More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

Fifteen days after its first – and only – report concerning Operation Northern Shield the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel urges UN action over Hezbollah ‘attack tunnels’” on December 19th.

As was noted here when the first article appeared, it omitted any mention whatsoever of the obviously highly relevant topic of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to southern Lebanon and the UN force which is supposed to oversee the implementation of those resolutions.

“…the BBC’s record of reporting violations of UNSC resolution 1701 by Hizballah and Iran is very dismal. Obviously that serial omission means that BBC audiences lack the background information crucial to full understanding of this latest story.”

This latest report did include two references to UN SC resolution 1701:

“Unifil added that the tunnels constituted violations of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.”

And:

“Lebanon’s foreign ministry has said the Lebanese army will “take all necessary measures to ensure [resolution 1701] is well implemented in co-ordination with Unifil forces”.”

While readers were not provided with an explanation of the text of that resolution (including the stipulation that the area between the border with Israel and the Litani river should be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”) which would enable their understanding of UNIFIL’s statement  they next read that:

“However, Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s national unity government and it has been able to resist international and domestic pressure to disarm its military wing, whose capabilities in some ways exceed those of the Lebanese army.”

As was the case in the December 4th report – and as has often been seen in BBC past content – the latest article cites 2006 Lebanese casualty figures that are devoid of any mention of Hizballah combatants.

“Tensions are high between the Iran-backed Shia Islamist group and Israel, which fought a month-long war in 2006.

More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed in that conflict.” [emphasis added]

While the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials nevertheless reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time. Since then, however, the BBC has adopted a mantra portraying Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

Remarkably, this December 19th report does not provide BBC audiences with any information about the UN Security Council session on the topic of the Hizballah tunnels that was held on December 19th.

Related Articles:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

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Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

On February 20th the BBC News website published a report titled “Palestinian head Abbas calls for international peace summit” on its Middle East page. The BBC’s account of Abbas’ long speech at the UN Security Council on the same day is as follows:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international peace conference to tackle the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a rare address to the UN Security Council, he said the situation was “no longer bearable” for Palestinians. […]

Mr Abbas told the Security Council that “to solve the Palestine question… it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism”.

He blamed the deadlock in the peace process on the US declaration on Jerusalem, which he said violated international law, and on what he called Israel’s “illegal activities” in the occupied territories.

“We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018 based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions,” he said.”

As has been the case on previous occasions (see here and here), the BBC’s account did not include the parts of Abbas’ speech that do not fit its chosen narrative. BBC audiences therefore remain unaware of the fact that, as he has done in the past, Abbas alleged in this – for him – relatively restrained address that the Palestinians:

“…are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day.” 

The BBC also omitted from its account Abbas’ claim that “[t]he Palestinian people built their own cities and homeland and made contributions to humanity and civilization witnessed by the world” and that he negated Jewish history in the region by stating:

“All of this existed before and after the Balfour Declaration issued by the British Government in 1917, a declaration by which those who did not own, giving to those who had no right.”

Abbas also asserted that:

“Our national institutions are recognized by international organizations for their merit and work, which is based on the rule of law, accountability and transparency, and empowerment of women and youth in an environment of tolerance, coexistence of civilizations and nondiscrimination.”

Like Abbas, the BBC rarely addresses issues such as Palestinian Authority corruption or social issues within Palestinian society.

Abbas professed that the Palestinians are “opposed to conventional weapons”, are “committed to fostering a culture of peace, rejection of violence”. The BBC has consistently ignored Abbas’ own incitement to violence and that coming from his party and administration. The issue of payments to terrorists and their families has not received any meaningful BBC coverage.

Abbas also claimed that the Palestinians have “persisted in our efforts to attain peace” while alleging that the failure of past peace efforts is exclusively the result of “the Israeli Government’s intransigence”. He of course refrained from mentioning Arab rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan, the decades of Palestinian terrorism against Jews and Israelis or the fact that a significant number of Palestinian factions reject the existence of Israel in any form whatsoever. 

