Outside the BBC’s frame: violent protests against peace talks in Ramallah

The framing which the BBC has chosen for its coverage of the subject of the current talks between Israel and the PLO which commenced in late July 2013 focuses the attention of audiences on a number of very specific issues.  

According to the picture presented by the BBC, the “core issues” upon which the success – or lack of it – of the current talks hinges are “Jerusalem”, “borders”, “settlements”, “refugees” and “security”. The bulk of BBC coverage, however, has focused on the promotion of the notion of Israeli building as the main “obstacle to peace” which endangers the negotiations. 

No less important and relevant issues include the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, the agreement to the end of future claims, Palestinian Authority and Hamas sponsored incitement and glorification of terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split and the surge in terrorist activity seen since the latest round of talks began.

However, those issues lie completely outside the field of vision of those getting their news and current affairs analysis primarily from BBC sources. Due to the framing employed, audience members who – unknown to them – wear the BBC blinkers, will be convinced that if the Israelis just stopped building houses and apartments, the signing of a peace agreement could be just around the corner. 

Like a wedding, the signing of an agreement is of course the relatively easy part when compared to living with that contract in the years to come. In a recent article veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh raises a very important and fundamental question:

“…what would happen if and when PA President Mahmoud Abbas signs a peace agreement with Israel? Might he, too, find himself being escorted out of Ramallah under police protection for daring to talk peace with Israel?”

The incidents which prompt Khaled Abu Toameh to ask that question took place earlier in January when a group of Israeli activists met with Palestinian counterparts in Ramallah.

“The meeting, which was held under the motto “Ordinary People Make Peace,” was organized by a group called Israeli- Palestinian Public Negotiating Congress in Ramallah & Jerusalem. […]

Thursday’s meeting was part of a two-day seminar on solutions to the conflict. […]

The Palestinian and Israeli delegations consist of 15 members each. They include ex-IDF officers, Palestinian security commanders, Israeli settlers, Palestinian ex-prisoners, academics, businessmen and journalists.”

The first session of the meeting had to be abandoned.

“Scores of Palestinian activists on Thursday attacked a hotel in Ramallah where Israelis and Palestinians were holding a meeting to talk about peace.

Chanting slogans against “normalization” with Israel, the vandals smashed windows and tried to storm the conference hall before dozens of Palestinian Authority policemen pushed them back. […]

Palestinian activists who learned about the meeting at City Inn Hotel hanged a banner at the entrance to the hotel reading, “Normalization is Treason.”

The activists protested against the presence of Israelis in the city, banging on the main gate and chanting, “Israelis out!” Others chanted, “No to negotiations, no to normalization, this homeland is not for sale” and “Our people want RPG [rocket-propelled grenades], not security coordination.” “

The Israeli participants had to leave Ramallah under police protection.

“The protest finally forced the organizers of the conference to call it off, with the Israelis quickly leaving Ramallah out of concern for their safety.

“The situation outside is very tense and we have to stop here,” Ibrahim Enbawai, one of the Palestinian participants in the conference declared after a brief chat with the police commander. “There are hundreds of people outside and the police have asked that we stop the event.” “

The second session of the meeting did not fare much better:

“The following day, January 9, the Israeli and Palestinian activists tried to meet at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem. But here, too, they were confronted by dozens of Palestinian “anti-normalization” activists who forced the Israelis and Palestinians to leave the hotel in a humiliating manner.

Amal Obaidi, one of the protesters, said she was opposed to the “peace” conference because it represented a policy of “surrender and normalization with Israeli occupation.” She further explained, “We reject any normalization meeting. Jerusalem is an Arab city and it will remain so.” “

Of course the BBC did not report on either of these incidents, meaning that BBC audiences remain entirely unaware of the existence of opposition to any kind of peace agreement on the Palestinian street and the consequences of decades of incitement and failure by the Palestinian Authority to prepare its people for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

In consistently keeping this and other issues out of the frame of the picture of the current negotiations which it presents to audiences, the BBC is not only failing to meet its commitment to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”; it is actively preventing them from being able to do so. 

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