A BBC News website October 2018 report concerning the Jordanian king’s announcement that his country would not renew two annexes of its 1994 peace treaty with Israel told readers that:
“It follows recent strains in the relationship between Jordan and Israel over issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”
As was noted here at the time, that framing erased from audience view internal Jordanian affairs no less relevant to understanding of the background to the story. Nevertheless, the same partial framing was found in a report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 10th under the headline “Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers”.
“The decision not to renew the lease is widely seen as a reflection of the strained relationship between Jordan and Israel in recent years, with issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians causing tensions.”
The background to the story is portrayed as follows:
“Under a 1994 peace treaty, Israeli farmers could cultivate land in the Jordanian areas of Naharayim and Tzofar – known as Baqura and Ghamr in Arabic.
The lease governing them was for 25 years, but could have been extended. […]
The agreement recognised that Jordan had sovereignty over the two areas – but Israel was permitted to lease the areas for 25 years.
Under the terms of the annex to the peace deal, the lease would be extended automatically unless one party gave notice a year before the lease ended, leading to talks on the matter.”
While the word “lease” appears twelve times in the BBC’s report, it does not appear in Annex 1b or Annex 1c of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Rather, the wording of those annexes made it very clear that while the two areas of land would come under Jordanian sovereignty, the land is owned by Israelis. The BBC’s explanation of that situation is as follows:
“One farmer, Eli Arazi, told Reuters his community had been growing crops there for 70 years, and described the end of the lease as “a punch in the face”.
The two enclaves are on the Israeli-Jordanian border, and have been privately owned by Israeli groups for several decades.”
Those “Israeli groups” are actually kibbutzim and moshavim – farming communities – and as the Reuters article cited by the BBC states, Jews and Israelis have owned land in the Naharayim area for the past century.
“Naharayim, which means “two rivers” in Hebrew, straddles the confluence of the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers. Israelis trace private ownership rights there to the 1920s, when the territory was part of British-mandated Palestine.
Arazi said his kibbutz, Ashdot Yaacov Meuhad, had been growing crops there for 70 years, including olives, bananas and avocados.
In the 1994 peace treaty, Jordanian sovereignty over the area was confirmed, while Israelis retained private land ownership and special provisions that allow free travel.”
The BBC report concludes with a reference (and a link) to a story which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Naharayim and Tzofar cases.
“In recent months, there have also been tensions over Israel’s detention of two Jordanians, without trial, for several months.
Jordan recalled its ambassador, and the two were eventually released on Wednesday.”
Remarkably though, the BBC elected not to inform readers that Naharayim was the site of an attack by a Jordanian soldier in 1997 in which seven Israeli schoolgirls were murdered and six badly wounded and that the memorial garden at the site will now be inaccessible to the victims’ families.