Abbas used the ‘apartheid’ smear against Israel and advanced the false notion of “the 1967 borders”. While on the one hand citing “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”, he described areas of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan in 1948 as “our capital” and “part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”.

In short, the BBC’s presentation of Abbas’ remarks is once again framed in a manner that excludes from audience view anything which may undermine or conflict with the narrative of a peace-seeking Palestinian Authority that the corporation long since elected to promote.

Related Articles:

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BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

Events at the UN Security Council received generous coverage on the BBC News website on December 23rd and 24th. BBC audiences found articles relating to Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution and reports concerning the subsequent tabling of  the resolution by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia which was approved by the UNSC on December 23rd.

December 23rd:un-sc-2334

1) Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes

2) Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements

3) UN Security Council votes against Israeli settlements Barbara Plett Usher (also appeared on BBC television channels and embedded in written reports)

4) Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end (date stamp changed

December 24th:

5) Israel settlements: Netanyahu rejects ‘shameful’ UN vote

6) Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review

The narrative promoted in those reports was uniform and conformed to existing BBC editorial policy.

a) BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the resolution related to Israeli communities on “occupied” – rather than disputed – land and that the said territory is “Palestinian”.

“Egypt has delayed a UN vote on a text condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territory after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.” (report 1)

“Israel has reacted furiously over a renewed bid to bring a resolution condemning settlements on occupied land before the UN Security Council.” (report 2)

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land is “shameful”. […]

The resolution, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.” (reports 5 and 6)

“The move comes after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.” (report 6)

b) BBC audiences were also repeatedly told that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are “illegal” and breach “international law” while the presentation of alternative views on that issue was limited to a box-ticking reference to the Israeli view with no further detail or explanation.

“The resolution submitted by Egypt called for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it said breached international law. […]

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 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.” (reports 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)

“Barbara Plett-Usher explains the significance of the UN Security Council’s vote against illegal Israeli settlements.” (report 3)

“The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements after the US refused to veto it.” (report 4)

“It [the resolution] says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. (reports 5 and 6)

c) The reports failed to distinguish between “settlement building” and construction in existing communities, thereby giving audiences the mistaken impression that new communities are being built.

“The Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement building and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 1)

“But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 2)

“This is a vote on a resolution that condemns the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It says it’s illegal under international law. […]

“They themselves [the US administration] have been very critical of settlement building over the last year.” (report 3)

“The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (‘analysis’ from Barbara Plett Usher, reports 4 and 5)

d) One of the reports promoted the inaccurate implication that construction under the current Israeli government is exceptional. 

“And it [the resolution] says that the amount of building under this Israeli government is threatening the possibility of the creation of  Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (report 3)

e) The reports uncritically amplified the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’.

“The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.” (reports 1, 2, 4)

f) References to the parts of the resolution condemning terror and incitement were to be found in just one of the BBC’s reports. In contrast to the impression given to BBC audiences, the word ‘Palestinian’ is in fact not included in that part of the text

“French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the “key goal” of the resolution was “to preserve and reaffirm the two-state solution”. […]

“It also condemns the violence and terrorism. It also calls to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side so this is a balanced text.”” (report 2)

g) While some of the later reports included reactions from “the Palestinian leadership”, none of them informed audiences of the fact that the resolution was hailed by the terror organisations Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The Palestinian leadership welcomed the UN resolution, which was passed by 14 votes to zero, with one abstention.” (report 4)

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.” (report 5)

“A spokesman for Mr Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”” (report 6)

h) Three of the later articles (reports 4, 5 and 6) quoted the US ambassador to the UN as saying that “even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace” but none of the reports reminded BBC audiences that although Israel did indeed remove all ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005, peace was not forthcoming and the Hamas terror group continues to seek the destruction of Israel.

i) None of the reports reminded BBC audiences of the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze.

j) None of the reports provided readers with the relevant context of the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to impose an outside ‘solution’ to the conflict in preference to negotiations.

k) None of the reports provides any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

