Behind the BBC’s narrative on ‘international law’

As has been noted here on countless occasions in the past, the BBC regularly breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality through the use of a standard insert which tells readers of its reports that: “[t]he settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

“Though that mantra has been repeated countless times over the years, it is not accompanied by a definitive cited source (because of course there isn’t one) and its claim is erroneously presented as being contested only by the government of Israel. In other words, the BBC’s standard formulation egregiously ignores the existence of legal opinions which contradict its own adopted narrative.”

Similarly, BBC audiences regularly see the phrases “occupied West Bank” and “occupied East Jerusalem” used in the corporation’s content and, as readers may know, it also refuses to call Jerusalem the capital city of Israel with its style guide stating:

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

The bizarre background to that BBC Trust decision can be found here.

But is the narrative promoted by the BBC really rooted in “international law” as it tells its audiences? Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University Law School recently gave a lecture at Syracuse University which provides some interesting answers to that question.



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