As readers no doubt recall, throughout June the BBC devoted considerable resources to coverage of the story of ‘annexation’ of parts of Area C by Israel.
That coverage included promotion of the notion that Israel was going to carry out such a move on July 1st. As we all too often had cause to note at the time, in fact the very most that could have happened on that date was that the topic of potential application of Israeli civilian law to specific parts of Area C could have been brought to the cabinet for discussion. Had it been approved, it would then have had to undergo further discussion and approval by the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and then the Knesset. That did not happen and so the topic currently remains an abstract proposition which has yet to receive official approval.
Nevertheless, in its coverage of the announcement concerning the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the BBC repeatedly led audiences to believe that the process of approval had been completed.
For example, viewers of the BBC News TV channel on August 13th were told by presenter Clive Myrie that:
“Donald Trump made the announcement at the White House, saying Israel would now suspend plans to further annex parts of the occupied West Bank.” [emphasis added]
The use of the word “further” of course leads audiences to wrongly believe that some “parts of the occupied West Bank” have already been annexed.
Listeners to the news bulletin in the August 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme were informed by the newsreader (from 02:13 here) that:
“Under the terms of the agreement Israel has agreed to suspend its plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank”.
Although some politicians may indeed have such intentions, no “plans” have been approved by Israel’s government as yet and so they are not currently Israeli policy.
Likewise listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on the same date were told (from 14:19 here) that:
“The US helped broker the accord under which Israel has agreed to suspend its controversial plan to annex parts of the West Bank.”
In a report aired on the same programme on August 14th, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell told listeners (from 13:58 here) that:
“The deal has seen Israel promise to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the West Bank; lands the Palestinians want for a future state.”
The BBC News website told its readers on August 13th that:
“Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a deal to normalise relations, with Israel agreeing to suspend its controversial plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.”
Not only did the BBC repeatedly promote that notion of an Israeli ‘plan’ that does not currently exist in those items and others but viewers of the BBC News channel on August 13th were erroneously led to believe that a US official had expressed opposition to it.
“…what happened is that the Israeli prime minister began to say he was going to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and in a quite unusual move the US ambassador to the UAE made a very public appeal to the Israelis. He had an article printed in the Hebrew press. He also sent a video in which he said if you do this we will not be able to move forward with any sort of normalisation…” [emphasis added]
Plett Usher repeated the same inaccurate claim in an edition of the programme ‘Outside Source’ (from 03:11 here).
“There was a very direct intervention by the US ambassador to the UAE in June in which he said directly to the Israelis if you go ahead with this, this is going to jeopardise any relations you want with the Arab countries.” [emphasis added]
The US ambassador to the UAE (Ambassador Rakolta) made no such statements. The op-ed and the video were in fact produced by the UAE’s current ambassador in the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba.
Unfortunately for audiences seeking to understand this story’s background, those were far from the only inaccuracies in BBC reporting on this topic, as we shall see in part two of this post.