Anyone wondering why the generous coverage of this story was uniformly one-sided and failed to provide BBC audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding might find the following Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East editor (also retweeted by the BBC correspondent who contributed to much of the coverage) enlightening.

bowen-tweet-unsc

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BBC WS report on UNSC resolution endorses Palestinian narrative

On the afternoon of December 22nd (before news broke of Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution tabled at the UN Security Council) listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report (from 50:04 here) relating to that story.plett-newshour-22-12

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

JC: “The US president-elect Donald Trump has called for a UN Security Council resolution aimed at halting the building of Israeli settlements to be vetoed. The draft resolution is meant to put an end to all settlement activity by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem. Well, joining us now on the line from Washington DC is the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher. Ehm…so Barbara; this is meant to be voted on a bit later on today – is that right?”

Plett Usher responded:

BPU: “Yes; it’s a draft resolution put forward by Egypt which would say that Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the Palestinian…rest of the Palestinian territories are illegal. Now, UN resolutions already say that….eh…but there has been some push to get…ehm…it out there again and re-in…re…re-supported by the UN because of the…this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building and it is…it’s very much its policy.”

JC: “And what about the Obama administration’s policy? What do we know about its thoughts on this draft resolution?”

BPU: “The Obama administration and the United States generally has said that settlement building lacks legitimacy. It stops short of adopting the position that it is illegal under international law but Mr Obama’s administration has been very, very critical of the settlement building during his administration and he has…and some of his advisors and his officials have said it was…contributed to breakdown in the peace talks. So there’s been a lot of speculation that in the final month of his…of his term he might take some sort of step, some sort of parting shot, to put his own stamp on what he thinks Israel – Palestinian peace should look like or what the parameters might be or what the problems might be and so there’s been some speculation he might take action at the UN. Up until now…eh…the Americans have vetoed any resolution critical of Israel and the Obama administration did that too in 2011 exactly on a resolution involving settlements. But because he’s leaving, because of his contentious relationship with the Israelis, because Mr Trump is coming after him and looks like he will be changing policy or could change policy…ahm…there’s speculation that he might vote differently this time.”

JC: “So briefly, Barbara, what should we make of the president elect’s intervention?”

BPU: “It’s consistent with what he’s done so far. During the campaign his advisors…ahm…were very sceptical of a two state solution. He has appointed an ambassador as his nominee who is a hardline pro-settler…ah…views. Ahm…so I think that’s consistent with what we’ve seen.”

As we see, in that two and a half-minute conversation, listeners heard two references to “settlements” in “Palestinian territories”. The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Obviously there are no Israeli ‘settlements’ in those areas and so the use of such inaccurate terminology misleads listeners.

Israeli communities do exist in Area C and in parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan for nineteen years. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords no limits are placed on construction in those regions and their final status is to be determined in negotiations. Listeners to this item, however, were not provided with that all-important context and the language used by Plett Usher and Coomarasamy clearly endorses and promotes the Palestinian side’s political claims and narrative, thereby compromising BBC impartiality.

Listeners also heard several references to “settlement building”. Just last September the BBC News website amended similarly misleading language – which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – houses being built in existing towns and villages – most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

Plett Usher’s claim that “this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building” does not stand up to scrutiny and does not clarify to audiences the existence of what Ha’aretz earlier this year termed “an informal construction freeze”.

It is by no means surprising to see the BBC continuing to push its well-worn but unabashedly partisan mantra on the topic of ‘settlements’ – the corporation has, after all, embraced that editorial line for years. However, as this report once again demonstrates, that editorial policy hinders audience understanding of both this specific story and the issue in general.

Related Articles:

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

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

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

 

 

 

 

BBC ignores UN SG’s admission of bias against Israel

Readers may recall that in February 2016 the BBC’s UN correspondent Nick Bryant told listeners to BBC World Service radio that:

“The Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

However, as has been noted here before, Bryant did not provide BBC audiences with any relevant factual information which would enable them to understand the reality behind his portrayal of what Israelis “always believe”.  

