BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the April 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which related in part to an unpublished US administration peace plan and which adhered to existing BBC framing of that subject.

Later on in the same show (from 1:33:59 here), listeners heard a longer item on the same topic introduced by co-presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “Post-election talks are continuing in Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu expected to be formally named prime minister for a fifth term tomorrow.”

In fact the Israeli president was due to task the candidate recommended by most party leaders with the forming of a new government. Husain went on to cite the same newspaper report referred to earlier by Knell.

Husain: “And then, most likely in June, President Trump is expected to unveil what he’s called ‘the deal of the century’ between Israel and the Palestinians. The Washington Post reports that the plan will involve Palestinian autonomy rather than a sovereign state and ahead of its publication a group of 30 senior European figures including former prime ministers and former foreign ministers have said Europe should reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution.”

The letter concerned can be found here. Without explaining the concept of the two-state solution, Husain introduced her guest.

Husain: “Well Douglas Alexander – former Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister – is one of the signatories to that letter and he’s with us. […] Why make this statement before we’ve seen what’s in the Trump peace plan?”

Alexander: “Because the core argument of the letter is that statehood for the Palestinians is not a gift to be given or indeed a gift to be denied by Donald Trump but a right to be recognised in international law. For decades the United States has been the key actor in this region trying to secure peace. But I think it’s important to recognise that this administration has taken a series of dangerous steps in a very dangerous region. Whether that’s the withdrawing of funding for the 5 million Palestinians who are supported by the UN Work [sic] and Relief Agency, whether that’s the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whether it was the recognition last week of Israeli sovereignty in relation to the Golan Heights. So at that point I think as Europeans we face a fundamental choice: are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

Husain failed to challenge that use of the politically motivated term ‘Palestinian land’ and made no effort to ask Alexander how he proposes to bring about a two-state solution given that the Palestinian Authority does not represent the whole of the Palestinian people and does not control part of the relevant territory. Neither did she inquire how ‘speaking up for democracy’ is served by advancing the creation of a state on territory currently ruled in part by a terrorist organisation which oppresses human rights and in part by an entity headed by a ‘president’ whose term of office ended over a decade ago. Instead, Husain in fact just repeated her first question.

Husain: “But you are making an assumption based on the actions you list about what will be in the Trump peace plan.”

Alexander: “Well let’s look at what Donald Trump has actually done over the last couple of years. His strategy seems to be pursuing a policy systematically to weaken the Palestinian Authority while lifting restraints on Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank.”

Although no land in “the West Bank” has been annexed at all in “the last couple of years”, Husain failed to challenge that falsehood.

Alexander: “And in that sense the destruction is coming from the Trump administration rather than the position we articulate in the letter, which is the end solution has to be based on the long-standing parameters.”

Husain made no effort to remind listeners that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected that “end solution” over the decades.

Husain: “Would you acknowledge though the limited power of European leaders in all of this? It is really the United States which is…which is the key influence on the…on the Israeli government.”

Once again we see the BBC portraying Israel as the only active party in the conflict.

Alexander: “Oh absolutely. I recognise that the United States has a key influence in the region but as Europeans we face a choice. Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people or do we accede to a view by Donald Trump of the international community. Let’s be clear: this is a Trump administration that fundamentally believes multilateralism is nonsense. Look at the institutions created after the second World War – the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, WTO. All of those as far as Donald Trump is concerned are really just a mechanism for small countries to rip off the United States. So we face a choice: do we stand for multilateralism and international law or do we accede to that radical viewpoint?”

Husain refrained from asking what that theory has to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. She then side-stepped another opportunity to explain to listeners why the two-state solution has “gone nowhere” – even when Alexander replied to her next question with a blatant falsehood.

Husain: “But you seem to be standing for an idea, a pledge – the two-state solution – which has gone nowhere for the last 25 years. Isn’t it time to think about something else?”

Alexander: “I think it’s certainly right to recognise that the Palestinians for 25 years have been negotiating to try to secure that outcome but in the face of what we’re now witnessing from the Trump administration and indeed from the statements we heard from Netanyahu last week, we can pretend that nothing’s changed, we could certainly do that. Or we can do what I think is the just and decent thing by an oppressed and marginalised people who aspire within the rules of international law to something that Israel has enjoyed since 1948 which is a land of their own. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable objective for European politicians.”

The BBC’s idea of balance to that superficial softball interview in which Douglas Alexander was given an unchallenged platform from which to promote assorted distortions and falsehoods was an interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel in which an impatient-sounding Husain interrupted her no fewer than eight times and brought the interview to an abrupt close when Haskel began talking about the prioritisation of “weapons, hatred and war” by the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip over the creation of an autonomous entity serving the interests of the Palestinian people.

Once again we see that the BBC’s portrayal of the as yet unpublished US peace proposal adheres to strict and selective framing in which there is no room for information which would enhance audience understanding of the topic, such as Palestinian rejection of that plan, Palestinian rejection of previous proposals, Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state or the twelve-year split in Palestinian leadership which renders the two-state solution irrelevant.

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

As we have most recently seen in BBC coverage of the Israeli election and in an article by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent, the corporation’s framing a US administration peace plan which has not yet even been made public continues.

