An interview with the BBC’s Middle East Editor which was broadcast on one of the main BBC television news programmes on the evening of April 25th also appeared on the same date on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Jeremy Bowen on US bid to broker Mid-East peace deal“.
Presenter: “What is America’s plan B then?”
Bowen: “You know I don’t think they have one particularly. Eh…Mr Obama’s in his second term and he’s running out of time to try and make the big changes which, as a candidate, he really wanted to make in the Middle East and he’s said that he doesn’t think they’d be able to make the hard choices necessary for a deal within six months. Now; more than six months: they’ve been talking about this – about trying to build a Palestinian state alongside Israel – for more than twenty years and they haven’t got anywhere. It’s a long record of failure.”
Bowen makes no attempt to clarify to viewers why previous attempts to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have failed. He refrains from mentioning the wave of Palestinian terror which followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority’s decision to scupper those agreements by initiating the second Intifada, its failure to even reply to the deal proposed by Ehud Olmert in 2008 and much more. Bowen continues:
“Now that is one reason I think why Fatah went for that unity deal with Hamas, because they’re not getting what they want out of talks and also because there’s a current within the PLO that says they need to try a different strategy…ah…building internal unity and also what they call non-violent resistance, which includes the movement for ….ah….for the boycott, disvestment… disvestment [sic] and sanctions; in other words, trying to isolate Israel in the way that South Africa was isolated in the 1980s.”
Here Bowen fails to clarify to viewers why any PLO claim of adoption of a policy of “non-violent resistance” is patently at odds with its latest initiative to join forces with Hamas; a group which is recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation and which repeatedly makes abundantly clear in both words and action its unwavering commitment to the annihilation of a UN member state through violent means.
Although incapable of pronouncing it correctly, Bowen gives context-free promotion and amplification to the BDS movement, failing to clarify to viewers what the end-game of that political campaign actually is and providing it with back wind through his context-free analogy which inaccurately – yet deliberately – herds audiences towards linkage between Israel and the apartheid era in South Africa. He continues:
“Now as for the Israelis, Mr Netanyahu seems pretty happy with the status quo; keeping a lid on things, expanding settlements, Israelis are making good money. But he’s also been warned that long-term, if there’s no Palestinian state, he might well be forced to…ah…ultimately Israelis might be forced….ah….to give Palestinians who live under their control the vote and since most likely Palestinians would be in the majority, that would open up a whole new range of electoral possibilities….ah….which many Israelis would certainly fear.” [all emphasis added]
Bowen’s reference to the finances of Israeli citizens of course has absolutely nothing to do with this topic, but it certainly reveals much about his own mindset and the depths to which he is prepared to go in order to try to convince audiences that Israel is the party not interested in a peace deal. That framing continues with his failure to inform audiences of the dramatic rise in Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians since this latest round of negotiations began and his predictable insertion of a context-free reference to “expanding settlements”. Bowen then goes on to introduce the familiar ‘demographic threat’ argument, but fails to inform viewers that the vast majority of Palestinians live not under the “control” of Israel, but under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and that they have voting rights within their own society.
The rationale behind the creation of the role of Middle East Editor in 2005 has been described in the following terms by the BBC:
“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”
As this interview demonstrates once again, instead of “analysis”, BBC audiences are actually being fed context-free selected slivers of information which in fact hinder their comprehension of the region’s events, but serve to advance the framing of the issue according to a specific political agenda.
When the person ultimately responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content allows himself to exploit his platform for the promotion and amplification of one-sided political messaging in such a blatant manner, it can hardly be surprising that much of the rest of the BBC’s Middle East coverage looks the way it does.