BBC’s ‘Newsday’ promotes a one-sided PR narrative

On the morning of May 6th – just hours after the fatal terror attack in Elad – listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ programme heard an item (from 37:12 here) which was introduced by presenter Bola Mosuro as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mosuro: “Now we head to hear about the 1,000 Palestinians who look set to be evicted from their homes in an area in the southern occupied West Bank after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by Palestinian villagers against their land being declared a so-called firing zone to be used for training exercises by the Israeli military. Well meanwhile, three people were killed and others wounded in what police say is a suspected terror attack in the central Israeli city of Elad.”

As noted in the court’s ruling published less than 48 hours previously on the evening of May 4th, the firing zone in question was actually first “declared” in 1980 and the petitioners failed to produce any documentation proving that they have any legal rights to what Mosuro inaccurately told listeners is “their land”.

Mosuro then brought in her sole contributor on the topic, making no effort to comply with BBC editorial guidelines concerning ‘contributors’ affiliations’. Listeners were hence not aware that the academic from whom they were about to hear is a signatory to the Jerusalem Declaration who the previous day had made his views on the topic – including the place of residence of one of the three Supreme Court judges – amply clear on social media.

Mosuro: “Well let’s discuss what’s been going on with Yair Wallach who’s a senior lecturer in Israeli studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies here in London and joins us this morning. […] Please could you tell us more about what’s been happening, especially with these evictions soon.”

Wallach: “Well it’s been…eh…a process that has been for 20 years they’ve been appealing their eviction. This is an area in the South Hebron. It’s very underprivileged and poor communities that are being pushed out basically by settlers in the area and the firing zone is one of the instruments that’s used to get them out of there. And this…this court ruling basically allows their eviction, which probably won’t happen immediately but is looming.”

The respondents to the petitions filed by a number of Palestinians and the political NGO ACRI are the Minister of Defence and the IDF Commander of the Judea & Samaria region. In other words, despite Wallach’s false claim, “settlers” have nothing to do with this story about an unsuccessful petition by people who since the year 2000 have illegally constructed buildings on land declared a military zone over 40 years ago.

Mosuro: “Is there…can you describe first what the…describe a bit more about the firing zones – what they actually are – please.”

Wallach: “These are training areas for the military. There’s many of them inside Israel and including in the occupied territories but these are…they are used not only…I mean for…there are training needs for the Israeli military but inside the West Bank they are used to basically as…also as instruments of land grab and as acknowledged explicitly in policy papers that we’ve seen in the court case.”

The court’s ruling rejects that “land grab” claim and clarifies that that particular firing zone is essential to the army’s needs. Wallach’s reference to “policy papers” appears to relate to remarks made by one participant in a 1981 meeting of a government committee.

Once again totally ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners (some of whom have permanent homes in nearby Yatta village) had failed to prove ownership of the land in question, that the court found that no one lived there permanently before the area was declared a military zone in 1980 and that between then and 1993 it had been used by the air force for aerial attack practice, which the court deemed showed that no-one lived there permanently at the time, Mosuro continued to promote the chosen narrative.

Mosuro: “And, you know, when one hears this, you know, you kind of think ‘people being evicted from their homes because you want to use their tranche of land that they’ve lived on for decades as a firing range’. What is the sentiment among ordinary Israelis, because one wonders is there not some protest coming out not just from within Palestinian communities but even those in Israel too?”

Wallach: “Ahm [sighs] generally it’s not…I don’t think it’s an issue for mainstream Israelis. I think most of them are not even aware. Among the…ahm…NGOs on the Left and activists this has been a really crucial issue. I mean there’s constant volunteers trying to support these communities but they are minorities among Israeli society.”

Mosuro: “Briefly, is there anything that can be done by those who are being threatened with eviction to have a stay – a stay of execution if you like – so they’re not evicted?”

Wallach: “I think this is also…one of the reasons I don’t think it’s going to go forward immediately is because there’s international pressure and this is the largest eviction in decades in the occupied territories. So what will keep them in their place is international support because this will look very bad for the Bennett government. But the question is, is this going to serve the precedent, not only there but other areas of the occupied territories where the court effectively allows forced removal of thousands of Palestinians? This could well be a precedent for other areas.”

Mosuro: “Yair Wallach, thank you very much for joining us this morning. A senior lecturer in Israeli studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.”

It is amply clear that ‘Newsday’ was not in the least bit interested in reporting this story accurately and impartially. Listeners heard only one point of view from a partisan contributor, with no right of reply given. Both the presenter and the contributor ignored the court’s detailed findings, preferring to promote a simplistic politically motivated narrative about poor Palestinians being evicted from “their land” which has no factual basis.

It is also abundantly obvious that the purpose of this utterly one-sided item aired worldwide was not to provide news but to advance a narrative intended to drum up more of the type of “international pressure” that Wallach described – and that the BBC World Service was quite happy to provide a platform for that.

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