That framing has included the failure to clarify to audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication, the failure to clarify that, significantly, the Palestinian Authority does not represent all the Palestinian factions and a total absence of information concerning Palestinian rejection of past peace proposals.

Additionally, BBC audiences have seen the two-state solution presented as “the formula for peace negotiations” but with that term only partially explained: the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples” is consistently absent from BBC presentation.  Instead, audiences repeatedly see the two-state solution defined according to the Palestinian interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s framing portrays the success of the as yet unpublished peace plan as dependent upon Israeli actions alone, with the Palestinian side reduced to a passive entity.

That pre-emptive framing continued in two items aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on April 16th. Listeners first heard a report (from 37:28 here) from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell introduced by co-presenter Justin Webb.

Webb: “Israel’s political parties meet the president today following the election of course. Yolande Knell is our correspondent in Jerusalem. What happens then, Yolande?”

Knell gave an explanation of the process of the president’s consultation with the heads of the parties which gained seats in the recent election in order to decide which party leader will be tasked with trying to form a new government before going on:

Knell: “…it’s extremely likely that it will be Benjamin Netanyahu that’s allowed to form the new government because he did win the greatest number of seats in the new parliament [not accurate – Ed.] and because he has support, we know, from the smaller Right-wing and pro-settler parties, he’ll be able to control the majority seats. And Israelis saying this is most likely to be the most Right-wing government in Israeli history. That was also the boast of the last government too. And of course this new government will be put in place – he’ll have 28 days to decide – Mr Netanyahu – if he can put…how he’ll put his government together…ahm…but this will come at a really important time.”

The item continued with pure speculation based partly on an article in a newspaper.

Webb: “Well an important time because Donald Trump says he has a peace proposal and a peace proposal that is acceptable to…ahm…err…the Netanyahu government potentially. In that case, if that were to be announced relatively soon, what would it be?”

Knell: “Well we’ve been looking for a lot of clues. Ahm…of course the big question is could the US abandon the two-state solution: this long-time international formula for peace that envisages the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. It’s been written up in UN resolutions and it’s also been the cornerstone of US policy for over two decades now. But we had yesterday the Washington Post reporting that the US proposal probably wouldn’t include a fully sovereign Palestinian state and then the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving a series of congressional hearings over the last two weeks and in questioning he didn’t give too much away for sure ahead of the publication of this long-awaited Trump administration peace plan but he did say that…or he seemed to imply that the idea of the two-state solution was bunched in with what he called ‘a failed old set of ideas not worth re-treading’ and he kept talking, as we’ve heard before, about recognising realities.

What’s also been pointed out really importantly is that the Trump administration and Mr Pompeo didn’t speak out against a campaign promise that was made very controversially by Mr Netanyahu in the last days of the election campaign where he promised to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank where there are Israeli settlements…ah…put them under full Israeli control. And…err…of course settlements seen as illegal under international law but the Palestinians say that would leave them with no contiguous territory for a Palestinian state.”

As we see Knell’s speculative portrayal adheres to the BBC’s standard framing seen to date. The second item on the same topic in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

Why is the BBC’s failure to properly report the Jewish state issue important?

 

 

BBC WS ‘Business Matters’ sails close to antisemitic trope

The lead story in the April 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ (which ostensibly provides listeners with “global business news”) was, for reasons unknown, the previous day’s general election in Israel.

Listeners first heard (from 1:07 here) some of the more sensible commentary concerning the election aired on BBC stations in recent weeks from the Jerusalem Post’s Knesset correspondent Lahav Harkov.

Referring to Netanyahu, at 5:32 presenter Roger Hearing asked her “why do they keep voting for him?” and – noting the absence of good foreign press reporting on the topic – Harkov responded by citing the fact that the Israeli economy is doing well, that unemployment is down and that international relations are thriving.

Hearing next briefly and superficially discussed aspects of Israel’s economy with one of his two guests before turning to the other – previously introduced as Ralph Silva of the Silva Network but with listeners having been given no indication of what makes a “Broadcasting Analyst Focused on Banking, Technology and Media” qualified to comment on the topic of Israel or the Middle East.

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

[7:21] Hearing: “And…err…Ralph: I suppose the thing also, Israel’s slightly got pushed to the back of the news agenda with everything else that’s been happening in the world and even in the Middle East itself but it is still a very…a place that matters a great deal more that its size would indicate in political terms and of course Mr Netanyahu’s quite closely aligned to Donald Trump.”

Silva: “Well he is and I think that there are some concerns there, especially considering the election campaign. We’ve heard quite a bit about developments in the West Bank and pushing that process forward and making it more stable and more secure and with the US government such as it is, it’s basically in support of that so I think that while we haven’t seen a huge amount of developments in relation to the West Bank in the past couple of administrations, now the situation’s a bit different where they do have support especially from the US now. So I am a little bit concerned because there’s been a lot of rhetoric about the West Bank and about how aggressive they’re going to be in the West Bank and of course an aggressive move there could cause some problems. But I think it’s going to be a space to watch and I think we’re going to see a lot of developments in the next elec…in the next 4 to 5 years.”

