As we have already seen, preemptive framing of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan by both BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio on January 28th included the provision of a platform for the Palestinian Authority’s (and Fatah’s) Husam Zomlot from which to promote his mostly unchallenged talking points.
Just hours after the launch of the US initiative – and his previous appearance on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ – Zomlot was given yet another slot on the evening edition of that programme.
Describing it as returning to “our main story” (listeners had previously heard from a BBC correspondent in Washington and from one of the authors of the US initiative, Jason Greenblatt), presenter Tim Franks introduced (from 14:06 here) the four-minute and 22 second segment: [emphasis in italics in the original]
Franks: “President Trump is unveiling what he describes as his win-win peace deal for the Israelis and Palestinians. We’ve heard about the delight from the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. From the Palestinians though there’s been a fierce rejection of the proposal.”
Refraining from informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority had rejected the proposal long before it was completed and before they or anyone else had seen its contents, Franks introduced Zomlot as “the Palestinian ambassador in London” despite the fact that the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title in 2018 after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time.
Zomlot’s near monologue recycled many of the talking points and themes BBC World Service radio audiences had heard just hours earlier.
Zomlot: “That was a scam really. It has nothing to do with deals or plans or peace for that matter. It was really a political circus if I may use the term. Peace is very well known. The parameters for it has been established by the international order, international legitimacy, including the UK. The world has really required from us to recognise the two-state solution, to recognise Israel, and the path was very well crafted up till President Trump this morning has killed three birds with one lethal stone.”
Clearly not finding it necessary to inform audiences that the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood based on the two-state solution, that the Palestinians have a specific interpretation of that concept, that by no means all Palestinian factions embrace the two-state solution or that Zomlot’s boss has repeatedly refused to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, Franks allowed the diatribe to continue uninterrupted.
Zomlot: “The first bird was the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution because there will not be an Israeli prime minister in the future who would negotiate a genuine peace if Netanyahu has just pocketed Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, all the settlements and the Jordan Valley. And the second bird that President Trump killed today is [the] international system itself, is the post-Second World War order – rules-based order – that has been established exactly for that; to prevent the acquisition and annexation of territory by force.”
Obviously not perturbed by the dissonance of a representative of an entity which literally pays salaries to terrorists lecturing listeners about “international order” and having nothing to say about the Jordanian acquisition and annexation of territory by force upon which Palestinian claims are constructed, Franks continued to stay silent.
Zomlot: “And the third bird that was killed today is the hope that Israel will not fast walk into the apartheid – full-fledged apartheid. We believe today President Trump has given Israel the full green light to actually embrace a full-fledged apartheid of the occupied territories.”
With nothing to say about that propaganda smear either, Franks changed the subject.
Franks: “What do you make of the fact that the ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain and the UAE turned up to this event at the White House? Does it not suggest that perhaps you’re losing what was once the full square support of all Arab countries?”
Zomlot: “No we’re not and let me…let me hear the Omani or the Emirati or the Bahraini people saying that they are fine with Jerusalem not being under Palestinian sovereignty.”
Franks: “Well it suggests that their governments are fine with it.”
Zomlot: “No I don’t think so. And we…”
Franks: “Why do you think they turned up to the White House then?”
Zomlot: “Well this is their business. This is their business. But we know the official position of the Arab world, the official position of the governments and nothing has changed so far…”
Franks: “Well I wonder…I just…no but too significant. I just wonder if you are really that confident that you retain the…the undiluted support of all these governments and one wonders also about what will be the reaction from Saudi Arabia, for example.”
Zomlot: “We retain the support of the majority of the international community. We heard from the Arab summits all along the last few months and years and we heard from the Saudi king several times who actually named the last summit the summit of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not just a political issue. It also has to do with the identity, the history, the civilisation, the religion: all that we share with the Arab world and…”
Having apparently nothing to tell listeners about Jewish and Christian identity, history, civilisation and religion in Jerusalem, Franks went on:
Franks: “The Americans say that they will be offering parts of eastern Jerusalem, as they put it, as your capital.”
Zomlot the ‘diplomat’ replied:
Zomlot: “Who…who…an American president who is so arrogant and ignorant of the situation. He couldn’t even pronounce the word al Aqsa mosque; he didn’t know how to say it today in his speech and then he would draw the future of 13 million Palestinians without having one of the 13 million Palestinians in the audience of his ceremony to release his peace plan? I mean how more of a circus this could be?”
Franks again did not bother to inform listeners that there were no Palestinians in that audience because they refused to take part in the process before Zomlot went on to promote the false notion that Palestinians have settled for 22% of what is rightly ‘theirs’.
Zomlot: “We Palestinians have accepted the international compromise. We have accepted the logic of establishing a state on 22% of historic Palestine. We have recognised the State of Israel. But we will not accept our full giving up of our rights and our full submission and living second class citizens on our own land. I mean this is not a formula anybody would accept. Not the UK [laughs], not any other people, my friend. And we are not being difficult here. We are just being principled. We are being patient. We genuinely want to see a peace process that would deliver our rights and the rights of our neighbours and will have peace and security for all. But peace and security cannot be built on the skulls of an entire nation.”
With no effort made whatsoever to challenge that propaganda Franks closed the item, once again referring to a person being interviewed precisely because a Palestinian state does not exist as an ‘ambassador’.
Franks: “Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to London.”
As we see, Husam Zomlot appeared on no fewer that three BBC radio programmes on January 28th. In all three of those items remarkably little effort was made by BBC presenters to question the distortions, falsehoods and outright propaganda that he set out to peddle to audiences both in the UK and around the world. While it is no doubt extremely convenient for BBC producers to have such a wiling commentator on their doorstep, they have apparently not given much thought to the question of how the repeated airing of his unchallenged propaganda damages their obligations as set out in the BBC’s public purposes.