What are BBC audiences being told about ME talks?

The July 30th edition of BBC News website’s Middle East page promotes a filmed report entitled “Why Mid-East peace talks now?” in two of its sections. 


Bell MEPT filmed

Contrary to the impression viewers might receive, this report by Bethany Bell was not made for CBeebies, but was broadcast on BBC television news programmes aimed at adult audiences.

Bell informs her audiences that:

“The Americans are worried that time is running out for peace as more Jewish settlements are built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

The jaded chimera of “time running out for peace” is of course an empty cliché which has been repeatedly promoted by assorted actors for over two decades, but apparently that fact does not stop the BBC’s new Jerusalem correspondent from offering up her own particular contribution to the altar of that myth. 

Neither does it seem that Ms Bell is particularly interested in accurately reporting on the subject of the building of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. She obviously has difficulty in distinguishing between “Jewish” and Israeli – despite that subject having been addressed in the BBC’s recently updated version of its “Key Terms” guide.


Be careful over whether you mean ‘Israeli’ or ‘Jewish’: the latter might imply that the story is about race or religion, rather than the actions of the state or its citizens.”

Bell also misleads audiences with regard to the location of building itself, which of course takes place within the municipal boundaries of existing towns and villages and not – as Bell’s report clearly suggests – on new sites.

Bell’s use of the phrase “occupied Palestinian land” is obviously both inaccurate and partial as the land in question is subject to final status negotiations according to agreements signed by the Palestinians themselves and was never “Palestinian”, but previously under illegal Jordanian occupation for 19 years, before that part of the British-administered Mandate established by the League of Nations and prior to that, part of the Ottoman empire for four hundred years.

So that’s three politically motivated deliberate inaccuracies and a myth in one sentence from a journalist charged with ensuring that BBC audiences remain informed about the Middle East. And it does not get any better: next Bell tries to co-opt her viewers to the plainly ridiculous notion that an Israeli – Palestinian peace settlement is at the epicentre of the Middle East as a whole. Apparently without realizing the comedy value of her words, she begins by telling audiences:

“And they’re [the Americans] concerned that Israel is getting more and more isolated in an increasingly volatile and unstable Middle East.”

After showing footage of the civil war in Syria and the unrest in Egypt, Bell goes on to opine that:

“Progress on the Israeli – Palestinian issue would bring some welcome stability to the region.”

Later in the report Bell does a couple of ‘standing on a hill overlooking the subject matter’ shots. With the Gaza Strip in the background she  talks about the euphemistically-termed “Islamist group Hamas” and with Jerusalem as her backdrop she gives audiences a dumbed-down caricature laced with obviously politically motivated equivalence.

“The issues at stake have eluded solution for years. One of the most difficult is this place – the Old City of Jerusalem with its holy sites – claimed by both sides.”

The renewal of talks provides ample opportunities for journalists to offer serious, in-depth information and analysis on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the peace process for audiences in the United Kingdom and around the world. Sadly, it seems that the BBC is not interested in making the most of those opportunities in order to meet its designated public purpose of providing it funders with “high-quality coverage of global issues in its news and current affairs and other output for the UK”.

 Instead, the best the BBC can do is to resurrect a standard set of dumbed-down, tired narratives which are so transparently politically motivated as to border on the cartoonish and which fail to conform to its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, making a mockery out of its professed aspiration “to remain the standard-setter for international journalism”.


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