Less than half an hour after the release of a report by ‘Amnesty International’, the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israeli policies against Palestinians amount to apartheid – Amnesty” on its Middle East page.
The swift appearance of that article strongly suggests that, as is often the case, the BBC was among the media organisations to receive an advance copy of the AI report which was embargoed until 11 a.m. Israel time on February 1st.
Leaked copies of that embargoed report had emerged three days earlier, meaning that the BBC had plenty of time to prepare material that would have enabled it to comply with its own editorial guidelines concerning “contributors’ affiliations” by informing audiences of AI’s own record on racism, its long history of anti-Israel activity and the “particular viewpoints” of some of the NGO’s staff apparently involved in the creation and publication of this latest screed (see p26 and p85 here).
The fact that no such information was provided to readers of this BBC report will not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the corporation’s record of promotion of AI’s various campaigns or the fact that it failed to report on AI’s rejection of a motion to tackle rising antisemitism in 2015.
The BBC’s 823-word promotion (version 2) of this latest AI report does however include 160 words – including an insert – explaining the term ‘apartheid’. Selected Amnesty International talking points are completely uncritically promoted in 339 words while the sole dissenting reaction to the report – from Israel’s foreign ministry – is presented in 149 words including a link to a statement. As with other British media outlets, no effort is made to explain to readers why the MFA’s statement refers to antisemitism.
Readers are told nothing of additional critical reactions to the AI report from civil society organisations outside Israel, members of the US congress, foreign leaders, an Israeli Arab MK or from media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Some four and a half hours after its initial publication, the article was however amended to include a reaction form the Palestinian Authority.
“The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomed the report, saying it was a “detailed affirmation of the cruel reality of entrenched racism, exclusion, oppression, colonialism, apartheid, and attempted erasure that the Palestinian people have endured”.”
The remaining 173 words of the BBC’s article are given over to ‘background’ of a genre that audiences have seen time and time again. [emphasis added]
“Just over 20% of Israel’s population of 9.45 million are Arabs, many of whom self-identify as Palestinians, while 2.9 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. Another 1.9 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which Israel pulled out of in 2005 but the UN still considers to also be occupied. The vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority and all of those in Gaza by the Palestinian militant Hamas movement.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
As usual, BBC audiences are not told that the majority of Arab Israelis do not identify as Palestinians. Neither are they told that “the West Bank and East Jerusalem” were included in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. The reason why the UN still describes the Gaza Strip as “occupied” despite Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in 2005 is not clarified to readers but the BBC’s inevitable partisan mantra concerning “international law” is of course promoted.
Readers are also told that:
“Palestinians displaced by the war which surrounded Israel’s creation in 1948-49, as well as their descendants – a number which the UN puts at 5.3m in total – claim the right to return to their former homes. Israel says to do so would demographically overwhelm it and threaten its existence.”
No mention is made of the relevant fact that no other refugees in the world are given automatic hereditary refugee status or that a significant proportion of those 5.3 million people hold citizenship in a third country (e.g. in Jordan) and/or live under Palestinian control.
A link to a previous BBC article from April 2021 promoting a similar report by ‘Human Rights Watch’ is provided both in the body of this article and at its end. However the BBC makes no effort to explain the dynamics and aims behind the ongoing campaign to delegitimise Israel by political NGOs including ‘B’tselem’, ‘Human Rights Watch’ (both of which are mentioned in AI’s report, along with a plethora of additional anti-Israel NGOs framed as ‘human rights organisations’) and now ‘Amnesty International’.
A link to the uncredited AI report was added to the BBC’s article some four and a half hours after its initial publication. Most readers will of course not bother to plough through that amended version of the over 200 page report and few of those that do will have the knowledge to assess its claims critically, not least because the BBC has failed to provide such information both in this article and in the past.
Amnesty International was once a respected advocate of human rights. Sadly, that changed years ago and, along with other NGOs such as ‘Human Rights Watch’ which have abandoned their original mission, it has taken up the cause of delegitimising Israel’s very existence.
The BBC has shown little interest in holding the organisations it blandly presents to its audiences as ‘human rights groups’ to account. Instead it continues to provide uncritical amplification for their political agendas in articles such as this, thereby mainstreaming the ‘apartheid’ smear intended to delegitimise the existence of the sole Jewish state.