agricultural Terraces of Battir on the list.”

However, that professional view is once again unlikely to have any influence over the politicised proceedings at UNESCO, which is why Israel did not cooperate with the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) process.

On the past occasions in which the BBC has produced coverage of PA proposed UNESCO resolutions concerning Israel it has consistently failed to provide its audiences with the relevant information concerning the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of its tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here 

So how did the BBC World Service present this latest story to listeners to ‘Newshour‘ on July 2nd? Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 14:07 here) as follows:

“A UN committee is beginning to consider a Palestinian request to classify the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank as an endangered world heritage site. Israel is opposed to the plan.”

With no further explanation, Coomarasamy then gives an inadequate introduction of his sole interviewee, describing an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group as a tour organiser.

“Eliyahu McLean runs regular dual-narrative tourist visits to Hebron.”

McLean begins by noting that Hebron is “an ancient city” with “at least four thousand years of history” before clarifying that “it’s a holy city to Jews, Christians and Muslims”. He goes on:

“It’s the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. It’s a centre of the Palestinian economy. It’s also the burial place of our shared ancestor for Jews, Christians and Muslims – Abraham. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Leah and Rebecca; all buried in Hebron.”

Coomarasamy then asks a question which might appear less relevant to an item supposedly discussing a proposal to designate part of that city as a world heritage site but nevertheless, listeners do get to hear about a subject – the Hebron Protocol – which is all too often absent from BBC reporting on that city.

“An ancient city but what has its modern history been like?”

McLean: “…It’s also a very divided city. It’s one of the most divided cities in the holy land and if not the world. Here we have a Jewish side of the old city of Hebron and you have a Palestinian side. Now Hebron itself was divided as part of the Hebron Accords in 1997 signed by Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu with Bill Clinton presiding. Israel negotiated the withdrawal of 80% of the city. So 80% of the city has been handed over to the Palestinian Authority and that is now called H1 – H for Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – is still controlled by Israel and the Israeli army. Within that 20% there are about twenty to thirty thousand Palestinians and about 1,000 Israeli Jews living there.”

Coomarasamy: “What is life like for both those communities?”

McLean: “H1 is a thriving metropolitan city; there’s industry, there’s three universities, there’s hospitals […] Now within the old city is where there is tensions and conflict. In the old city you have the Tomb of the Patriarchs. I’m Israeli and I help run a weekly dual-narrative tour to Hebron and we take travelers from around the world to go to Hebron and for half a day I hand them over to a Palestinian guide and they hear the Palestinian narrative of victimisation, of occupation. They feel that they’re living under oppression; violence by settlers, violence by soldiers. The Israeli Jews who live there feel that they’re not just occupying and stealing other people’s land – Palestinian land – but that the Jews in fact have an ancient historical connection. In fact Jews lived in Hebron from ancient times; from the time of Abraham through the Roman period, into the Byzantine early Christian period, early Islamic period, the Crusader period. Throughout all of these periods there was an ancient Jewish community that always lived side by side with their Arab Muslim cousins in peace and harmony.”

Glaringly absent from that account is of course any mention of the murder of 67 Jews in the 1929 Hebron Massacre – the event that brought hundreds of years of Jewish life in Hebron came to an abrupt end.

Coomarasamy then finally asks a question related to the item’s supposed subject matter.

“So what are the claims then of the Palestinian Authority that the old city is an endangered place and it needs to be on the World Heritage in Danger list?”

Unfortunately, listeners do not hear a proper answer to that question.

McLean: “The UNESCO decision about making it a world heritage site should take into account not only the very valid and legitimate Islamic historical connections there but the Christian and of course the ancient Jewish connection. Now I think Israel is making a mistake not allowing in some of the committee members so they can see the reality for themselves because I believe that Israel has a valid, legitimate case to make that there is an ancient and legitimate Jewish history and presence that has nothing to do with endangering Muslims. It is true there are a handful of violent settlers who live there who make life miserable and ruin the reputation of the wider community and people that I know in Hebron, they condemn the action of a minority in their midst that do some violent things.”

Coomarasamy ends the item there.

“Hebron tour guide Eliyahu McLean.”

