Although the BBC News website has been reporting on the long-running dispute concerning property in the Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTsadik neighbourhood of Jerusalem for nearly three months, audiences have to date not been provided with the proper background to that story.
Early on August 2nd a report headlined ‘Sheikh Jarrah: Palestinians await Jerusalem evictions ruling’ was published on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.
The story behind the anticipated High Court of Justice ruling was presented as follows:
“The long-awaited hearing concerns four of more than 70 families appealing against an order to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Lower courts have ruled the land where they have lived for decades historically belongs to Jewish owners. […]
Monday’s hearing in the High Court is the culmination of nearly 30 years of legal proceedings, which began when the land’s registered Jewish owners sought to evict the Palestinian residents for non-payment of rent.
The Palestinians claimed they were the rightful owners of the property, which they said had been guaranteed them by Jordan which had settled the families there after it occupied the area in 1948.
The Palestinians’ claim was rejected by a Jerusalem court in 2020 and the eviction order upheld.”
While that portrayal of the story is an improvement on previous ones which failed to mention the central issue of non-payment of rent, it does not clarify that even if the court ruling allows for the eviction of the four non-paying families, that is unlikely to happen in the near future.
That information would have been useful to readers who found amplification of a three-month-old dubious claim from a source which long since forfeited any claim to impartiality on matters relating to Israel.
“The United Nations’ human rights chief has called on Israel not to carry out any evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.
Her office has said the displacement of Palestinians there by Jewish settlers might be a war crime under international law.”
The report promoted a recycled partisan map sourced from the political NGO B’tselem in which yet again the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem (a place where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed from the location by Jordan for a period of nineteen years) is portrayed as a “settlement” and which fails to depict the pre-1948 Jewish communities in Jerusalem neighbourhoods such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTsadik.
In the same vein, the text of the BBC’s report predictably erased all pre-June 1967 history:
“Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and in effect annexed it later on.
It does not regard the East as occupied territory but rather views the whole of the city as its capital – a claim not recognised by most of the international community.”
As is almost inevitably the case in BBC content, readers were not informed of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland, the 1948 Jordanian invasion and subsequent nineteen-year illegal occupation of parts of Jerusalem or the ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City.
That politically partial and hackneyed framing was further reinforced by the promotion of an edited version of a filmed ‘backgrounder’ on Jerusalem produced by Yolande Knell in December 2017 which – as noted here at the time – likewise erases all relevant history prior to June 1967 and promotes the PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution.
Clearly the original version this report was entirely pre-emptive, with nothing newsworthy having happened when it was published apart from incitement from Palestinian factions including Hamas that the BBC of course chose to ignore. Its aim was simply to re-establish the framing of a one-sided narrative that the corporation – including staff in Jerusalem – has been promoting for months until – some sixteen hours after its initial publication – there was actually any news to report.