On the evening of January 29th the BBC News website published a report titled “Hebron: Palestinians denounce Israeli decision to end observer mission” on its ‘Middle East’ page.
The report actually includes two separate stories, the first of which was presented to readers as follows: [emphasis added]
“The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of a foreign observer force in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has deployed unarmed civilians for more than 20 years to report on human rights violations.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the observers of “acting against” his country.
Palestinians said Israel was showing contempt for international agreements.
Saeb Erekat, of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, called on the UN to deploy a permanent international force across the occupied West Bank in response.”
Later on readers were told that:
“The TIPH was established in 1994 in the wake of an attack by a settler at the Ibrahimi Mosque that left 29 Palestinians dead. The force was deployed for three months but its mandate was not extended.
The 1997 agreement saw the TIPH return to Hebron, with Denmark, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey contributing observers.
Its mission is to assist in “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians”.
The TIPH presents its findings to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are required to agree every six months to extend the force’s mandate.”
The BBC’s report did not adequately clarify to audiences the one-sided nature of the TIPH’s mandate. As Professor Eugene Kontorovich notes:
“The anti-Israel bias of TIPH is built into its mandate, which tasked organization members with the one-sided mission of “promoting by their presence a feeling of security” for Palestinians in Hebron. Protecting Jews from constant terrorist attacks is not part of their job description.”
Nowhere in the BBC’s report was there any mention of the incidents involving TIPH personnel which took place last year – the assault of an Israeli child by a Swiss member of the group and the slashing of the tyres of an Israeli owned vehicle by an Italian member. As the Jerusalem Post notes, those incidents were a factor in the call to review the renewal of the TIPH mandate.
Predictably the report erased from its section on the background of Hebron all mention of the city’s Jewish history, including the fact that Jews lived there uninterrupted for hundreds of years until the 1929 massacre. Readers did however see a dubious ‘religious importance’ rating.
“Hebron has been a flashpoint for decades.
The city is the location of the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Muslim and Christians as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s burial place. The site is the second holiest in Judaism and the fourth holiest in Islam.
Under a 1997 agreement, 80% of Hebron is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20% is under full Israeli control.
The Israeli-controlled sector is home to about 40,000 Palestinians and several hundred Jewish settlers living in settlement compounds. The presence of the settlers there is considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with this.”
The 1997 Hebron Protocol was of course signed by Israel and the PLO and it followed on from the 1995 Interim Agreement signed by the same parties and witnessed by the USA, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway and the EU. Apparently the BBC would have its audiences believe that the PLO signed an agreement facilitating the residence of Israelis in Hebron in violation of “international law”.
The second story in this BBC report is unconnected to the article’s subject matter. It relates to an incident which took place on January 26th, the details of which are as yet unclear and which is currently under investigation. In the original version of the report BBC audiences first got a one hundred and eighty-five word account of one version of the story.
“There was no immediate response from the UN, but the Organisation for the High Commissioner for Human Rights did express deep concern about an unrelated incident in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyir on Saturday in which a Palestinian man was shot in the back and killed.
OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that its monitoring suggested Hamdi Taleb Naasan died after a group of up to 30 Israelis from the nearby Israeli settler outpost of Adei Ad attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields and then fired live ammunition towards al-Mughayyir.
The confrontation led to six villagers being shot with live rounds, leaving three of them in a serious condition, he said, adding that it was unclear whether any settlers were also injured.
“When Israeli security forces did finally intervene, the main focus of their action appears to have been to disperse the Palestinian villagers using tear gas,” Mr Colville said.
“Three more Palestinians were injured by live ammunition after the intervention of the security forces. However it is not clear at this point whether they were shot by settlers or by soldiers.”
After being told that the army is investigating the incident, readers then got a fifty-three word long account (including an unhelpful link to a Ha’aretz article requiring subscription) of the other version of the incident.
“The settlers have said the troops also used live ammunition, and that the confrontation began when a teenager was attacked and stabbed by Palestinians on the outskirts of al-Mughayyir.
According to the settlers, armed civilian emergency responders who came to the teenager’s aid opened fire in self-defence after villagers threw stones at them.”
So while violent acts by foreigners in the TIPH ‘peacemaking’ delegation were excluded from this report, one version of an as yet unclarified story was allocated three and a half times more coverage than the other.