So although BBC audiences around the world do get to hear references to “violent settlers” who are supposedly “occupying and stealing […] Palestinian land” (despite their presence in Hebron being part of an agreement willingly signed by the Palestinian Authority), they do not actually get to hear anything about the substance of the PA’s latest UNESCO bid.

They are not, for example informed that on the PA’s list of complaints:

“…was the placement of security barriers by the Tomb of the Patriarchs and in Hebron’s Old City, as well as an attempt by Jewish residents of the city to purchase property. The Palestinian delegation also protested the use of tear gas in the Old City.”

Neither are they told that Hamas has a major foothold in Hebron, that the city has a new mayor who is a convicted terrorist or that dozens of terror attacks against Israelis have been carried out in the city: a fact obviously relevant to some of those factors claimed by the PA to be ‘endangering’ Hebron.  

And of course, as usual in BBC coverage of such stories, the all-important context of the Palestinian Authority’s repeated attempts to delegitimise Israel and erase Jewish history and heritage at the UNESCO forum is glaringly absent from this BBC World Service report.

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BBC silent as UNESCO resolutions come home to roost

Back in October 2016 the BBC produced three reports relating to two resolutions passed by UNESCO.unesco-art

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ – discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution – discussed here

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger – discussed here

As was noted here at the time:

“And yet again, the context of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel was erased from audience view. Readers were not informed that both the PA’s ruling party Fatah and Hamas lauded the UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.”  

Fast forward to late January 2017 and a speech made by the new UN Secretary General in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his address, Mr Guterres said:

“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis.  On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism.
 
Imperial Rome not only destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, but also made Jews pariahs in many ways.  The attacks and abuse grew worse through the triumph of Christianity and the propagation of the idea that the Jewish community should be punished for the death of Jesus – an absurdity that helped to trigger massacres and other tremendous crimes against Jews around the world for centuries to come.” [emphasis added]

Those five highlighted words and a radio interview in which Mr Guterres also mentioned the ancient Jewish Temple garnered some furious reactions – including invocation of the UNESCO resolutions passed in October.  

““[The statements] are a direct attack on the Palestinian people’s right in the holy city, biased in favor of the site of occupation, and akin to granting legitimacy to Israel’s illegal presence in Jerusalem,” said Fayez Abu Eitah, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.”

And:

““[Gueterres] ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aksa Mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” Adnan al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs minister, told Xinhua, a Chinese news outlet, clarifying that the UN secretary-general “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs, overstepped his role as secretary general, and…must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.” […]

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, said that the statements “undermine the trustworthiness of the UN as a body that should support occupied peoples.”

“It appears that the secretary general of the United Nations lacks culture and knowledge in his own specialization,” Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Xinhua, calling on the UN secretary-general to clarify his position “that gives a green light to the occupation to undertake more measures against Jerusalem.””

Similar reactions were seen in the PA’s official daily newspaper:

“Antonio Guterres clearly and explicitly sinned against peace and the Palestinian-Israeli political agreement when he claimed yesterday [Jan. 29, 2017] in an interview with the Hebrew-language Voice of Israel [radio] that he ‘believes in the connection between Jerusalem and the Jews.’ In contradiction to the UNESCO resolutions, history, and facts, the secretary-general claimed that it is as clear as day – in his opinion which is far from the truth and the facts – that ‘The Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans was a Jewish Temple’…
Mr. Antonio, if you care about history and if it is important to you, [you should know that] Jerusalem and all of Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea – are the land of the Palestinian people, and their history is its history.”

Unsurprisingly, the self-styled ‘standard-setter for international journalism’ which at the time ignored Palestinian praise of the resolutions for erasing Jewish history – preferring instead to promote Saeb Erekat’s claim that ‘the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”’ – has not reported this story.

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Weekend long read

1) At the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman ponders “White privilege and the love of dictators – the Syrian case“.Weekend Read

“When you start to survey the large number of voices, particularly in media, who sympathize with Assad or take his side you come across a constellation of white men and women from privileged Western backgrounds.

