A masterclass in subtle messaging from the BBC’s Barbara Plett

The BBC’s correspondent at the United Nations in New York, Barbara Plett, broadcast a report on BBC television news on November 29th 2012 (also appearing on the BBC News website) concerning the Palestinian Authority’s latest UN bid.

At 0:17 Plett says: [emphasis added]

“Last year Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership, with much fanfare, but that got bogged down at the Security Council amidst US opposition. This time he’s coming to the UN for a lesser upgrade: from an observer to an observer state – like the Vatican.”

 Plett’s exclusive mention of “US opposition” to Abbas’s 2011 bid is of course inaccurate and disingenuous. In fact, the 15 member UN SC Admissions Committee was “unable to make a unanimous recommendation” – as necessary – to the Security Council. 

She continues:

“It’s a largely symbolic move, but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building.”

The uninformed viewer hearing that sentence may well be left with the impression that a Palestinian state already exists and that it merely lacks “formal recognition”. But it is the second half of the sentence which is particularly interesting.

Plett does not say “but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which they claim is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building”. Instead, she states it as though it were fact. 

So our uninformed viewer may well now think that there already is a Palestinian state, and that it is becoming smaller because of Israeli settlement building. Of course Plett does not actually say that, but neither does she make any effort to refrain from leaving that impression.

At 1:02 Plett says:

“With such opposition from Israel – and therefore America – the Palestinian leadership is taking a risk.”

So American opposition is, according to Plett, a direct consequence of Israeli opposition. In other words, America cannot think for itself: it has to follow Israel’s lead.

That assertion sails very close to the age-old wind of stereotypical antisemitic motifs of Jewish power and control over governments and it is a highly inappropriate theme for a BBC journalist to advance – even through subtle messaging. 

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