BBC News shoehorns apartheid trope into supposed news story

Among the reports promoted to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 18th were two items relating to a rent-a-mob incident in Ramallah in which shoes and eggs were thrown at the visiting Canadian foreign minister. As well as a filmed report titled “Canada’s foreign minister egged in Ramallah by protesters“, a written report appeared under the headline “Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird“.Baird Ramallah art

Seeing as the minister was fortunately not harmed in the incident – as is already pointed out in the second paragraph of the BBC article – and taking into account that the BBC does not usually go out of its way to report on Palestinians behaving badly, one might be curious as to the editorial considerations behind the running of this story – particularly as the subject of Canadian aid to the Palestinians ($66 million in 2014 alone) is not mentioned in the report.

In the first seven paragraphs of the article the BBC manages to squeeze in information on the incident itself, on Canada’s relations with Israel and on Mr Baird’s comments after the meeting with his PA counterpart. From paragraphs eight to eleven inclusive, the report’s focus shifts to the amplification of a defamatory politically motivated trope from that old BBC favourite Saeb Erekat.

“Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, who did not meet Mr Baird, issued a statement expressing his anger at Canada’s backing for Israel.

“We regret the Canadian government’s decision to stand on the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies,” he said.

Harsh critics of Israel level the charge of apartheid – the system of state-sanctioned racial discrimination once practised by South Africa – against the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and Israeli-Arab minority. Israel says the accusation is baseless and a part of efforts to demonise it.

He criticised Mr Baird for meeting Israeli officials in occupied east Jerusalem in 2013.”

Erekat’s “statement” was actually an opinion piece published in the Globe & Mail on January 16th. Remarkably, out of the nine hundred and forty-four words comprising that screed, the BBC elected to focus audience attentions on the ‘apartheid’ trope and to unreservedly adopt Erekat’s language by use of the phrase “occupied east Jerusalem”. Notably too, the BBC’s token nod to editorial impartiality comes in the form of its well-worn ‘Israel says’ formula.

So to sum up, the anonymous writer of this BBC report decided to use a quarter of the paragraphs in a story supposedly about Palestinians throwing eggs at the Canadian FM for amplification of a defamatory trope against Israel by a well-known Palestinian demagogue who was not even party to the meeting with the visiting Canadian official. Having amplified and embroidered the trope, he or she failed to clarify to BBC audiences that it is completely baseless and false but played one of its infamous token ‘Israel says’ get-out-of-impartiality-jail-free cards.

Apparently the BBC believes that it can pass off self-conscription to Saeb Erekat’s PR team as ‘standard-setting’ journalism to its funding public.

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