BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

The entry for the year 1973 in the backgrounder titled “A History of Conflict” which appears on the BBC website opens with the following words:

“Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel on the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.”

1973 page

That statement of course suggests that Egypt and Syria had tried engagement in diplomacy – i.e. negotiation between the parties involved – and failed. A reasonable reader would also understand from that statement that it was the failure of negotiations which lead those countries to initiate the Yom Kippur war. But is that actually the case?

With regard to Egypt, the statement over-simplifies the issue and ignores multiple additional factors, including domestic ones, but with regard to Syria, it is obviously inaccurate. 

Neither in this entry or in the one preceding it (1967) is any mention made of the Khartoum Declaration of September 1st 1967, according to which the Arab states rejected negotiations with Israel.

“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June.” 

“This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” [emphasis added]

Later efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict by the UN’s Special Representative Gunnar Jarring were rejected outright by Syria. 

“Delivering messages to the different sides, Jarring shuttled between Jerusalem, Amman and Cairo, and sometimes also Beirut. Damascus was not part of the picture, since the Syrians categorically rejected Resolution 242.” [emphasis added]

Syria also rejected other diplomatic initiatives:

“Syria did not accept the resolution and continued its adamant opposition to it throughout the period. It gave its negative reaction to the five-point general plan for peace advanced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 19, 1967 and also refused to accept the reactivation of the negotiations as provided for in Resolution 242 through the offices of U.N. representative Dr. Gunnar Jarring. It also refused to consider the Rogers peace proposals of June 25, 1970.”

Hence, the BBC’s claim that Syria’s decision to take part in the Yom Kippur war was the product of failed negotiations is patently false and misleading. 

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