Simon Jenkins tells us that “the Syrian horror began with a sectarian insurgency of Syria’s own peculiar making…the West’s support for Assad’s enemies, like its toppling of Saddam and Gaddafi, aided the cause not of democracy but of chaos. It displayed the arrogance of empire without its true commitment.” Jenkins, who titled an article in 2015 with “bombing is immoral, stupid and never wins wars,” then wrote in the same article that “the only intervention likely to work in Syria just now is from Moscow.”

Read that again. “Bombing doesn’t work.” Ok. But Russian bombing on behalf of Assad will “work.” What? This type of logic from an educated British intellectual like Jenkins is symbolic of the warped thinking of so many. Western bombs bad, Russian bombs good.”

2) The Boston Globe has an editorial on the recent resolution adopted by UNESCO.

“UNESCO’s tendentious semantics play into an ongoing propaganda campaign by the Palestinian Authority to “de-Judaize” the identity of Jerusalem, the foremost Jewish city on earth. UNESCO erred by allowing itself to be dragged into this controversy. This blatant historical fabrication is a relatively recent endeavor. It began in the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat took to insisting that Jesus was “a Palestinian” and when the Arafat-appointed mufti of Jerusalem declared, “There is no proof at all that the Jews were ever in Jerusalem.” In reality, the Jewish significance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is so clear-cut that, decades ago, even the city’s Muslim leaders once stressed the point.”

3) At the Spectator, Nick Cohen discusses the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent ‘fatwa’.

“In short, a section of the Western left has adopted the ideology of the Salafists, Khomeinists and Islamists. It supports their blasphemy codes, and apologias for murder. Not for white leftists, you understand, only for ‘the other,’ for we are in a culture where racist double standards abound. I have no doubt, for instance, that Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) would be appalled if white supremacists hacked to death writers on the New York Times for challenging racial prejudice, as Islamists hack Bangladeshi liberal writers to death for challenging theocratic prejudice.

What makes SPLC’s embrace of what it would in other circumstances correctly call fascist politics heart-breaking as well as contemptible is that it was once a  great civil rights institution in the American south with a proud record of fighting the Ku Klux Klan.” 

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

The BBC News website’s reporting on the latest ignominious resolution concerning Jerusalem that was adopted by UNESCO on October 26th was to be found tagged onto the end of a report concerning an archeological discovery titled “Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger“. Readers were told that:jerusalem-papyrus

“The discovery was announced on Wednesday shortly after the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) adopted a second resolution in a week that Israel said denied Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem.

The resolution, according to copies seen by news agencies, mentions only the Islamic name for a key holy site in the city known to Jews as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.” [emphasis added]

According to the Times of Israel:

“A draft of the resolution obtained by The Times of Israel on Sunday once again referred to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.”

As the site of the biblical temples, the mount is the holiest place in Judaism. Unlike last week’s resolution, the draft likely to be adopted Wednesday will not mention the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for “the three monotheistic religions.””

The BBC, however, was apparently incapable of informing audiences in its own words that such language does indeed deny the ties of Judaism (and Christianity) to Jerusalem, preferring instead to employ its jaded – and redundant – “Israel says” formula. The article closed:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the “absurdity” of Wednesday’s decision and said he would recall his country’s ambassador to Unesco for consultations on how to proceed.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”.”

While amplifying that particular part of the PLO-NAD issued statement, the BBC failed to balance it by informing readers that officials from both Fatah and Hamas lauded the previous UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.  

“A spokesman for the Gaza-based terror group Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that his group “welcomes” the resolution’s wording to the effect that “al-Aqsa is of purely Islamic heritage.” He said the decision marks a “victory for the Palestinian people.”

Abu Zuhri added that the UNSECO text “demolished the Israeli fiction” concerning the Temple Mount, the holy area Jews consider to be their most sacred place as the site of the two biblical temples.”

Readers were also not told of the threats issued by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations to members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote.

As was the case in the BBC News website’s previous two reports concerning UNESCO (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences learned nothing of prior UNESCO motions and resolutions which have similarly erased Jewish ties to historic sites or of the all-important context of this latest UNESCO resolution in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

With this being the third report concerning Palestinian and Arab abuse of the UNESCO forum for political ends that the BBC News website has produced in twelve days, it is by now very obvious that the corporation has no intention whatsoever of providing its funding public with the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue” – as its remit obliges.

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