As the current UN Secretary General’s term of office comes to an end, the BBC has found a ‘hint’ made at a final press conference newsworthy.ban-art-2

“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hinted that he may shortly run for the presidency of his native South Korea.

Mr Ban’s term as the world’s top diplomat expires at the end of December.

In his final press conference as UN chief, Mr Ban said that after some rest he will return to South Korea and consider how best to help his country.”

Not newsworthy for the BBC, however, was Ban’s acknowledgement of bias against Israel at the body he has headed for a decade in his last address to the UN Security Council.

“During the past ten years, I have argued that we must never accept bias against Israel within UN bodies.  Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.  In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.” 

As noted at the Tower:

“Ban criticized the UNHRC’s singular focus on Israel shortly after assuming his post in 2007, saying that he was “disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.” […]

Earlier this year, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power underscored the injustice of the UN’s singular focus on Israel:

“As you all know, the UN Charter guarantees “the equal rights of nations large and small,” and yet we have seen member states seek to use the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and even the most arcane UN committees in ways that cross the line from legitimate criticisms of Israel’s policies to attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel itself. The only country in the world with a standing agenda item at the Human Rights Council is not North Korea, a totalitarian state that is currently holding an estimated 100,000 people in gulags; not Syria, which has gassed its people – lots of them. It is Israel.

Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country, Israel as an idea – it even extends to Israeli organizations. Some of you may know the group ZAKA – an Israeli humanitarian group that helps save lives in disasters and ensures proper burial for the victims of those tragedies. ZAKA not only works here in Israel, but it responds to natural and manmade disasters worldwide, as it did in New York after 9/11, and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Yet when ZAKA was nominated in 2013 for accreditation by the UN’s NGO committee – and this accreditation is what gives NGOs the right to participate in UN meetings, the right to assert their voices, the right to raise causes that really can matter in the world – when ZAKA was put forward it was denied approval. Five subsequent times the committee met, and five times member states blocked ZAKA – not because of the quality of its work, people weren’t that interested in the quality of its work, but simply because ZAKA is an Israeli organization.”

Particularly as the BBC is prone to frequent uncritical amplification of UN officials’ statements concerning Israel, Ban’s acknowledgement of anti-Israel bias at that body is precisely the type of information that audiences need in order to enhance their understanding.

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BBC still mum on Hizballah’s human shields in south Lebanon

Back in August we reviewed the BBC’s coverage of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701 throughout the ten years since it was passed.

“The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?”

As was noted in that review:

“In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.”

The IDF recently released a declassified map showing Hizballah’s assets in part of southern Lebanon.

“The map, according to Channel 2 News, features over 200 towns and villages which the organization has turned into its operations bases, and shows over 10,000 potential targets for Israeli strikes in the event of a new war with the terror group.”

idf-map-hizb-assets

BBC audiences, however, remain unaware of this issue and will therefore be incapable of understanding the context to any future Israeli actions which might be necessary to protect the civilian population of northern Israel.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

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Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

The BBC’s guidance on social networking states:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not:

  • advocate support for a particular political party;
  • express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate;
  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

A story which was not reported by the BBC but which was recently “an issue of current public controversy or debate” in Israel concerns the decision of the political NGO B’Tselem to participate in an informal session at the UN Security Council. As Ynet reported ahead of the session:

“The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations successfully initiated an informal meeting of the Security Council on Israeli settlements in the West Bank that is to be held on Friday and to be attended by representatives of B’Tselem.

According to the UN’s website, the “Arria-Formula meeting,” which is how Friday’s discussion has been defined, is a “very informal, confidential” meeting that enables “Security Council members to have a frank and private exchange of views.”

 It is believed that this meeting is the Palestinian delegation’s first step in a plan to have the Security Council issue a resolution against Israel regarding the settlements.

Friday’s meeting will take place at 10am EDT (5pm Israel time) and will be co-chaired by Angola, Egypt, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela. The meeting’s title is ‘illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and Two-State Solution.'”

