The June 26th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:
“Also in the programme: Jared Kushner’s conference to bring “Peace to Prosperity” to Palestinians takes place in Bahrain…without the Palestinians.”
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Henley: “’President Trump and America have not given up on you’ Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told Palestinians. But they weren’t there to hear him at a conference in Bahrain focusing on the economic aspects of the Middle East peace plan Mr Kushner has been working on. He wants fifty billion dollars-worth of investment to be put into the Palestinian economy. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian authorities are attending the event. It’s not discussing a political resolution.”
Henley: “Well, we’ll be looking at the plan in a moment. First, our Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at how the Palestinian economy is doing.”
Listeners then heard the same report by Knell that had been aired the previous day on ‘Newshour’ and on BBC Radio 4. Although the final interviewee in that report is Issam the fruit seller, Henley continued:
Henley: “Palestinian builder Rasmi ending that report by Yolande Knell. So how is the conference going given that the people who are being discussed – the Palestinians – are boycotting it? The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has said ‘what will be presented at the conference has nothing to do with reality’. ‘It’s nothing to do with occupation’, he said, ‘the best part of it will be the coffee break’.”
Following that uncritical promotion of PA talking points, Henley introduced an interviewee – a journalist covering the conference for a newspaper considered close to the Saudi Arabian regime.
Henley: “Faisal Abbas is editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based Arab News and he joins me now from the conference, which is happening at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama which is the capital of Bahrain. […] Is it strange that this conference is being attended by Gulf billionaires, by Israeli businessmen and the likes of Tony Blair and Christine Lagarde, all discussing a project that the Palestinians have already rejected?”
Once communication problems had been resolved, Henley repeated his question, yet again failing to inform listeners that a number of Palestinian businessmen did attend the economic workshop.
Henley: “Tell me if you think it’s strange that this conference is discussing something Palestinians have already rejected in their absence.”
Abbas: “Ahh…so it is absolutely strange. I, like all the Arabs participating here, we are here because we do care about the Palestinian cause and, you know, in our hearts, in our actions we will do anything to support the Palestinians. So I respect the decision of the Palestinian leadership but I perhaps don’t think…I don’t agree that it was the best course of action. I think it would have been much better for somebody to be here to fight the cause and explain the point of view as to why this is rejected and make fresh demands if needed.”
Henley next promoted more PA/PLO messaging.
Henley: “What’s being discussed are economic solutions. Some people have said – Palestinians have said – it amounts to bribes for them to give up their demands for a political solution: a two-state solution.”
Abbas: “Ah, look, if that is the case…this is what I was saying, you know, participating and listening does not equate to an approval. If that is indeed the case then neither them or any of the Arabs would support such an equation. You know, this is, you know, just the advantage of being here. You have to look at the plan and from an economic point of view it makes a lot of sense. It does bring hope and there is nobody that ever spoke about it that said that this is a conditional for the Palestinians agreeing to terms that they might not agree. Everybody has been saying that this only be subject to approval of both sides and subject to a reception of the political side of the peace plan which will be revealed in a few months’ time.”
Henley’s next question also had nothing to do with the US plan presented at the workshop beyond mentioning one of the participants.
Henley: “Shlomi Fogel, who’s an Israeli shipping magnate attending this conference, says he thinks the Arab world is sick and tired of the Palestinians and their cause and just wants the conflict out of the way. What do you think?”
Abbas: “Ahm, I don’t think that’s true. We sympathetic with our Palestinian brothers. We stand by them. We think it’s unjust, it’s unfair what they’ve had to go through for decades. We’re…look we’ve tried various solutions – sometimes military, sometimes non-military. Nothing has worked so far and one of the definitions of insanity is trying something over and over again and expect a different result. You have a serious…”
Henley did not even allow his interviewee to complete his sentence before closing the item.
Henley [interrupts] “Thank you very much. I’ve got to stop it there, I’m afraid.”
In the introduction to this item listeners were told that it would be “looking at the plan” presented at the Bahrain economic workshop. In fact, audiences heard nothing at all about what that plan includes and how it might advance the economic well being of the Palestinian people.
Instead BBC World Service radio listeners once again heard a superficial report which did little more than amplify Palestinian Authority talking points and contributed nothing to proper audience understanding of the story.