On June 9th an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams was published in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Six Day War: Six ways the conflict still matters“.
Like other items included in the BBC’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of that war, the main – but inaccurate – message behind Adams’ article is that the modern-day conflict has its roots in that week in June 1967.
Adams lays out six ways in which, according to him, that war “left its mark”.
His first section is titled “Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza”. Obviously that heading misleads readers by implying that the Gaza Strip is still under ‘occupation’ even though Israel withdrew entirely from the territory nearly 12 years ago.
Adopting Palestinian terminology that absolves the invading Arab countries of any responsibility for the outcome of their failed attempt to destroy the nascent Jewish state in 1948, Adams tells readers that:
“For them [the Palestinians], this [the Six Day War] was a grim sequel to the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) of 19 years earlier, when Israel gained its independence and more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in the fighting which surrounded it.”
In the second section of the article – headed “Jewish settlements” – Adams tells readers that:
“For a small number of Israelis, this was an opportunity not to miss. In 1968, a group of Jewish settlers, posing as tourists, checked into a hotel in Hebron, in the West Bank. They refused to leave until the government agreed to let them settle – temporarily – nearby.”
He of course refrains from making any mention of the ancient Jewish community – and property – in Hebron that fell victim to Arab rioting in 1929 or of the Jewish communities in locations such as Gush Etzion, Kfar Darom and Neve Ya’akov that existed before the 1948 war and to which Israelis returned after nineteen years of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation in 1967. Those omissions are made even more glaring by Adams’ use of partisan language incompatible with the BBC’s supposed standards of impartial reporting:
“It was the start of a process which led, over time, to the colonisation of large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By 2015, 386,000 settlers occupied 131 West Bank settlements. Until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, 8,000 settlers lived there too.” [emphasis added]
Adopting the usual BBC policy of refraining from informing audiences of any alternative legal views of ‘international law’, Adams goes on:
“In the eyes of the international community, Jewish settlements are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into occupied territory. Israel disputes its applicability and every government since 1967 has allowed settler numbers to rise. Settlers are well-represented by nationalist political parties which regard the West Bank as part of their Jewish birthright.”
Obviously any mention of the fact that both the Gaza Strip and Judea & Samaria were part of the territory allocated by the League for the establishment of a Jewish homeland would detract from Adams’ inaccurate portrayal of Israelis living in Judea & Samaria as a monochrome group of people motivated solely by religion. He closes that section by tapping into a well-worn – but inaccurate – BBC theme: the erroneous notion that ‘settlements’ are the prime factor preventing resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“The settlement issue has long dogged efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Some argue that the settlement enterprise is now so extensive and entrenched that it renders a viable two-state solution all-but impossible.”
Adams’ third section is titled “Fate of Jerusalem” in which he makes no mention of the significance of Jerusalem in Jewish religion, tradition and culture. Failing to inform readers that Jerusalem has had a majority Jewish population since the mid-nineteenth century and omitting any mention of the expulsion of Jews from the Old City and additional Jerusalem neighbourhoods in 1948, he comes up with the dubious claim that:
“The demographic balance has been dramatically altered by the arrival of more than 200,000 Jewish residents.”
The fourth section of Adams’ article is titled “Peace with Egypt/Jordan” and in it readers find a rare reference to the Khartoum Resolutions – albeit with implication of Israeli blame.
“The Israeli cabinet held long, anguished discussions after the war about what to do with the territories now under its control. No formal peace offer was ever made and, at a summit in Khartoum in September 1967, humiliated Arab leaders declared there would be “no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel.””
Adams tells readers that following the peace agreement with Israel, “Arab leaders […] turned their backs” on Sadat. In fact, they expelled Egypt from the OIC and the Arab League and all but three Arab League countries suspended diplomatic relations with Cairo.
Section five of the article is headed “Peace process” and there readers are steered towards the view that the issues to be resolved in that process originate from the Six Day War.
“This remains the central unresolved legacy of 1967. Israelis and Palestinians have sat down countless times but have never managed to reach a final deal.”
The all-important refusal of various parties to accept the existence of the Jewish state that was already in evidence half a century before the Six Day War is not of course listed among Adams’ “stumbling blocks”.
“The stumbling blocks have simply proved insurmountable. Israeli settlements have gradually eaten away at the territory in question. Acts of Palestinian violence, including suicide bombs aimed at cafes and busses [sic], have convinced many Israelis they have no partner.”
Adams’ final section is titled “Golan Heights” and his portrayal of the events of 1967 excludes any mention the relevant topic of years of Syrian attacks on Israeli communities below the Golan.
“Syria, believing that Egypt was in the process of defeating Israel in the south, launched its own attack. It was a costly mistake. Israel counter-attacked.”
Adams also misleads with regard to the armistice lines prior to the Six Day War.
“Peace efforts have been fitful. In 2000, hopes were raised when Syria’s ailing president, Hafez al-Assad (father of the current leader) agreed to meet US President Bill Clinton in Geneva. But the talks went nowhere, foundering on Syria’s demands to return to its pre-1967 position on the north-east shore of the Sea of Galilee.”
In fact, the talks failed because Assad senior demanded access to the Sea of Galilee that Syria had never previously had as well as ‘shared sovereignty’ over the lake.
Like the other recent Six Day War features by Tom Bateman and Jeremy Bowen, this article by Paul Adams is essentially an exercise in advancing a transparent political narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is exclusively rooted in the outcome of those six days in June 1967 – especially the ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’. And like those other two articles, Adams’ advancement of that narrative does not serve the purpose of enhancing audience understanding of either the root causes of that war, the ones that preceded and followed it or the continued lack of progress in resolving the century-long conflict.
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