On April 1st an article titled “US ‘may free Israel spy Jonathan Pollard’” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.
Notably, the previous BBC News website report on the subject of the current uncertainty surrounding the continuation of negotiations between Israel and the PLO appeared almost a week before, on March 26th. This latest article improves on its predecessor by noting that the four tranches of prisoner releases agreed to as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to encourage the Palestinian Authority to renew negotiations last July were from the outset tied to the progress of those talks.
“It is the second time that Mr Kerry has interrupted his schedule to press Israel and the Palestinians to extend the direct peace talks beyond 29 April – the deadline set last summer when they resumed after a three-year hiatus.
His plan has been derailed by a dispute over the release of a fourth batch of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Mr Abbas had insisted that they be freed by 29 March, in keeping with a promise made by Israel before the direct negotiations resumed.
Israeli officials have said they are reluctant to proceed unless the Palestinians commit to extending the talks, and stressed that the releases have always been tied to their progress.”
However, the report’s laconic description of the reasons for Israeli public opposition to the release of convicted terrorists does little to adequately clarify the topic to audiences.
“The previous three releases were deeply unpopular with the Israeli public because many of the prisoners were convicted of murdering Israelis.”
No attempt whatsoever is made in this report to inform audiences of the Palestinian Authority’s demand that Arab-Israeli prisoners be included in the fourth tranche of releases, with BBC audiences consequently remaining unaware of the highly problematic aspects of that attempt by the PA to claim to represent citizens of another country and the clear interference in Israeli sovereignty that demand signifies. Neither is any attempt made to explain to readers the potential political fallout for Israel’s coalition government which could be brought about by any release of Arab-Israeli prisoners.
If BBC audiences are to fully understand the currently debatable future of talks between Israel and the PLO, they clearly need to be made aware of the entire story behind the delayed fourth prisoner release as well as other significant aspects of the story completely overlooked in this report such as the PA’s refusal (backed by the Arab League) to renounce future claims and bring about an end to the conflict by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.
Significantly, that particular – and much more crucial – topic has been completely ignored by the BBC in all of its reports on the current talks so far and, as we see in this article, even aspects of the story which are being reported are being framed in such a way as to present an incomplete picture.