How the BBC invented territory ‘allocated’ to a Palestinian state

The BBC's chronic 'misunderstanding' of the Partition Plan once again causes inaccuracy.

As has been known for several years, the BBC has a serious comprehension problem as far as UN GA resolution 181 – also known as the Partition Plan – is concerned.

In March 2013 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published its findings regarding appeals made (but not upheld) following complaints concerning the BBC’s failure to list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in its 2012 Olympics coverage (see page 34 onwards here).

A year later, in March 2014, the ESC published its findings regarding yet another request for an appeal on the topic of Israel’s capital city (see page 49 onwards here).

In both those rulings, the BBC stated that:

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “ [emphasis added]

The “UN resolution” to which the BBC referred is of course UN GA resolution 181 – the Partition Plan – which, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, was non-binding and no more than a recommendation, the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned.

As is well known the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan en masse and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses immaterial. 

However, the BBC’s distortion of the Partition Plan is not limited to Jerusalem. In a multi-part backgrounder titled “A History of Conflict” (which appears to have been available online for around a decade) readers of the entry for 1948 – headed “Establishment of Israel” – find the following:

“The State of Israel, the first Jewish state for nearly 2,000 years, was proclaimed at 1600 on 14 May 1948 in Tel Aviv. The declaration came into effect the following day as the last British troops withdrew. Palestinians remember 15 May as “al-Nakba”, or the Catastrophe.

The year had begun with Jewish and Arab armies each staging attacks on territory held by the other side. Jewish forces, backed by the Irgun and Lehi militant groups made more progress, seizing areas alloted [sic] to the Jewish state but also conquering substantial territories allocated for the Palestinian one.” [emphasis added]

The idea of partitioning the territory into two separate states – one Jewish and one Arab – was raised by the Peel Commission in 1937 and that plan was of course unanimously rejected by the Arabs while still on paper. When the idea was raised again in 1947 within the framework of the Partition Plan, the same negative response was received and the proposal was therefore rendered irrelevant.

The BBC’s claim that “territories” had been “allocated” to a Palestinian state in early 1948 – and that “Jewish forces” conquered them – is therefore disingenuous, inaccurate and misleading.

In two months’ time Israel will mark 70 years of independence and no doubt the volume of BBC coverage of that event will be considerable. One way in which the BBC could enhance audience understanding of that story is by reviewing the accuracy and impartiality of the various related backgrounders that it has produced in the past and which are still available online – and hence could potentially still be the subject of complaints

Related Articles:

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

No Partition Plan anniversary coverage from the BBC

 

 

 

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