Although the Coronavirus pandemic was obviously the big story of 2020, the BBC News website gave considerable coverage to three other topics throughout the year.
In January almost 40% of the reporting appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page concerned the US administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal and in February 47.6% of the items published concerned the same topic.
Our review of that coverage noted that:
- 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.”
In May 20% of the Israel related reports published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page promoted pre-emptive framing of the theoretical application of Israeli civil law to parts of Area C. In June the percentage rose to 35.7% and in July 35.3% of the items appearing related to the same story.
Israel annexation: New border plans leave Palestinians in despair by Tom Bateman, discussed here
As noted in our review of that coverage:
“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.”
That much touted ‘annexation’ did not of course materialise and in August the BBC’s attentions turned to the Abraham Accords with 41% of the Israel related reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout that month relating to the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
With UAE deal, Israel opens tentative new chapter with Gulf Arabs by Frank Gardner
September also saw extensive coverage of Bahrain’s joining of the Abraham Accords:
Young Israelis and Emiratis meet online after peace deal Yolande Knell
Five reasons why Israel’s peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain matter by Jeremy Bowen, discussed here
In October 30.7% of the Israel related reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page related to the topic of normalisation agreements between Israel and Arab states.
Why Trump wants Sudan to befriend Israel by Alex De Waal
Signs Saudis are edging towards historic Israel peace by Frank Gardner, discussed here
Israel-UAE peace deal ‘big’ for trade in Middle East by Jonathan Josephs, discussed here
In November 20% of the reports related to the same topic.
Could Israeli-Arab peace deals spark an arms race? by Tom Bateman
An agreement to normalise relations signed by Israel and Bhutan in December did not receive any BBC coverage whatsoever and an agreement signed the same month with Morocco was the topic of just one report:
December also saw the appearance of a BBC article promoting speculations about what it termed “the controversial deal between Sudan and Israel to normalise relations”.
It is of course noteworthy that one of the topics most heavily promoted on the BBC News website in 2020 – the potential application of Israeli law to parts of Area C – did not transpire and the same can be said of the BBC’s promotion of the notion of “inevitable violence” following the publication of the US peace proposal rejected in advance by the Palestinians.