BBC WS history show claims Israel ‘carved out of Palestinian land’

A BBC World Service history programme promotes inaccurate information.

The August 7th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The History Hour’ included an item (from 26:40 here) about the Camp David Summit that had already been aired several days previously on the same station’s other history show ‘Witness’ and was discussed here.

In his introduction to that item, presenter Max Pearson told worldwide listeners: [emphasis added]

Pearson: “But before that we’re going to focus on a region which has seen tension and violence for the past 70 years. Just the phrase ‘tension in the Middle East’ has become shorthand for referencing the decades of mistrust between Jews and Arabs following the creation of the State of Israel, carved – as it was – out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians. Giving the Jewish people of the world a homeland was supposed to be the answer to one problem but it created another. There have of course been attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. One of the last major efforts ended in failure in the year 2000. At that time the two sides had been brought together by the American president Bill Clinton. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the senior diplomatic interpreter Gamal Helal who attended that fateful Camp David summit.”

Obviously the Middle East “has seen tension and violence” for a lot longer than 70 years and Pearson’s claim that “tension in the Middle East” means solely the Arab-Israeli conflict is astoundingly ignorant. Clearly too, “mistrust between Jews and Arabs” did not ‘follow’ the creation of the State of Israel but was already evident many years beforehand.

But the most egregiously inaccurate part of that introduction is obviously Pearson’s claim that Israel was “carved […] out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”. At no point in history before the creation of the State of Israel was that the case: the land was administered by the British Mandate prior to Israel’s establishment and before that had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years.

That inaccurate and materially misleading information is all the more troubling coming, as it does, in what claims to be a history programme.

BBC Watch has submitted a complaint to the BBC World Service highlighting the need for a speedy on-air correction.

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