Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on November 10th heard a report on the death earlier that day of Saeb Erekat. Notably, at no point in the item (from 22:39 here) were listeners told that he had been treated in an Israeli hospital for over three weeks before his death.
Newsreader: “One of the key Palestinian figures of the past 30 years, Saeb Erekat, has died after contracting Covid-19. He was 65. The veteran negotiator was at the heart of the campaign for Palestinian statehood, playing a leading role in the landmark Oslo Accords signed in 1993. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas described his death as a huge loss. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen looks back at his life.”
Bowen: “Saeb Erekat dedicated his life to the right of Palestinians to live in peace and freedom in their own state alongside Israel. He kept on working despite the serious lung disease that eventually left him vulnerable to Covid-19. Dr Erekat was a key figure in the Oslo peace process which for a while in the 1990s seemed close to establishing an independent Palestine alongside Israel: the two-state solution.”
Ignoring relevant factors such as the Second Intifada initiated by Yasser Arafat after the Camp David summit in 2000 and additional Palestinian refusals of repeated offers to end the conflict by negotiation, Jeremy Bowen went on to imply that the sole reason that “hopes” for peace are “long gone” is the US president.
Bowen: “The last of many interviews I did with him, not long after he had a lung transplant, was in his office in Jericho in 2018. The hopes of the 90s were long gone. President Trump, he said, wanted Palestinians to surrender, not negotiate, and he condemned him for encouraging Israel to take more of the land Palestinians wanted for a state.”
Listeners then heard an archive recording from that interview conducted in September 2018; eleven months after Erekat’s lung transplant.
Erekat: “I think there is no longer a Palestinian moderate camp. There is no longer an Israeli peace camp. He succeeded in getting Palestinians and Israelis off the path of the two-state solution. Now the kids in my neighbourhood are being taught by Trump’s policies that if you claim something, grab it. Don’t be silly [and] wait for courts or solving problems by peaceful means or negotiations. Grab it.”
Bowen: “Israeli and American negotiators have paid tribute to his passion, sincerity and tenacity. In recent years Saeb Erekat warned the alternative to Palestinian independence alongside Israel was a single state with separate systems for the two peoples. That, he warned, was apartheid.”
It is of course bad enough that BBC audiences hear apartheid smears from assorted Palestinian officials go unchallenged on a regular basis. The fact that the BBC’s Middle East editor thinks it appropriate to opportunistically amplify that unfounded canard is a grave testimony to the BBC’s supposed adherence to standards of accuracy and impartiality.