BBC template article on ME talks turns 878 houses into ‘around 1,000’

Recent BBC articles pertaining to the subject of renewed talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives include a number of standard statements repeated ad infinitum.

The latest article on the subject dates from August 8th and appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel-Palestine peace talks to resume in Jerusalem“. Note the suggestion of equivalence of claims in the caption to the illustrative photograph.

Talks to resume article

The article opens with the news that talks will take place next week.

“Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume peace talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday, according to the US state department.

The negotiations restarted last month in Washington under US mediation.

The announcement came as Israel approved the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.”

One presumes that “the announcement” is intended to refer to the renewal of talks in Washington on July 30th rather than this latest news, with the Israeli cabinet’s decision concerning the early release of Palestinian and Israeli Arab terrorists and criminals having been approved on July 28th.

Regular readers of the BBC News website will no doubt notice that they have read the inaccurate phrasing “Israel approved the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners” many times before. The same choice of wording – which curiously defines Israeli Arab prisoners as “Palestinian” – also appeared in two articles published on July 30th and in another report dated  August 4th.  

Later on in this report come the statements:

“The prison releases, which split the Israeli cabinet, are to take place in stages over several months.

Their identities have not been published, but according to reports they include those who have killed Israelis or Palestinian informers.”

Those same statements also appeared in the July 30th articles. As noted here on several previous occasions, the BBC has so far refrained from providing its audiences with comprehensive background information on the subject of the violent crimes for which the prisoners were convicted and has avoided altogether the subject of the effect of those slated releases on the families of their victims.

Towards the end of the report readers are told that:

“The future of Israeli settlements on the West Bank is among the key sticking points for the negotiations, along with the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.”

That identical claim was also made in one of the articles dating from July 30th and this latest report also reproduces the side-box of “Core Issues” presented in that report.

Next, readers are once again misled with regard to the reason for the breakdown of previous talks in September 2010.

“The issue of settlement-building halted the last direct talks in September 2010.”

That misleading statement has been touted by the BBC on numerous occasions, including on August 4th, July 30th, July 22nd and July 28th. Revealingly, the BBC has still not got round to informing its audiences that what actually “halted the last direct talks” was Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to continue them when a ten month-long building freeze –  throughout 90% of which he refused to come to the negotiating table – expired.

And of course no BBC article on Israel would be complete without the standard banal sentence which rounds off this report:

“Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The number of instances in which that statement has been promoted by the BBC are too numerous to mention, but as we noted back in May, no attempt is ever made to inform BBC audiences of conflicting legal opinions held by jurists from many countries – of which there are many.

“One might almost think that the BBC does not want readers to be able to make up their own minds on the subject or to have informed opinions – preferring instead that they diligently learn the party line by rote.”

The BBC News website’s repeated use of these misleading and context-free template statements in article after article is a sad indication of the lack of any real commitment to the stated goal of informing BBC audiences with regard to “international issues” as well as a dismal display of a lack of journalistic curiosity and innovation from an organization which purports to aspire “to remain the standard-setter for international journalism”.

Also towards the end of this article readers are informed that:

“Thursday’s announcement comes despite Israeli approval of around 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements on the West Bank.”

One thousand is a nice catchy round number, but does it square up with the facts? Readers may remember that back in mid-July we noted that the discussion of planning applications for housing in several communities located in Judea & Samaria and the Jordan Rift Valley had been postponed. It is those applications which were granted early stage approval this week by the Civil Administration (there are additional stages which have to be approved by other bodies) and the number of units is actually 878 – not “around 1,000”. All the units are of course scheduled for construction in existing communities:  Shilo (112), Talmon (559), Kochav Ya’akov (38), Kibbutz Gilgal (78), Kibbutz Almog (31) and Alon Shvut (60).  

Related articles:

BBC continues to mislead on Middle East talks

The ‘Core Issues’ of the Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks, BBC Style

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