Visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 23rd were informed that: “Israel to name Golan town after Trump”.
Those who bothered to click on the link discovered in the report itself report – “I will name a Golan town after Trump, says Israel’s Netanyahu” – that the story is distinctly less cut and dried than that headline claims.
“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he intends to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump.
Mr Netanyahu said the move would honour Mr Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in March. […]
“I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J Trump”, he said in a video message.”
In other words, such a proposal would first have to pass a vote in the cabinet and then – assuming the community was indeed a new one – go through years of planning permission before a new town or village bearing the name of the (by then most likely former) US president could come into being.
Seeing as there was obviously not much meat to a story based on two similar videos in Hebrew and English together totaling less than one and a half minutes, over 60% of the BBC’s report was given over to background information and as usual the BBC’s portrayal of history began in June 1967.
“Israel seized the Golan from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. The move has not been recognised internationally. […]
Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East war, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake the region during the 1973 war.”
“In the years and months leading up to the 1967 war, Syria had played a crucial role in raising tensions by engaging in acts of sabotage and incessantly shelling Israeli communities. The second half of 1966 and spring of 1967 saw increasing friction and incidents between the IDF and Syrian forces. […]
By 1967 more than 265 artillery pieces were aimed down at Israel, and on the plateau itself Syria had constructed a dense network of fortifications, trenches and concrete bunkers with overlapping fields of fire, all sitting behind dense mine fields. Just before the outbreak of the war the Syrians forces in the Golan totaled over 40,000 troops with 260 tanks and self-propelled guns, divided up among three armored brigades and five infantry brigades. Facing them, the Israelis were heavily outgunned, with just one armored brigade and one infantry brigade. […]
During the first day of the war, on June 5, Syrian planes attacked communities in the north of Israel, including Tiberias, and attempted to attack the Haifa oil refineries. The Israeli air force responded later that day with an attack on Syria’s airbases, destroying 59 Syrian aircraft, mostly on the ground.
In the early morning hours of June 6, however, Syria intensified its attacks, launching a heavy artillery barrage against Israeli civilian communities, and then sending two companies of infantry across the border to attack Kibbutz Dan. […]
On June 8, the fourth day of the war, Syria accepted a UN cease-fire, and for five hours there was a lull in the shelling. But then the barrages resumed, and state radio announced that Syria did not consider itself bound by any cease-fire.”
The public purposes set out in BBC’s Royal Charter oblige it to “build people’s understanding” and “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues”.
Obviously the omission of the background to the Six Day War that is so often seen in BBC content and the employment in its place of simplistic statements such as “Israel seized the Golan from Syria” do not contribute to meeting those public purpose obligations.