With that commentary being as clear as mud, listeners would likely have taken away little more than the notion that some party – apparently either Israel or the US – is going to be “aggressive…in the West Bank”.

Hearing: “And of course there’s also Iran. Within the last few days they’ve advanced moves against Iran, making the Revolutionary Guard there an illegal organisation as far as – a terrorist organisation – as far as the US is concerned. And a lot of people see the moves towards Iran including the sanctions that have been put on – the economic sanctions – as being to some extent dictated by Israel or at least influenced by Israel.”

Silva: “Well certainly and if you listen to the press in the United States that’s exactly what is being said. It’s being said that Trump’s administration is supporting them and I think that there’s this new bravado going on because they feel that – the Israelis right now feel like they got a lot of backing right now and clearly they do. Ahm…and there’s been a lot of aggression and what we have to see is sort of a calming down and so I think after this election – during the election we saw that – but as soon as this election is decided I think we’re going to see a calming down of that. At least history has shown us that there is the calming down right after an election so that’s good news.”

Once again it is difficult to imagine how the BBC can claim that such commentary from a guest whose credentials concerning the Middle East were not clarified can possibly be said to contribute to audience understanding of the topic.

What listeners did hear however was the BBC sailing very close to an antisemitic trope by advancing the unsourced and facile notion that American policy on Iran is “dictated by Israel” rather than based on the US’s own considerations.

That, apparently, is the dismal level of ‘analysis’ that the BBC is capable of providing to its worldwide audiences.

BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports election campaign speculation as fact

On December 26th 2018 an overwhelming majority of MKs voted to dissolve the 20th Knesset and go to elections just over three months later.

“The bill for the dissolution of the 20th Knesset was given final approval by the plenum Wednesday night. The government-sponsored dissolution bill was merged with private bills submitted by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Ayman Odeh (Joint List).

The bill, which passed by a vote of 102-2 in its third (final) reading, also sets early elections for April 9, 2019. The MKs who voted against the bill were Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Yaron Mazuz (Likud).”

Two days earlier the BBC had correctly told visitors to its website that:

“Israel is to hold a general election in April, the ruling coalition has said.

The political partners decided to call the poll after failing to resolve a dispute over a draft conscription bill for ultra-Orthodox Jews. […]

The ruling coalition was recently reduced to holding a one-seat majority in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) after the then-defence minister resigned in protest over what he said was a weak approach towards dealing with attacks from Gaza, the Palestinian enclave bordering Israel.

By Sunday night it was clear the government faced collapse after ultra-Orthodox parties threatened to withdraw over the draft conscription bill.”

Listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ on April 9th however heard a completely different account of those events from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

In the programme’s afternoon edition presenter James Coomarasamy introduced an item (from 18:37 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Now another election now and it was an early call but was it the right one for him? Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be finding out whether his decision to hold an early election today will secure him his record-breaking fifth term in office.”

In contrast to Coomarasamy’s claim that the decision to call an election was made by Mr Netanyahu alone, it was actually taken by the heads of all five coalition parties and – as seen above – endorsed by a majority of Knesset members from parties across the entire political spectrum.

After listeners had heard recordings of statements made by Netanyahu and the Blue and White list leader Benny Gantz at their polling stations, Coomarasamy brought in “Newshour’s very own Lyse Doucet who’s in Jerusalem for us”. Having mentioned the weather and voter turnout percentage, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “There’s a bit of apathy this time round because in effect this election campaign is about only one issue and that is Benjamin Netanyahu. Will he get that fifth term in office and put himself in the history books as Israel’s longest serving prime minister? So the question in this whole election is will Bibi, as he’s known, win and is Bibi good for Israel.”

Seeing as the BBC’s coverage of the run up to the election totally ignored the topic of what concerns the Israeli voter, it is of course hardly surprising that Doucet would come out with that inaccurate and superficial claim. Coomarasamy went on to suggest yet again that Netanyahu had called the election alone.

Coomarasamy: “And at the moment, I mean, he…he’s sounding confident. He sounds as though he made the right decision. I suppose, you know, this early election is…was a gamble. He’s made a gamble before and it didn’t pay off.”

Doucet: “He called early elections – eight months earlier – because he was trying to get in ahead of the attorney general but the attorney general got the best of him and has already indicated that charges are pending – corruption charge, fraud, breach of trust – and so there’s criminal investing…there’s criminal charges pending against Benjamin Netanyahu and he was hoping that he would call these elections and secure his fifth term before the attorney general filed. So this cloud is hanging over his head and what he would like to do is first of all get the high…get his Likud party to get the highest number of seats tonight – but remember: no party in Israel has ever ruled on its own – that he would then be chosen by the president to try to bring…to forge a governing coalition which will be comprised of not just Right-wing parties but far Right-wing racist parties – ah…and that’s causing some concern here – and then be able to pass a new law in the Israeli Knesset which says you can’t be charged when you’re a sitting prime minister. Israel doesn’t have that yet. So that’s the gamble really that he’s dealing with now.”

Until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) as racist but apparently the BBC’s chief international correspondent sees no problem in branding more than one Israeli political party in that way.

Coomarasamy: “That’s his personal gamble. What’s at stake for the country as a whole would you say, Lyse?”

