At the bottom of the “Israel profile” which appears in the country profiles section on the BBC News website’s Middle East page a collection of ‘related articles’ has recently been added under the heading “Mid-East Crisis”.
All told there are sixteen items on this reading list intended to provide BBC audiences with background information which will help them better understand the subject of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The first of that group of articles – titled Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks – which has also appeared as an appendix to various other BBC reports – was discussed here.
Many of the other fifteen articles on the list have also already been discussed on these pages, including those by Jonathan Marcus, Bethany Bell, Jon Donnison, Yolande Knell and Kevin Connolly. Yolande Knell’s ‘one state solution’ campaigning article, which has previously been promoted as background reading since its initial publication, appears on the list too.
Two of the articles relate to last year’s UN bid by the Palestinian Authority, one is the BBC’s profile of the Palestinian Territories and one discusses the legal aspects of last November’s ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. Two articles relate to the visit to the region by President Obama earlier in the year and one profiles the current Israeli cabinet. Two are backgrounders on the subject of the peace process.
In the majority of the sixteen articles, one or more of the following themes is promoted: ‘Israeli building threatens peace talks’, ‘Settlements are illegal under international law’, ‘the window of opportunity for peace is closing’ and ‘the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is crucial to the stability of the region as a whole’.
A significant number of the articles downplay or completely erase the issue of Palestinian terror and its effect on the peace process. None of them make any mention of issues such as the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorists and their acts, its payment of salaries to imprisoned terrorists, its official promotion of incitement against Israel or its lack of preparation of its people for peace.
As we know, the BBC claims that:
“.. our strategy is to supplement our news coverage by providing detailed background on BBC News Online. It has the space to carry more information than broadcast news programmes, helping readers to understand the political, historical or economic background to an event.”
Clearly though, the provision on the one hand of background material which is all too often marred by factual inaccuracies and frequently compromises supposed BBC impartiality by promoting politically motivated themes, coupled with a glaring absence of any material at all addressing a whole host of other important factors on the other hand, prevents rather than enhances audience understanding – with this reading list being a prime example.