Last week we looked at the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan.
But did visitors to the BBC News website fare any better?
Below is a summary of the relevant content published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between January 27th and January 30th – eleven items in all.
- Description of the proposal as a “surrender document” for the Palestinians which does not meet their demands.
- Presentation of the document as fully meeting Israeli demands.
- Presentation of the timing of the launch of the document as being related to political and legal processes in the US and Israel.
- Amplification of the talking points of the PLO and political NGOs, including the ‘apartheid’ trope.
- Portrayal of the Palestinians as having no agency and predictions of ‘inevitable’ violence.
Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Although now dated January 29th, the article was originally published on January 27th – the day before the US proposal was launched – as part of the BBC’s cross-platform preemptive framing of the story.
“…the Trump plan gives Mr Netanyahu all he wants – and offers Palestinians very little; a sort-of state that will be truncated, without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements.”
“Israel argues the Palestinians turned down a series of good offers. The Palestinian negotiators say they made huge concessions, not least accepting Israel’s existence in around 78% of their historic homeland.”
“The timing of the announcement of the Trump initiative suits the political and legal needs of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu. Both men face elections. As well as that, Mr Trump gets a distraction from his impeachment, and from his trial in the US Senate for high crimes and misdemeanours. Mr Netanyahu faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust.”
“Essentially the Palestinians have been told to take it or leave it. They are being given a surrender document, told to accept that Israel has won, and with its American friends will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”
“There is a chance Palestinians will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”
Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’ (video without commentary)
Trump outlines Middle East peace plan (video without commentary)
Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’ (video without commentary)
Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan with analysis from Jonathan Marcus and a link to the website of a political NGO which engages in ‘lawfare’ against Israel.
“…his [Trump’s] “take it or leave it offer” will appal many long-standing students of the region. The question now is not so much what benefit this deal might bring but how much damage it may do by over-turning Palestinian aspirations.”
“Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the proposals envisaged a form of apartheid.
It said Palestinians would be relegated “to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.
Israel’s Peace Now organisation said the plan was “as detached from reality as it is eye-catching”.
“The plan’s green light for Israel to annex the settlements in exchange for a perforated Palestinian state is unviable and would not bring stability,” it said.”
Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman discussed
“The Trump document says applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements would be compensated by land swaps to Palestinians. It would also recognise Israeli sovereignty over the strategically important Jordan Valley, a key swathe of land in the West Bank important for agriculture running along the border with neighbouring Jordan. […]
But Palestinians say the move will entrench apartheid.”
“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the US plan “recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine”, while Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned that Palestinians would be “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.”
Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it Aleem Maqbool
“Israeli opposition figures have not shied away from suggesting that the timing of the proposal’s release was aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election to be held on 2 March.”
“The impeachment allegations [against Trump] suggest sordid and dishonourable use of his powerful position for personal political gain; withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine until Kiev opened investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Mr Trump might hope the unveiling of his proposal would offer Americans a contrasting narrative of his skills as a statesman, delivering “the deal of the century”.”
“There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.
Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.
Evangelical Christians were huge financial backers of the Trump campaign in 2016, but there were others who would have wanted to see some return on the support they gave during the last election reflected in this proposal.
Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, has already endorsed Mr Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it appreciated the efforts of the president.”
“Whether the plan and the timing of its release is about backing Mr Netanyahu, distracting from impeachment troubles, playing domestic politics or if it is indeed driven by ideology, it comes with huge risks.
It can be seen as a proposal that gives Israel the authorisation to broaden its occupation, already a source of misery for so many. The fear is that a proposal that gives Palestinians so little hope is one that also strengthens hard-liners across the region.”
Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive Jeremy Bowen (video with commentary)
“The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explains why the proposal is so divisive.”
“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration had simply “copied and pasted” the steps that Mr Netanyahu wanted to see implemented.
“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid,” he said. “Moving to the de jure annexation of settlements is something that was given the green light yesterday.””
Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin interview with Mohammad Shtayyeh (video)
As we see the BBC elected to interview the Palestinian Authority prime minister but not any senior Israeli official. The BBC chose to showcase political NGOs and a PLO official promoting the baseless ‘apartheid’ trope but did not provide an alternative viewpoint. The reports written by the BBC staff presented a disturbingly uniform negative view of the topic and audiences were not provided with a balanced “range of views”.
The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. It is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”.