Doucet: “Well that is the big issue. I mean one Israeli commentator was saying that it’s not just fateful issues on the agenda, it’s the fate of the country which is on the agenda. Israel has been moving steadily to the Right over the past decades, largely fuelled by the failure of peace making with the Palestinians. It’s noticeable that that simply wasn’t an issue at all in these elections. And look at what has happened in the past year thanks to Mr Netanyahu’s greatest champion in the White House, Donald Trump. The Americans have moved their embassy to Jerusalem, they’ve recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – effectively trying to take that issue off the table. They also have recognised the Golan as part of…under Israeli jurisdiction – not Syrian. So in some ways they’ve been trying to move toward resolving these issues and Mr Netanyahu even threatened or even indicated – again, in a bid to get those far Right-wing votes – that he would annex large parts of the West Bank, which takes another issue off the agenda.”

As we have regrettably had cause to note here before, despite the best efforts of BBC journalists to ignore it, the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties”.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – presented by Tim Franks – also included a contribution from “our very own Lyse Doucet” (from 45:05 here) in which she again paraphrased anonymous Israeli commentators.

Doucet: “…but I have to say, Tim, that the Israeli analysts are already saying this is a message to Benjamin Netanyahu that you may have snuck in again but your days are numbered.”

Franks: “Right and I suppose there would be a question also, were he to get in, just how long he might be in for because there are these corruption allegations hanging over him.”

Doucet again promoted the falsehood that Netanyahu had called an election all on his own.

Doucet: “He called this election eight months earlier than he had to. He was hoping to get a new mandate before the attorney general published or finished his investigation. The attorney general preempted him. The charges have been published – he’s facing possible indictment on three major corruption, bribery, breach of trust charges. What he wants from…if he does form a new government he will want that government to bring in new legislation which means a sitting prime minister cannot be indicted. He wants legal cover for those charges. It’s…this is quite clearly being discussed here. So it’s not just about winning these elections; it’s about winning his personal freedom as well.”

The as yet non-existent legislation touted by Doucet is known in Hebrew as ‘the French Law’ after similar legislation in France. Four days before Doucet laid out her theory according to which Netanyahu had dissolved the Knesset and called elections all on his own in order to get such a law passed, the Times of Israel reported that:

“Several political allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday they would not back an effort to pass a law giving the premier immunity from prosecution. […]

…several senior ministers said they would not back the law, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“He [Netanyahu] promised he wouldn’t try, and if a proposal like this comes up from others in the Knesset, I’ll oppose it,” Erdan told Army Radio.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who helped torpedo a bid in 2017 by a Netanyahu ally in the Likud to pass an immunity bill, said he would continue to oppose it. “Everyone is equal under the law,” he told Army Radio. […]

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is also seen as a likely coalition partner for Netanyahu should he be tasked with forming the next government, also said he was against a retroactive measure.

He blamed speculation about Netanyahu seeking a measure on “the media.””

Indeed speculation on that topic was rife during election campaigning but senior BBC journalist Lyse Doucet did not report it as speculation: she reported it as fact – even constructing a supporting story about a one-man deliberate dissolving of parliament and subsequent election – without providing any concrete evidence to support her claims.

So much for BBC accuracy and impartiality.

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BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

In December 2017 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“. In March 2019 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means”.  

The latest article in the ‘Trumplomacy’ genre by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 12th under the headline “Trumplomacy: Where are things at with the Mideast peace plan?”. [emphasis in bold added]

The main image illustrating the article is captioned “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) recently became the first high-ranking US official to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall last month”. In fact previous American visitors to the site have included the US President, Vice-President and former UN ambassador.

Although Israel’s president will only begin meeting with representatives of the lists which won seats in the Knesset in last week’s election on April 15th in order to hear their recommendations for the candidate who should be tasked with forming the next government and that person will then have 28 days in which to do so (with the possibility of a two-week extension), Plett Usher already ‘knows’ what sort of new government Israel will have:

“With a newly elected right-wing government taking shape in Israel this is a good time to check in on the status of the Trump administration’s peace plan.”

Under the sub-heading “How has the [US] policy changed?” Plett Usher instructs readers to:

“Remember that the formula for peace negotiations has been: two states based on the borders of Arab territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, with mutually agreed land swaps; sufficient security arrangements; a just solution for Palestinian refugees; and negotiations to settle the fate of Jerusalem, the occupied eastern part of which Palestinians claim as their capital.”

While Plett Usher does not specify the source of her “the formula for peace negotiations”, her description is apparently based on non-binding UN General Assembly resolutions such as 3236 and/or the extinct 2003 Quartet road map.

Interestingly, Plett Usher does not bother to inform her readers that the Oslo Accords – the one agreement which resulted from actual negotiations between Israel and the PLO – did not specify the two-state solution as “the formula”.

Significantly, while portraying the “fate of Jerusalem” as the sole issue to be resolved in negotiations, Plett Usher fails to inform audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, other topics she portrays as ‘givens’ – borders, refugees and settlements – are also to be resolved in permanent status negotiations.

