On December 22nd the BBC News website published a report by Raffi Berg titled “Israel’s most right-wing government agreed under Benjamin Netanyahu” which promotes some by no means novel framing.
Readers are told that:
“Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners reject the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict – the internationally backed formula for peace which envisages an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as their shared capital.”
Berg’s portrayal of the two-state solution as envisaging “an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank” – but apparently not in the Gaza Strip – is curious to say the least. Even more so is his claim that that “formula” pre-empts negotiations between the parties concerned by pre-determining a “shared capital” in Jerusalem.
As we have noted on previous occasions when the BBC has published misleading portrayals of the two-state solution based on the PLO’s interpretation of that concept:
“…the UN, the EU, Russia and the US in their ‘Quartet’ capacity support “an agreement that […] resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties; and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two States for two peoples”. Those “permanent status issues” defined in the Oslo Accords of course include borders and Jerusalem.”
Berg’s portrayal is entirely one-dimensional: as has been the case in the past, he avoids informing readers that “the internationally backed formula for peace” is not only rejected by “Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners” but also by Hamas and additional Palestinian factions, as well as much of the Palestinian public.
Moreover, Berg’s portrayal of the two-state solution erases the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples”, which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. As we have documented here repeatedly over the years, the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to make that recognition is a topic usually avoided by the BBC.
While it is obviously legitimate to note the stance of members of Israel’s presumed incoming coalition government on the topic of the two-state solution, audiences should also be reminded of no less relevant factors such as the Hamas-Fatah split, support for terrorism from Palestinian leaders, corruption, incitement and the PA’s loss of control over parts of the areas it supposedly governs.
Berg’s one-sided presentation however complies with the usual BBC framing of the ‘peace process’ by excluding the Palestinians; thereby framing them as entirely devoid of agency or responsibility. Such framing repeatedly misleads BBC audiences by implying that the Israeli side of the story is the sole factor standing in the way of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Other one-sided portrayals are found later in Berg’s report when he erases the 1948 Jordanian and Egyptian occupations of parts of the territory allocated by the League of Nations for a Jewish homeland and ignores the factors which led to the Six Day War.
“Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. More than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settlements they live in are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Israel pulled its settlers and troops out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.”
As ever, that partial portrayal of ‘international law’ fails to fully inform BBC audiences and Berg refrains from explaining why he describes an area from which Israeli disengaged over 17 years ago as “occupied”.
There is of course nothing new or surprising about this article’s inadequate portrayal of international law, its promotion of the notion that the chances of a two-state solution are affected exclusively by Israeli politics or its selective presentation of history as having commenced only on June 10th 1967. However, the fact that BBC audiences are repeatedly – if not exclusively – presented with such blatantly partial framing serially hampers their ability to understand one of the corporation’s most reported topics.