An overview of the BBC News website’s main Israel stories in 2020

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:

“Many of the reports promote talking points also evident (including before anyone at the BBC had actually read the proposal) in BBC radio and television coverage:

    • 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.

Pompeo flies to Israel for talks despite pandemic discussed here

EU ‘to rally against Israel’s West Bank annexation proposal’ discussed here

Palestinians ‘ending accords with Israel and US’ over annexation plan discussed here

Israel’s West Bank annexation plan condemned by UN experts discussed here

Explainer: Israel, annexation and the West Bank discussed here and here

Israel West Bank annexation rejected by European MPs in letter discussed here

Israel annexation: New border plans leave Palestinians in despair by Tom Bateman, discussed here

Israel annexation: What is the West Bank? by Paul Adams, discussed here

Johnson warns Israel against plans to annex part of West Bank

Israel’s ex-UK ambassador Mark Regev warns of ‘two-state illusion’

Husam Zomlot: State of Palestine needs to be recognised now 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.

Israel and UAE strike historic deal to normalise relations discussed here

Kushner: Israel-UAE treaty a ‘massive change’ for the region

Israel and UAE deal ‘a dramatic breakthrough’ says Kushner

Israel and UAE launch direct phone links after historic accord

With UAE deal, Israel opens tentative new chapter with Gulf Arabs by Frank Gardner

Pompeo urges more Arab states to make peace with Israel

Israel and UAE in historic direct flight following peace deal

September also saw extensive coverage of Bahrain’s joining of the Abraham Accords:

Young Israelis and Emiratis meet online after peace deal  Yolande Knell

Trump announces ‘peace deal’ between Bahrain and Israel discussed here

Five reasons why Israel’s peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain matter by Jeremy Bowen, discussed here

Trump hails ‘dawn of new Middle East’ with UAE-Bahrain-Israel deals

Trump on Israel-UAE-Bahrain deals: ‘We mark the dawn of a new Middle East’

Israel’s borders explained in maps

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

Israel and Bahrain establish formal diplomatic relations

Sudan-Israel relations agreed, Donald Trump announces

In November 20% of the reports related to the same topic.

Could Israeli-Arab peace deals spark an arms race? by Tom Bateman

Saudi Arabia denies crown prince held ‘secret meeting’ with Israeli PM

Egypt singer Mohamed Ramadan faces lawsuit over photo with Israelis

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:

Morocco latest country to normalise ties with Israel in US-brokered deal

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.

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  1. says: Neil C

    For such a small country, the BBC gives the only Jewish state in the world and the only democratic country in the Middle East such microscopic examination, it displays characteristic OCD behavior, whilst equally ignoring the most basic of information concerning Palestinian life, except where that information can be used to denigrate Israel. The BBC’s amplification of pro-Islamic and anti-Israel NGOs, its blatant support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah Hamas and the PLO whilst never once showing any support of the Jewish State by giving pro-Israel NGO’s or supporters any kind of platform merely displays the BBC’s deep-rooted anti-Israel and anti-Jewish racism.

  2. says: Grimey

    It would be fascinating if it were possible to examine the original source of some revenue of the BBC World Service Jerusalem office. Obviously, such data is well obscured from the enquiring eyes of anyone trying to expose the role of Iran – the BBC’s supporting partner – in its announced desire to remove Israel from the map.

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