Previously we examined the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the potential application of Israeli civilian law to specific parts of Area C.
This post reviews content published on the BBC News website relating to the same topic. Unlike the coverage aired on BBC radio stations, articles published on the website remain accessible over time and become ‘permanent public record’.
Between May 13th and July 1st twelve written or filmed reports appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, many of which promoted homogeneous talking points:
- That ‘annexation’ was going to happen or begin on July 1st.
- That ‘annexation’ would destroy the chances of a two-state solution to the conflict.
- That there is a consensus ‘world view’ on the topic.
- That nothing of relevance happened in the area before June 1967.
- That the use of ‘apartheid’ and ‘Bantustan’ analogies (also used by the PLO) is appropriate to describe the situation.
- That the Palestinians are victims with no agency or responsibility.
May 14 – Israel’s new unity government delayed by dispute over cabinet posts discussed here and here
May 14 – A world in crisis even without the pandemic: Five looming problems byJonathan Marcus discussed here
“Despite the legal cases that are pending against him – indeed, possibly in part because of them – Mr Netanyahu is proposing a controversial nationalist agenda which includes a desire to annex areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, effectively making them a permanent part of Israel.
Arguably, this would end once and for all any chance of a “two-state solution” – despite provisions for one in Donald Trump’s peace plan – that has been the waning hope of many who want to see a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
May 15 – EU ‘to rally against Israel’s West Bank annexation proposal’ discussed here
May 17 – Israel swears in unity government after long political crisis discussed here and here
May 20 – Palestinians ‘ending accords with Israel and US’ over annexation plan discussed here
June 16 – Israel’s West Bank annexation plan condemned by UN experts discussed here
“Almost 50 UN human rights experts have condemned Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, calling it a “vision of a 21st Century apartheid”.
Such a move would violate international law and leave what would amount to “a Palestinian Bantustan”, they warned.”
June 24 – Israel West Bank annexation rejected by European MPs in letter discussed here
“More than 1,000 parliamentarians from across Europe have signed a letter strongly opposing plans by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. […]
“The letter, sent to European foreign ministries, warns that unilateral annexation of West Bank territory could be “fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and will challenge the most basic norms guiding international relations”.”
June 25 – Israel annexation: New border plans leave Palestinians in despair by Tom Bateman discussed here
“The Palestinian leadership, along with almost 50 experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, say this would formalise a system of “apartheid” in the West Bank – two peoples ruled by one state in the same space with unequal rights.”
“But for centuries it’s been home to Palestinian Arabs, as many as three million of them today. And it’s long been seen by most people as the heart of a future Palestinian state. […] Apart from the Trump administration, pretty much everyone is against annexation.” [emphasis added]
“The Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future state and have rejected the Israeli proposals outright as a death blow to their hopes for self-determination.
The United Nations, the European Union and Arab countries have also called on Israel to scrap its annexation plans, saying they would violate international law, harm the prospect of a two-state solution, and undercut the possibilities of renewing the Middle East peace process.”
One notable aspect of these reports is the uniform and exclusive use of partial terminology such as ‘occupied’, ‘West Bank’ and ‘annexation’. The adoption of that partisan language was made all the more egregious by the fact that at no point – not even in the backgrounder – did the BBC provide information concerning the relevant history of the region concerned which would enable audiences to put the corporation’s use of those terms and the claims promoted in some of the reports into context.
Another notable point is the uniform presentation of the area concerned as land “Palestinians want for a future state” without any information being provided on the history of Palestinian refusal of previous peace offers.
The vast majority of these reports promoted the BBC’s standard partisan mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ without any presentation and explanation of alternative opinions. Five of the twelve reports included a partisan map sourced from the political NGO B’tselem and one featured an inadequately introduced representative from the political NGO Kerem Navot.
BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality oblige the corporation to “ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence”. That was clearly not the case: while audiences saw articles reflecting the negative views of “UN experts”, “the EU”, “European MPs” and the British prime minister, they found no comparable coverage of positive views of the proposal.
Once again the BBC News website has sidelined its supposed commitment to impartial journalism in favour of the promotion of a chosen political narrative.