May 8th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell titled “Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders” on the BBC News website’s Middle East and UK pages.
Much of Knell’s report is devoted to coverage of Justin Welby’s itinerary, which included a very short visit to Christian institutions the Gaza Strip. Knell tells readers that:
“The archbishop has been careful to hear voices from both sides in the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.
In a previously unannounced move, he visited Gaza – which has seen repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel in the past decade.
He also met Israelis living under threat of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in a kibbutz near the border.”
Residents of the Israeli communities located near the border with the Gaza Strip are not just “under threat” from the terrorists that Knell coyly describes as “militants”: attacks do frequently happen. However, seeing as the BBC has refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of any of the eight incidents of missile attacks that have taken place since the beginning of this year and throughout the whole of 2016 only reported one attack, readers would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.
The archbishop also visited Christian institutions in Nazareth including a school and four churches. Regardless of how the people he met there choose to self-identify, Yolande Knell collectively describes them as follows: [emphasis added]
“The archbishop has visited Palestinian Christian communities in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where he prayed and ate falafel with Christian mayor, Vera Baboun.”
“He [Welby] was due to meet Christian families in the Cremisan Valley, whose land is affected by the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”
One item on the archbishop’s itinerary which Knell left out of her coverage was a visit to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to pay tribute to UK student Hannah Bladon who was murdered last month in a terror attack in the city.
One of the stranger features of this report is Knell’s opening of her article with the promotion of some unfounded linkage.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.
His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.
However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.”
Welby’s latest trip to the region was announced back in March while Trump’s upcoming visit was announced on May 4th and there is no indication of any link between the two visits. Although Knell tells BBC audiences that the purpose of the US president’s 26 hour visit is “to try to revive the moribund peace process”, the official announcement lays out additional (and no less newsworthy) aims.
“President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership. The leaders will discuss a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups. They will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to meet with him to discuss ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as efforts to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy.”
Moreover, the day before this article was published, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ aired an item about Welby’s trip (from 01:00 here) that was mostly devoted to an interview with the archbishop by Yolande Knell. The last question she asked (at 05:45) was:
Knell: “You’ve come at a very sensitive time as attempts to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians restarted. Was that your intention?”
Welby: “I would not presume that. I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage. It would be very presumptuous to go further.”
Despite that very clear answer, Knell nevertheless decided to include a totally superfluous mention of the US president’s upcoming visit and “the moribund peace process” in her BBC News website article.