Why is the BBC’s failure to properly report the Jewish state issue important?

One of many notable features of the BBC’s reporting on the subject of the recent nine-month round of talks between Israel and the PLO was its persistent failure to adequately clarify to BBC audiences the significance of the demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.BBC pic

That issue was incorrectly presented to audiences as being a new demand and was framed exclusively in terms of relating to the topic of the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees: see for example Yolande Knell’s article titled “Row over demand for Palestinians to recognise Israel as ‘Jewish state’” from February 2nd and  the March 17th report headlined “Obama tells Palestinian leader to take risks for peace“. The BBC-produced backgrounder on the ‘core issues’ of the talks likewise framed the issue in terms of refugees, failing to inform audiences of the wider significance of the demand.

As has been noted here on several occasions:

“…the issue of Palestinian (and wider Arab) recognition of Israel as the Jewish state is an important one in itself and not only in connection with the subject of refugees. A lasting peace agreement cannot of course be brought about without recognition and acceptance of Israel’s existence in the region as an expression of the national rights of the Jewish people, along with an end to the kind of all too prevalent officially sanctioned incitement which encourages Palestinians (and others in the wider region) to continue to view Israel as “Arab land”.”

A recent article by Dr Jonathan Spyer gives some important background to the question of why the BBC’s failure to properly inform audiences on this issue is so important.

“The failure of the talks was predictable first and foremost because of the irreconcilable positions of the sides.  This is not a matter of small details, as is sometimes maintained.  It isn’t that the Palestinians want 99% of the West Bank while Israel will offer only 98%.

Palestinian nationalism in both its Fatah and Hamas variants rejects the possibility of accepting the permanence of Jewish statehood in any part of the area west of the Jordan River. […]

The Palestinians see themselves as part of the local majority Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslim culture.  From this point of view, the establishment of a non-Muslim sovereignty in Israel was not only an injustice, it was also an anomaly.  Israel, being an anomaly, is therefore bound eventually to be defeated and disappear.  So there is no need to reconcile to it, with all the humiliation therein. […]

This politics, in its various manifestations, exists to reverse the verdict of the war of 1948. It has no other purpose.

Its  credo was perfectly rendered in the words of the Moroccan scholar Abdallah Laroui, as quoted by Fouad Ajami: “On a certain day everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled; in this way will justice be dispensed to the victims, on that day when the presence of God shall again make itself felt.’

The language is elegant. The message is one of politicide and destruction. For as long as this credo remains at the root of Palestinian politics, peace between Israelis and Palestinians will remain unachievable. All else is mere detail.”

Read Dr Spyer’s entire article here.

So why does it matter that the BBC has consistently avoided informing audiences of the real significance of recognition of Israel as the Jewish state? Well, according to its constitutional document, the Royal Charter, the BBC is committed to fulfilling six public purposes which are, in fact, the very reason and justification for its existence and its right to public funding.

One of those public purposes goes under the title “Global Outlook” and its operative definition obliges the BBC to provide its funding public with information which will “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

By failing to inform audiences about the underlying significance of the issue of recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, the BBC is in fact denying them key core information as to why the conflict exists and why it has not been solved to date. It is, in other words, preventing their ability to “build a global understanding of international issues” and actively hindering their ability to “participate in the global debate” and thus neglecting its obligations to – and breaching its contract with – its funding public. 

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