Predictably, the participation of B’Tselem (which has received funding from UN bodies) in such an event created controversy, as did the actual messaging delivered by its director Hagai El-Ad to the forum. One Israeli politician declared his intention to weigh “the possibility of taking legal action against El-Ad to strip him of his Israeli citizenship”. That, of course, will not happen because not only was David Bitan subsequently advised that there is no legal basis for such action but parliamentarians from across the political spectrum – including his own party – publicly declared their opposition to any such move.  

Nevertheless, Bitan’s declaration did provide the opportunity for some PR posturing from B’Tselem’s director.

el-ad-tweet

And that second Tweet was given further amplification by BBC News producer “in Israel and the West Bank” Michael Shuval who went on to add his own commentary – notably and oddly, in English.

rt-shuval-btselem

shuval-tweet-2

Those Tweets clearly “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” and thus contradict the BBC’s guidance and compromise its impartiality. The fact that B’Tselem was the local political NGO most quoted and promoted by the BBC throughout 2015 and 2014 makes that lack of impartiality even more worthy of note.

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BBC continues to mislead audiences on issue of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

Much of the BBC’s reporting on the issue of the recent Palestinian Authority’s unilateral moves at the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court has framed those moves as being a legitimate alternative to direct talks and has promoted the notion that negotiations between the parties are a means of solving the conflict demanded and imposed by Israel.Marcus art

On January 7th an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Obama’s five key Middle East battlegrounds in 2015“. In that article Marcus also used the above theme:

“An early test of Mr Obama’s thinking may be how he responds to the Palestinians’ determination to pursue their quest for statehood by seeking membership of a variety of international organisations.

This runs against the basic Israeli and US position that the only way to peace is through direct talks between the parties themselves.”

Of course the principle according to which the conflict must be solved by means of negotiations is by no means merely an “Israeli and US position”: it is a principle to which the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people signed up over twenty-one years ago when Yasser Arafat sent his September 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin in which he stated:

“The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.” [emphasis added]

Arafat 1993 letter

That same principle of direct negotiations underpins both the Oslo I and Oslo II agreements – also signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people and, no less importantly, witnessed and guaranteed by Jordan, the US, Egypt, Russia, Norway and the EU and endorsed by the UN.

Hence, when the BBC fails to inform audiences that the principle of conflict resolution by means of direct negotiations alone is not just an Israeli or American caprice but actually the mainstay of the existing agreements to which the Palestinians are party and the international community guarantors, it deliberately hinders audience understanding of the significance of the PA’s breach of those existing agreements by means of unilateral moves designed to bypass negotiations.

If the BBC is to fulfil its obligations to its funding public, it must begin to present this topic accurately and impartially. 

 

BBC portrayal of PA’s failed UNSC bid

The BBC News website’s coverage of the UN Security Council’s rejection of a draft resolution proposed by Jordan on behalf of the PA on December 30th included a written report titled “UN Security Council rejects Palestinian resolution“.

That article was initially presented to visitors to the website’s Middle East page using the photograph below.

UNSC art on HP

The motivation behind the choice of that particular image to illustrate this specific story is of course cringingly transparent. BBC audiences are herded towards a view of the story in terms of the contrived symbolism apparent in the image: a small, weak, helpless, child-like Palestine pluckily stands up to a big, strong, armed Israel blocking its way. The image was later removed – perhaps due to concerns related to the BBC’s guidance on Stills Photographs and Images which includes the following:

UNSC written

“Care must be taken to ensure that […] images do not reinforce prejudicial perspectives or depict groups in stereotypical ways.”

The latter part of the later version of that article is devoted to a “media review” of the topic and – despite cryptically noting that “[t]he Hamas-run Filastin newspaper criticises Fatah’s handling of the resolution: “Fatah did not consult anyone””, the article again fails to inform BBC audiences of the fact that assorted Palestinian factions and figures publicly stated their opposition to the draft resolution even before its presentation.

Embedded in that article as well as appearing separately on the website’s Middle East page is a filmed report by the BBC’s Washington Correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan which was also aired on BBC television news programmes.

