Previously we have documented examples of a pattern of BBC reporting evident since the beginning of the year in which coverage of the world leading Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in Israel has been used to promote a political campaign initiated by a group of NGOs in December.
Another example of the exploitation of that topic to amplify that political campaign was seen on the BBC News Channel on January 8th in an interview conducted by presenter Annita McVeigh.
McVeigh: “Israel was seen as a model Coronavirus country, outstripping the rest of the world in the pace of vaccinating its citizens. But this week it’s back in its third lockdown as infections hit more than 8,000 new cases a day. Officials fear the more transmissible variant of the virus first identified in Britain is spreading rapidly and Israel’s vaccine supplies are running low. It’s also facing criticism over what responsibility it has to share its vaccine supply with Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza. Well to discuss this more we’re joined from Jerusalem by Dr Gerald Rockenschaub who is head of the World Health Organisation office in Palestine. […] And how many people – we’re talking about 5 million people aren’t we in the West Bank, Gaza roughly – ahm…what percentage of those people have actually received a vaccination yet?”
Dr Rockenschaub’s official title is “Head of the World Health Organization Office for the occupied Palestinian territory” rather than “in Palestine” – a term which BBC journalists are instructed not to use by the corporation’s style guide:
“So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.
Notably, McVeigh made no effort to inform viewers that the “criticism” she unquestioningly amplified comes from a group of political NGOs, many of which have a record of lawfare campaigns against Israel.
Rockenschaub: “Well so far nobody has received the vaccination neither in the West Bank nor in the Gaza strip. The only Palestinians that were vaccinated so far are those living with Jerusalem IDs in East Jerusalem and who have access to Israeli health system.”
McVeigh: “So what are Israeli officials saying about this criticism then?”
Rockenschaub: “Well what we’re trying is to work with the Palestinian authority and with the Ministry of Health there to mobilise vaccines through the COVAX facility and we’re making good progress in doing all the papers [unintelligible]. The problem is that while Israel is progressing and has already vaccinated a substantial part of its population, the COVAX vaccines are not yet available and are anticipated to be available in February or March.”
Rather than asking her interviewee to explain the COVAX programme to viewers, McVeigh simply repeated her previous question:
McVeigh: “OK but if it’s been doing really well vaccinating…uh…its citizens, what is it saying about the lack of vaccinations for people in the West Bank and Gaza? Why is it saying…ah…that has happened – or not happened?”
Rockenschaub: “I think there are also some shortages that the Israelis are facing at the moment. We had some informal discussion asking whether at least some quantities could be relocated to vaccinate the health workers in the Palestinian territories. We’re having discussions at the moment but no final results yet.”
As previously clarified on these pages, the Israeli Ministry of Health has not yet received a formal request from the WHO on that issue.
As we see, McVeigh gave amplification to a political campaign without revealing its source to BBC audiences and viewers were not informed that (as the BBC well knows) under the terms of the 1995 Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority took on responsibility for the healthcare of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and it is hence the PA health ministry which is responsible for vaccinating Palestinians.
Two and a half weeks after the initial launch of that political campaign by a group of political NGOs and its amplification by Western media outlets including the BBC (see ‘related articles’ below), the Palestinian Authority – which initially denied having requested Israel’s help in procuring vaccines – has reportedly now jumped on that bandwagon. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that the BBC will continue to exploit the topic of Israel’s successful vaccination programme in order to advance a partisan political agenda.