Instead Plett Usher promotes the false notion of pre-1967 “borders”, failing to clarify that those were actually armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders. Equally revealing is Plett Usher’s description of land assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland which was belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948 as “Arab territory” and her prior reference to “the occupied Palestinian West Bank”.

In other words Barbara Plett Usher has unquestioningly adopted and promoted the PLO’s stance on that issue.  She goes on:

“But the White House has declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, cut funds to the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, and accepted Israel’s unilateral annexation of other occupied territory, the Golan Heights.”

A journalist with integrity would clarify that the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that – in contrast to the impression Plett Usher is trying to create – it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

And if bringing up the topic of cuts in US funding to UNRWA, a journalist devoted to informing readers would also have explained the background to that decision, the controversies surrounding that UN agency and the broader issue of Palestinian refugees.

Going on to reference the anti-Israel BDS campaign, Plett Usher likewise fails to inform readers of that campaign’s aims, thereby denying them the ability to judge the statement she paraphrases.

“The state department’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, has reinforced this Israeli narrative in US policy.

He told us that boycotting goods made in Jewish West Bank settlements was anti-Semitic, even though the settlements are illegal under international law and have expanded to such a degree many question whether a Palestinian state is still viable.”

Plett Usher then bolsters her article’s core messaging to readers with a quote sourced from an organisation she once again signposts as “liberal”.

“The administration’s embrace of the Israeli government’s right-wing positions has alarmed liberal American Jewish organizations.

“What they’ve done so far tells you what they intend to lay out,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami of the J Street lobby group. “They have no intention to lay out what could conceivably resolve the conflict. Instead they will tie American government positions to those of the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum.””

In her final section – sub-headed “What about the Palestinian reaction?” – Plett Usher qualifies the description of people convicted of violent attacks against Israelis.

“Mr Abbas is very unpopular. But on a recent trip to Jerusalem I was told anecdotally that Palestinians have at least given him credit for standing firm on their three core issues: Jerusalem, refugees and maintaining funds to Palestinian prisoners – whom the Israelis regard as terrorists – despite financial pressure.”

Although the US administration’s proposal has yet to be revealed, the Palestinian Authority has already made its rejection of it amply clear. Nevertheless Barbara Plett Usher’s aim in this article is to convince BBC audiences that when it does appear, that plan is destined to fail because it ‘embraces’ the positions of “the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum” rather than because the Palestinians have made it a non-starter.

While Plett Usher’s promotion of that narrative comes as no surprise, it is unfortunate that BBC audiences continue to be fed commentary which does little to enhance their understanding of this and additional topics from a person whose impartiality on issues relating to Israel has long been in plain sight.

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Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Throughout the month of March 2019, thirty items relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which had originally been published the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Eight reports related to security issues:

Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv (15/3/19 to 19/3/19) discussed here

Israeli soldier and rabbi killed in West Bank attack (18/3/19 to 20/3/19) discussed here

Two Palestinians killed in clashes in Nablus (20/3/19 to 22/3/19) discussed here

Gaza rocket destroys Israeli home (25/3/19 to 3/4/19)

Seven injured as Gaza rocket hits home in central Israel (25/3/19) discussed here

Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house (25/3/19 to 28/3/19) discussed here

Gaza protests: Thousands mark ‘Great Return’ anniversary (30/3/19 to 31/3/19) discussed here

Gaza violence: Crossings reopen after negotiated ‘calm’ (31/3/19 to 4/4/19)

Three items related to additional aspects of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop:

Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN (28/2/19 to 2/3/19) discussed here

UN rights chief Bachelet warns of threat from ‘gross inequality’ (6/3/19 to 7/3/19) discussed here

Gaza’s disability crisis Tom Bateman (29/3/19 to present) discussed here

Six reports concerned Middle East related US foreign policy:

US consulate general in Jerusalem merges with embassy (4/3/19 to 6/3/19) discussed here

Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory (21/3/19 to 22/3/19) discussed here and here

Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks (22/3/19 to 25/3/19) discussed here and here

Pompeo says God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran (22/3/19 to 25/3/19)

Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli (25/3/19 to 27/3/19)

Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means Barbara Plett Usher (25/3/19 to 2/4/19) discussed here and here

One item related to internal Palestinian affairs:

Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule Yolande Knell (18/3/19 to 26/3/19) discussed here

Of six reports concerning Israeli affairs, two related to legal cases:

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges (28/2/19 to 1/3/19) discussed here

Netanyahu charges: Is Israel PM in more trouble now than ever before? Yolande Knell (1/3/19 to 15/3/19) discussed here

Three concerned Israeli politics and the upcoming election:

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs (11/3/19 to 13/3/19) discussed here

Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari (17/3/19 to 20/3/19) discussed here

Israel elections: ‘Fascism’ perfume ad sparks online debate (19/3/19 to 21/3/19)

One related to religious affairs:

Western Wall: Jewish women clash over prayer rights (8/3/19 to 10/3/19) discussed here and here

Four reports had a historical theme:

A 2,000-year-old biblical treasure BBC Travel (4/3/19 to 5/3/19 and previously 25/2/19 to 27/2/19)

Einstein manuscripts: More than 110 new documents released (6/3/19 to 8/3/19)