That report opens with scenes described as follows in Vaidyanathan’s voiceover:

“The funeral of a Palestinian teenager who was killed by Israeli troops earlier this week. Mourners gathered to mark the loss of another life in a conflict which has claimed both Palestinians and Israelis. “UNSC filmed 31 12

Seventeen year-old Imam Jamil Dweikat was shot on December 29th near Tapuach Junction.

“An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma’an that an Israeli military patrol was passing through the area when they “encountered a group of Palestinians hurling rocks at a main road, which endangered both civilians and vehicles.” 

“The forces called them to halt and fired warning shots, and when they didn’t comply they responded to the threat with direct fire which wounded one of the attackers.” 

She said that the military treated him on site but he later died of his wounds.”

That all important context was obviously not deemed ‘need to know’ information for BBC audiences by Rajini Vaidyanathan who goes on to tell viewers:

“Diplomacy has failed to end the violence. Palestinians put forward a resolution at the United Nations they believed was a path towards peace. In it they called for Israel to withdraw from areas it occupies, such as the West Bank, by 2017.” [emphasis added]

Those words are accompanied by the image below and once again BBC audiences are being mistakenly led to believe that the Gaza Strip is ‘occupied’.

UNSC filmed 31 12 b map

Notably too, we see that the PA’s unilateral move to circumvent negotiations is still being framed by the BBC as a ‘peace plan’ when it is of course anything but, and that it is attributed to “Palestinians”; a homogeneous title which fails to inform BBC audiences that the move was neither instigated nor supported by a consensus of opinion among Palestinian factions.  

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BBC’s portrayal of ‘Palestinian peace plan’ unravels

At the beginning of this week we addressed the topic of the BBC’s framing of the PA’s presentation – via Jordan – of a draft resolution to the UN Security Council. In that post we noted the following:BBC News logo

“Neither does the BBC address the issue of exactly which Palestinian factions are involved in this unilateral move and the significance of the fact that Hamas, whilst party to the Palestinian unity government, is not a member of the body recognized by the international community as representing the Palestinian people – the PLO. Hence, the subject of which factions exactly would be bound by what the BBC revealingly chooses to term this Palestinian “peace plan” – and its resulting efficacy – remains unaddressed.”

Thanks to the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh we now learn that those questions were far from premature and that the thorny issue of who would be committed to this so-called “peace plan” even extends to Mahmoud Abbas’ own party.

“Some Palestinian factions and figures oppose the draft Palestinian statehood resolution that was presented to the UN Security Council last week.

They claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not present the measure to leaders of the PLO and Fatah before it was brought to the Security Council. […]

Abbas critics argue that the draft resolution, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, does not meet the political aspirations of the Palestinians.

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti took issue with the text and called on the PA leadership to conduct an immediate and comprehensive revision of its wording. […]

Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and a leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also criticized the draft resolution and called on the PA leadership to withdraw it from the Security Council.

The proposal does not represent the position endorsed by the PLO Executive Committee over the past few weeks, Khaled said. […]

The Palestinian National Initiative, an independent political movement led by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, said the draft resolution includes “dangerous lapses” that compromise Palestinian demands.”

Moreover, Palestinian unity government partner Hamas also joined in the criticism of Abbas’ move.

“Hamas on Tuesday joined several Palestinian groups that have rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN Security Council.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the draft resolution that was presented to the Security Council last week, and which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, does not represent the Palestinians.”

Curiously, the BBC (which seems to have Mustafa Bargouti on speed-dial every time an opportunity to defame and delegitimise Israel presents itself) has apparently not yet contacted its favourite “influential Palestinian politician” – or anyone else – for comment on these developments, which to date remain unreported.

A very prominent characteristic of BBC Middle East coverage is its consistent under-reporting of domestic Palestinian affairs, including internal politics. Thus, BBC audiences only get to see a sanitized, one-dimensional, homogenous view of Palestinians which actively hinders their understanding of the region and its events.  

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