Yesterday we documented an overtly politicised Christmas report by Barbara Plett Usher which was aired on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ on Christmas Eve.
An extended version of that audio report was also broadcast on three additional BBC radio programmes on December 24th with the following introductions:
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
1) BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ (from 46:37 here)
Mishal Husain: “Now, Bethlehem relies on tourists at this time of year and this Christmas looks like being the best for some years after a time of relative peace. It is a Palestinian city in the West Bank which is feeling the economic effect of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Barbara Plett Usher reports from there.”
2) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ afternoon edition (from 45:04 here)
Tim Franks: “Bethlehem is preparing for what it hopes will be the best Christmas in years as the city now boasts a fragment of wood believed by some to have formed part of Jesus’ manger. The relic’s been returned from the Vatican where it’s been since the 7th century. But even with that boost, the biblical town revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ remains fragile. The once thriving local Christian community is dwindling – partly because of the economic effect of the Israeli occupation with restrictions on freedom of movement which Israel argues are for security reasons, which Palestinians say damage not only their economy but their dignity as well. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight this Christmas.”
3) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ evening edition (from 36:59 here)
Julian Marshall: “Pilgrims from around the world are preparing to begin Christmas celebrations with midnight mass in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Modern Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Its holy sites are administered by the Greek Orthodox and Latin patriarchies. But the once thriving Palestinian Christian community has dwindled. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Palestinians say these measures significantly harm their freedom and their economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight at Christmas.”
Once again we see BBC journalists using the term “Israeli occupied” without any mention of the fact that Bethlehem came under complete Palestinian Authority control twenty-four years ago in December 1995.
Yet again listeners were not informed that no “restrictions on freedom of movement” existed until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada in the year 2000 and they heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism that murdered and wounded thousands of Israeli civilians and which brought security measures such as checkpoints and the anti-terrorist fence into existence.
The BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation under the terms of an agreement signed by the Palestinians as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence, as was promotion of the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.
And yet again BBC audiences were not provided with the context which would enhance their understanding of why the Palestinian Christian community is ‘dwindling’ – including the issue of Palestinian Authority persecution and discrimination – or any significant information concerning Bethlehem’s economy beyond the trite politicised slogans blaming Israel.
The extended version of Barbara Plett Usher’s report (a filmed version of which was also aired on BBC television on Christmas Eve) includes an interview with a man dressed up as Santa in Manger Square during which listeners heard that “Bethlehem is a city of peace” despite the fact that it has been the source of many terror attacks and plots. The part of Plett Usher’s report describing St Catherine’s church and an Airbnb in Deheishe are expanded and we discover that she badgered more than one American tourist in order to promote her own political agenda.
Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”
Tourist 1: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”
Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”
Tourist 1: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”
Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”
Tourist 1: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”
Plett Usher: “Yes.”
Tourist 1: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then. That so it’s about the future as well.”
Tourist 2: “We’re from the US, yes.”
Plett Usher: “And what do you think of Bethlehem?”
Tourist 2: “Ah, it’s beautiful.”
Plett Usher: “What about the politics? Do you know…”
Tourist 2: “I don’t know much about it. All I know is my saviour Jesus Christ. That’s all I know. That’s all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. Yeah, and my eyes are open now that I’m here.”
Plett Usher: “What have you seen now that your eyes are open?”
Tourist 2: “Oh well, it’s as if I was coming to life, so yes.”
There is of course nothing novel about a BBC journalist exploiting the ‘season of goodwill’ to promote her own political agenda which includes misinformation about a structure built to protect Israeli civilians of all faiths and ethnicities from Palestinian terrorism. Many BBC employees have done the exact same over the years while studiously avoiding any serious reporting on the topic of the beleaguered Christians living under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule.