Context-free political slogans go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

Balance and impartiality absent from a BBC report promoting a new Palestinian museum.

The June 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 18:38 here) introduced by presenter Julian Marshall as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “There are reckoned to be just under 73,000 Americans of Palestinian descent living in the United States. They’re one of the smaller groups of Arab Americans but their profile – along with that of the millions of other Palestinians elsewhere in the world – could be raised with the opening today in Washington DC of the Museum of the Palestinian People. Its founder and director is Bshara Nassar.”

After listeners had heard Nassar explain why he decided to found the museum, Marshall continued with a question apparently inspired by the museum’s press release:

Marshall: “You’re wanting to counter what might be described as…ehm…negative stereotypes of Palestinians as…as either victims or…or terrorists so what will visitors to the museum see to reflect a more positive image of Palestinians?”

Nassar: “Well the museum will show the Palestinian culture, Palestinian arts, will celebrate everything that’s related to Palestine like culture, food, poetry so, you know, showing the story, the culture, the arts of the Palestinian people. Our first exhibit is about reimagining the future. The question is, you know, we get all the time like why are you starting with the future? Why not the past? Our answer is that as oppressed people, right, like any other oppressed people around the world, it’s really hard for us to imagine a future that’s different from what we’re living right now and that said is that reimagining a positive future, imagining Palestinians with rights, Palestinians with freedom.”

Marshall: “I mean you say that you want to counter this view of Palestinians as victims and yet you have described them to me as an oppressed people.”

Nassar: “Right, right. Well it’s what’s happening. I mean it’s…this is what’s the reality on the ground. Palestinians are living under the occupation, under Israeli occupation, lands being confiscated, there is no water. That’s what’s happening. What we want to say that we have a rich culture. We have a beautiful dance, beautiful traditions. If you go to the West Bank right now, which is where I’m from, from Bethlehem, people not necessarily sitting around talking about the occupation all day, right. There is weddings, there is celebrations, there is life. There is so much positive contributions that as Palestinians we’re bringing to the whole world.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that, like the rest of the areas in which the majority of Palestinians live, Bethlehem has been under Palestinian Authority rule for twenty-four years and failing to provide any information at all which would put Nassar’s trite political slogans into context, Marshall asked a final question about the museum’s take-away messaging.

Hence in this item promoting what is essentially the continuation of a political project, BBC World Service listeners found no trace of the impartiality which is supposedly a required component in BBC reporting.

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