Rafi Eitan: Mossad spy who captured Adolf Eichmann dies (23/3/19 to 25/3/19)

Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies (27/3/19 to 28/3/19) discussed here

One report was about geography:

‘World’s longest salt cave’ discovered in Israel (28/3/19 to 1/4/19)

One item related to culture & art:

Startling images of the Middle East Fiona Macdonald BBC Culture (8/3/19 to 9/3/19) discussed here

Throughout the first quarter of 2019 and as has been the case in previous years (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC News website continued to cover Israeli affairs far more extensively than it did internal Palestinian affairs with the ratio currently standing at over 4:1.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part two

 

 

 

 

More one-sided Gaza coverage on BBC World Service radio

As we saw in an earlier post, the March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary” and following reports from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, listeners heard five full minutes of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda from a professor at a university established by Hamas leaders.

Later on in the same programme (from 44:06 here) presenter Lyse Doucet recycled part of that interview. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “A reminder of our top story this hour: thousands of Palestinians have been demonstrating on the border of Gaza on the first anniversary of weekly protests against Israel. Dr Mosheer Amer is professor of the Islamic…at the Islamic University of Gaza. He told this programme why his students were so frustrated with life there.”

Amer: “…there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza.”

Given the BBC’s obligation to provide “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”, listeners may have expected that “top story” to go on to include the perspective of residents of the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year.

However, despite Yolande Knell’s rare visit to one of those communities, rather than balancing Mosheer Amer’s five-minute portrayal of life in Gaza with an equivalent item recorded in Israel, Doucet went on to introduce a commentator from a think-tank heavily funded (see also page 43 here) by the same Gulf state – Qatar – known for harbouring and funding Hamas.   

Doucet: “Back to our top story this hour: today’s one-year anniversary of the weekly Gaza protests along its border fence with Israel. It all comes at a time of mounting tension. This week a rocket attack from Gaza wounded 7 Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv. Israel launched a wave of airstrikes. There’ve already been three wars between Israel and Gaza in the past decade. Is there a risk of another? I’ve been speaking with Daniel Byman. He’s a foreign policy editor of Lawfare and he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. What are the prospects of another serious escalation between Hamas and Israel?”

Byman: “There is always a prospect of serious escalation. You have a situation in Gaza that is miserable for the Gazans. You have a Palestinian leadership that is divided and competitive and you have Israel that’s very willing to use force to protect what it sees as its security and that combination is very combustible. The good news is that despite having this potential we haven’t seen it spill over into a massive conflict – especially not in the last year or so. No side is particularly eager to begin the fighting but the potential is quite real.”

Apparently the BBC’s supposedly neutral expert does not consider an entire year of weekly violent rioting at the border or the launching of over a thousand rockets into Israeli territory in 2018 or the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Moshav Mishmeret within ten days as ‘eager to begin the fighting’.

Clearly from her subsequent remarks, Lyse Doucet too does not take over a thousand rocket attacks in twelve months too seriously, given that she went on to describe Israel as suffering from “tension” while Gaza suffers from “violence”.

Doucet: “Now we know there are back-channels to try to de-escalate the tension if not try to move towards some agreement. Egypt, for example, is trying to play this role. Do you see anything happening behind the scenes that Gaza can somehow get out of this endless cycle of violence and Israel can get out of this endless tension along that boundary?”

Erasing the Palestinian terror which has made counter-terrorism measures necessary, Byman replied with a curious claim of a current “state of peace”.

Byman: “In the near term there’s no hope for a deal that’s going to resolve this but there is hope for a deal that will at least ease the conditions in Gaza, that will open some [sic – there are two] of the crossings, that will expand the fishing zone, that will otherwise make life a little better for Gaza and as a result allow Hamas – which is ruling Gaza – to be able to say that they’ve achieved something; that they’ve made life better for Gazans and thus they have a reason to maintain the peace. And so that’s not a final status solution, that’s not something that’s going to resolve it forever but hopefully we could take the current uneasy state of peace and continue it.”

Doucet: “Now Israel of course accuses Hamas of using the people of Gaza as human shields to attack and terrorise Israeli civilians and as you know there were recent rare protests inside Gaza by citizens blaming Hamas in part for the dire state of affairs. Do you see any signs of any kind of shift in Hamas’ position?”

Byman then whitewashed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and its use of violence to maintain power while bizarrely framing the terror organisation in terms of Western politics.

Byman: “This is very hard to tell. So Hamas has a fairly tight grip on politics in Gaza and certainly dealt with the protesters. There is criticism but it’s hard to tell whether the movement itself is relatively popular as some polls indicate or if people are simply afraid. What makes things much better for Hamas is that it doesn’t have strong Palestinian rivals within Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, its main rival, is weak in Gaza; it’s not particularly popular and in general Hamas has been able to suppress most dissent. Hamas worries about criticism on both its right and its left but it’s been able to navigate that for over ten years now.”

Readers may recall that back in 2017, Lyse Doucet inaccurately claimed on the same BBC World Service programme that Hamas had ‘changed’ its charter. Apparently the BBC’s refusal to correct that inaccuracy at the time has led to Doucet holding on to that illusion.

