The December 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – titled “The Meaning of Home” – included another example of the BBC’s decidedly desperate exploitation of Christmas for the promotion of politicised reporting. The item is described in the synopsis as follows:
“The story of the nativity often inspires people to show compassion to the homeless around Christmas. Pregnant women and new mothers are particularly vulnerable. But the challenges of new life don’t end with finding a safe place to stay. On the occupied West Bank, Jeremy Bristow recently travelled with a group of female medics to visit the minority Arab Bedouin population.”
Adie: “Far from home, vulnerable and nowhere to stay, the Christmas story reflects what is still a worldwide problem and acts as a reminder to us all to help. But the challenges of a new life don’t end with finding a safe haven. On the occupied West Bank Jeremy Bristow recently travelled with a group of medics to visit a community from the minority Arab Bedouin population.”
Quite what the BBC imagines is the connection of Bedouin tribes from the Arabian Peninsula, who took over parts of the Judean Desert during the period of Ottoman rule, to the nativity story is unclear.
The story told by Jeremy Bristow to Radio 4 listeners is almost identical to that appearing in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Stories’ pages on December 25th under the headline “The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely”.
“Jeremy Bristow discovers that an ancient Christian order is providing maternity services for some of the poorest people in the Bethlehem area – the sheep-raising Bedouin.”
Both the written and audio accounts begin with the promotion of artificial linkage between the Christmas story and the topic of Bristow’s report – a Bedouin tribe located a 25 kilometre drive away from Bethlehem.
“We drove through Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem. “Beit” in Arabic means ”house”, and “sahour” means “night watch”. As tradition has it, this is close to the place where an angel once appeared before three star-struck shepherds and announced the imminent birth of a saviour. But today’s shepherds, the Bedouin, live further out of town.”
Ignoring the fact that sheep rearing is by no means confined to the Bedouin sector, Bristow goes on to tick the BBC’s boxes with an entirely unrelated reference to ‘settlements’.
“The rock-strewn desert landscape is occasionally overlooked by glistening white Israeli settlements straddling the high ground above.”
BBC audiences are told that:
“All the women and children seeking treatment from the mobile medical team on this occasion were Bedouin from the al-Rashaydah tribe, whose members are scattered across a dozen countries from Tunisia to Oman. They gave their name to this village when they were moved here by the Israeli authorities, in their third resettlement since they were forced to leave historic grazing grounds near the Dead Sea in the early 1970s. […]
Al-Rashaydah, like many villages in the occupied West Bank, is surrounded by land controlled by Israel. The Bedouin are forbidden to graze their livestock there.”
Bristow does not bother to inform his audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the village of Al-Rashaydah is under Palestinian Authority control or that the proximate area to the east is a nature reserve established under the same agreement. He does not explain how the claim that they are “forbidden to graze their livestock” squares with his previous description of the Al-Rashaydah Bedouin as “today’s shepherds”. In fact a Palestinian website’s description of a nature reserve to the west of the village states that it used for grazing sheep and goats (as well as tourism) and mentions Al-Rashayda by name.
BBC audiences are told that:
“In both Israel and the West Bank the once self-sufficient Bedouin have become increasingly dependent on outside support. They see themselves as second-class citizens. Unemployment is high, educational achievement is low and there are high rates of infant mortality, premature births, anaemia, and stunted growth in children…”
“…Bedouins largely remain a traditional society organized into tribes in which men are responsible for decision-making. There are high rates of consanguinity (60%), often between first cousins, and polygamy (25%). Women are often undereducated and do not work outside of the home. In some families, women are restricted from leaving the home without a male chaperone, which may interfere with timely utilization of health services. Many Bedouin women suffer from nutritional deficiencies, putting them at risk for delivering prematurely and for certain congenital malformations. In addition, Bedouin children suffer from nutritional deficiencies, especially anemia, which together with crowded living conditions is a risk factor for contracting infectious diseases. Bedouins have a high fertility rate and nearly half of the births in the Negev are in this population despite comprising 30% of the population. Women tend to give birth frequently and the interpregnancy interval is short, which can lead to preterm delivery, low birth weight, an increased risk for congenital malformations, and infant mortality.”
A sub-heading in the written report poses the question “Were ancient shepherds male or female?” and is accompanied by an image of the nativity scene.
Readers once again find the suggestion that the Bedouin are somehow connected to the nativity story. [emphasis added]
“The gospel of Luke says: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them.”
It wasn’t only nomadic Bedouin who kept sheep in ancient times, villagers did too, says Joan Taylor, professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London. The shepherds could be male or female, “and often in antiquity, as today, they were children”.
The Greek word used by Luke to refer to the shepherds is “gender-inclusive”, she adds.”
At the bottom of the written article readers are offered a link to a highly problematic article first published in 2014.
“A Palestinian Christian family that preaches non-violence from a farm in the West Bank is battling to hold on to land it has owned for a century. Now surrounded by Israeli settlements, the family is a living example of the idea of peaceful resistance.”
As we see, the BBC’s brazen multi-platform exploitation of Christmas for the promotion of one-sided political narratives continues apace.