Doucet: “But you see it as…its posture as being consistently just anti-Israel? There was a lot of attention a few years ago, as you know, that Hamas was changing its posture, looking for another way out in terms of its relationship with Israel. What…how do you see that now?”

Byman: “I would say Hamas is certainly anti-Israel but it’s also pragmatic. It recognises that Israel has military superiority. It recognises that it is diplomatically isolated. So Hamas is hoping that it now might be a time to strike at least a temporary deal. Now might be a time to try to achieve economic expansion in some way that will enable it to have accomplishments and they can claim that it’s doing something for the Palestinian people even if it isn’t achieving liberation through what it would call resistance.”

Doucet did not bother to clarify to listeners that as far as Hamas is concerned, “liberation” means the eradication of Israel and “resistance” means acts of violence.

Doucet: “And does Gaza, Hamas fit in in any way to this expected new American deal for the Middle East – it’s been called the deal of the century – which would focus on…largely on Israel, what’s happening in the West Bank – which of course is not run by Hamas – and the wider region?”

Doucet refrained from informing audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication.

Byman: “There are a dozen or so reasons to be sceptical of the so-called deal of the century and I think there’s a reason we haven’t seen any real details despite President Trump being in office for quite some time now. On Gaza I would stress that if the deal ignores Hamas, which I think is likely, Hamas can easily disrupt the deal. Hamas attacks in Israel will lead to a very ferocious Israeli response and that back and forth discredits any moderates who are negotiating. It’s very hard to negotiate when rockets are falling. It’s very hard to negotiate when Israel is bombing Gaza. And so Hamas effectively has a veto over a deal and ignoring it is going to be a mistake.”

Byman has been touting that idea of negotiating with Hamas for almost a decade regardless of the fact that the terror group has no interest in making peace with Israel.

Doucet: “So in a situation where you have the UN and many aid agencies and there are some people warning that Gaza’s a ticking time bomb, that its deepening humanitarian crisis and this tension of course, this continuing violence that shows no sign of ending, do you see any way out?”

Byman: “I think the best we can hope for in the near term is that there are fewer crises and the crises that happen involve fewer deaths. From Israel’s point of view it feels that it has achieved some degree of deterrence with Hamas and that even when larger scale conflicts have occurred, that Israel has been able to navigate these with relatively little loss of life on the Israeli side. And as a result Israel feels it can endure the current situation. So I don’t think there’s an answer short of much more comprehensive peace talks and those talks seem likely any time soon.”

Apparently the ‘expert’ brought in by the BBC is unaware of public conversations in Israel concerning ‘deterrence’ and the approach to Hamas. Apparently too he is disinterested in the Israeli citizens that bear the brunt of the terror organisation’s violence.

As we see, while around a quarter of this edition of ‘Newshour’ was devoted to this one story, most of its content focused on the promotion of unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda concerning a non-existent “siege” on the Gaza Strip and analysis from a person who promotes the idea of negotiations with the same terror group, while not one Israeli voice was heard. So much for ‘balanced’ coverage.

Related Articles:

Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

BBC refuses to correct an error on a topic it previously reported accurately

 

 

 

Inaccurate and misleading BBC WS radio report on Hamas rocket attack

The March 25th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ purported to inform listeners “Why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again”.

“Hours after a rocket hit a house near Tel Aviv and injured seven people, Israel is carrying out strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Could this be the start of a full-scale conflict?”

While able to inform audiences who was carrying out strikes in the Gaza Strip, the ‘Newshour’ team evidently chose not to clarify who had fired the rocket that brought about those strikes.  

Presenter James Coomarasamy’s introduction at the start of the programme included the following:

Coomarasamy: “Tensions rise in the Middle East as President Trump recognises Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights and rockets are fired in both directions between Gaza and Israel.”

Not only do we see a specious suggestion of linkage between the US president’s signing of a proclamation and a rocket fired by terrorists hours earlier but Coomarasamy also promoted false equivalence with the inaccurate claim that rockets were being fired from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

Introducing the item itself (from 00:54), Coomarasamy added the topic of the upcoming election in Israel to his mix of ‘explanations’. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “First though to the Middle East and with Israel’s general election just a couple of weeks away, are we seeing the start of a major conflict in the Gaza Strip? A rocket strike from that territory injured several people and destroyed a house today in a neighbourhood [sic] north of Tel Aviv – the furthest that a rocket fired from Gaza has reached since Israel’s last war with the group – the militant group – which controls the territory, Hamas, five years ago. Spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces Captain Libby Weiss said there was no doubt who was to blame.”

After listeners had heard a recording of Captain Weiss explaining that the rocket in question was produced and launched by Hamas, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “In the past few hours Israel has closed all [sic – actually two] crossings with the Gaza Strip including access to the sea and has launched a series of retaliatory airstrikes.”

The relevant announcement from COGAT actually referred to “a reduction of the fishing zone in Gaza” rather than closure of “access to the sea” as claimed by Coomarasamy, who then changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut short his visit to Washington to oversee the operation but not before President Trump had officially broken with the international consensus and recognised Israel’s claim to the occupied Golan Heights. The Arab League has condemned this move as illegitimate. At the White House Mr Trump said the attack near Tel Aviv today showed how important it was for Israel to be able to defend itself.”

After listeners had heard a recording of the US president’s remarks, Coomarasamy went on to introduce the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 02:51) with “the latest”.

Bateman: “What’s happened tonight is that the Israeli military has carried out now numerous airstrikes in locations in the Gaza Strip. There have been powerful explosions seen and heard in Gaza City, in the centre of the Strip in Khan Younis, in the south. The Israeli military says that one of its targets has been a headquarters for Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, which housed, it says, its general security forces and general intelligence, also military intelligence: the place where it believes that military sites in Israel are gathered by Hamas’ intelligence forces. And it’s also now reported that the offices of Ismail Haniyeh – who is the political leader of Hamas – have been targeted in an Israeli airstrike as well.”

Did “the Israeli military” really say that it believes that those targeted Hamas headquarters are “the place” where the terror group’s military intelligence gathers information on “military sites in Israel”? Here is the relevant IDF Tweet in English, stating only that “Hamas collected intelligence for planning attacks against Israel” and with no mention of “military sites”.

Here is the equivalent Tweet in Hebrew. It states that “Hamas’ military intelligence department is responsible for gathering and studying intelligence against the State of Israel”.

Again we see no evidence to support Bateman’s claim that the IDF said that Hamas’ military intelligence gathers information exclusively about “military sites in Israel”. Moreover, another IDF statement clarified that:

“In response to the attack, the IDF has begun striking Hamas buildings which were utilized to plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. The IDF has struck Hamas’ previously secret military intelligence headquarters, its Internal Security Service offices, the office of Hamas Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, and a number of other military compounds.” [emphasis added]

That unsupported claim from Bateman is particularly pernicious given that not only does the BBC refuse to use the words terror and terrorist when describing Hamas, but Bateman has now implied that its targets are – as Hamas itself often claims – exclusively military rather than predominantly civilian.

No less significant is the fact that an hour before Bateman came on air, the IDF had already reported some 30 rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against civilian communities in the border region (with a further 30 later on through the night). Bateman however elected to erase that deliberate targeting of civilians from view.

Bateman went on to describe the rocket attack on the house in Moshav Mishmeret early the same morning before once again bringing up the topic of the April 9th election in Israel.

Bateman: “This kind of strike, which hasn’t happened since the war between Hamas and Israel of 2014 and comes at a very sensitive time because there are Israeli elections due to take place in two weeks’ time. Some of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals have been saying that he hasn’t taken a forceful enough approach in the last year or so when it comes to Gaza and so there has been political pressure on him.”

Coomarasamy: “Meanwhile, he’s been getting political support from the US president.”

Bateman once again told listeners about the US president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and “criticism” from Syria “as well as other Arab and Muslim states” before Coomarasamy asked whether the US decision is “likely to have an impact on the election”.

With Bateman having replied that “it gives prime minister Netanyahu an electoral lift” and “it does help him to some degree”, the item closed.

With a very significant proportion of this item having focused on the Israeli election and the US proclamation concerning the Golan Heights, BBC World Service radio audiences could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that the answer to the programme’s question of “why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again” (rising tensions in southern Israel were obviously considered to be of less interest) lies in those two topics rather than in the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by terrorist organisations armed with military grade projectiles.

Related Articles:

BBC unquestioningly amplifies unsubstantiated Hamas claims

Improved BBC News website reporting on Sharon rocket attack

 

 

 

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

As documented here at the time, earlier this month the BBC chose to ignore the release of information concerning Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan Heights.

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

Not only have BBC audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in south-west Syria in recent years but the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

That framing was again promoted by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barabara Plett Usher in several recent reports concerning US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In an article titled “Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory” that appeared on the BBC News website on March 21st, readers saw superfluous scare quotes attached to the phrase military entrenchment.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has warned about the “military entrenchment” of his country’s arch-enemy Iran in Syria and has ordered air strikes in an attempt to thwart it…”

Subsequent analysis from Plett Usher suggested to readers that the subject of the Iranian build-up of force in Syria is not only open to debate but a tactic used by Israel to advance its interests. [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

The same ‘analysis’ from Plett Usher appeared in a report published on March 22nd under the title “Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks”.

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

In an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means” which first appeared on March 22nd and was then posted in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 25th as well as promoted in a report titled “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli” published on the same day, Plett Usher wrote:

 “…Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.”

In the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 12:17 here) listeners heard Plett Usher claim that:

“Mr Netanyahu had stepped up lobbying for such a move since Mr Trump took office. He’s gained traction by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel and the Golan Heights is the front line.”

The week before she produced those reports Barbara Plett Usher had been at a press briefing given by the US Secretary of State and had asked a question concerning the Golan Heights.

“MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara.

QUESTION: […] And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

Not only did Plett Usher herself sound significantly less sceptical about “Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan” in that question but she got a very clear answer from the US Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, in her reports to BBC audiences Plett Usher’s framing includes promotion of the notion that there is room for doubt with regard to the actions and intentions of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

Related Articles:

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

BBC News cuts out the infiltration part of Syrian drone infiltration incident

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

 

BBC gets Golan Heights population wrong again

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC World Service reduces Golan Heights population by a third

Partial portrayals of international law in three BBC reports