The December 21st announcement by Likud leader Netanyahu that he had come to agreements with his coalition partners to form a new government was the topic of multiple items on BBC World Service radio and BBC Radio 4 on the evening of that day and throughout the next.
The first hour of that programme led with a twelve-minute item (from 00:07 here) mostly comprised of a conversation between presenter James Reynolds and the BBC’s international editor (until August 2022, Middle East editor) Jeremy Bowen.
Following a discussion on just how Right-wing the “most Right-wing coalition in Israel’s history” is, listeners heard the following: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Reynolds: “Jeremy, you covered the years of diplomacy and the peace process some years ago. This new government, from what we can tell, does not offer that. There are smaller parties who entirely reject the possibility of a two-state solution. This was the mood of the Israeli people in the November election. How did it get to this point?”
Bowen: “Well the Right…Israel has been drifting towards the Right steadily for, gosh, for over 20 years; 25 years or more. I remember going to a briefing in the mid-90s when an election was going on in Israel. One of their leading pollsters who said if the Left can’t do what it wants to do in this next few years, he said, it’ll never get a chance because Israel is inexorably going to the Right.”
That election in “the mid-90s” was the May 1996 election which resulted in a narrow surprise victory for Binyamin Netanyahu over Shimon Peres (at a time when the prime minister was elected separately) following multiple fatal Palestinian terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem:
“Feb 25, 1996 – In a suicide bombing of bus No. 18 near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, 26 were killed (17 civilians and 9 soldiers). Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Feb 25, 1996 – One Israeli was killed in an explosion set off by a suicide bomber at a hitchhiking post oustide Ashkelon. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mar 3, 1996 – In a suicide bombing of bus No. 18 on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, 19 were killed (16 civilians and 3 soldiers).
Mar 4, 1996 – Outside Dizengoff Center in Tel-Aviv, a suicide bomber detonated a 20-kilogram nail bomb, killing 13 (12 civilians and one soldier).
Mar 21, 1997 – Three people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb on the terrace of a Tel Aviv cafe. 48 people were wounded.”
Bowen avoided providing that relevant context to BBC listeners worldwide, just as he also refrained from informing them that three years later Ehud Barak won the 1999 election after having run a campaign promising peace negotiations. Bowen’s claim that “Israel is inexorably going to the Right” likewise ignores the results of the 2006 election.
Bowen continued, similarly erasing relevant context from the picture such as the terror attacks carried out by Islamic State supporting Israeli Arabs earlier this year, the crime and violence in the Negev region and the violent rioting in May 2021.
Bowen: “And what surveys in Israel have shown is that Israelis who voted for these Right-wing parties, some of them, they’re not thinking so much about the Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. They’re thinking of the 20% of the…of the Israeli population that is actually Palestinian…which is Arab. And they’re concerned about their role in the country. They are quite avowedly Jewish nationalists.”
Listeners subsequently heard the recorded opinions of two Israelis regarding the results of the election – one for and one against – with Reynolds later going on to state:
Reynolds: “We’ve heard from a couple of Israelis. We want to hear now from a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip; that’s home to largely 2 million Palestinians, many of them refugees. They don’t have an independent state of their own. Gaza’s borders are controlled by Israel and Egypt.”
Listeners were not informed that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip over 17 years ago before they heard a recording of pure propaganda from a person who is obviously not an Israeli voter and who had nothing at all to say about the result of the recent Israeli election.
Muna: “Hello, my name is Muna. I’m from Palestine. I live in Gaza City. As you know we have been under occupation since 1948. We think the Israeli occupation have reportedly decide not to hand over of the body cancer-stricken Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid who died yesterday due to medical negligence in Israeli prisons. [unintelligible] dozen of Israeli settlers break into Al Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the occupation forces. Every day we have injured and arrests and a lot of broken hearts. Especially the mother hearts. I wish all of the world know about [unintelligible] and speak about us with our right.”
Reynolds did nothing to counter that deliberate disinformation. No “Israeli settlers” broke into “Al Aqsa Mosque”: what Muna’s dangerously inflammatory claim describes is Jews (regardless of their post code) visiting Temple Mount. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist Abu Hmeid – who was convicted of murdering seven Israelis (as well as five Palestinians) – died in Assaf Harofeh hospital, also called the Shamir Medical Center, rather than in prison. Abu Hmeid died of lung cancer – for which he had been treated – not “medical negligence” as claimed by Muna and other Palestinian propagandists.
Moreover, the BBC’s international editor not only likewise refrained from relieving listeners of the inaccurate impressions given by that totally unchallenged blatant propaganda that BBC World Service radio bizarrely chose to air but provided wind for its sails.
Reynolds: “That was Muna in the Gaza Strip. Jeremy Bowen, our international editor, how does this new Israeli government affect the lives of Palestinians there in Gaza and also in the West Bank?”
Bowen: “Well the lives of Palestinians are already defined by Israeli occupation, by Israeli control, by the way that Israel can control their lives. […] Ahm…the things that she was talking about there – that Muna was talking about – things like the status of Palestinian prisoners who are…err…condemned by Israel as terrorists but in Palestinian society they are about the most respected people of all. They have a real special status. And she also talked about what might be going on on the area around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Third holiest place for Muslims and it’s an area where there are people within the coalition who believe that Jews should be able to pray in that place they call the Temple Mount as well and that’s something which at the moment isn’t permitted, though it does happen. And Jerusalem itself – anything that changes the status quo in Jerusalem tends to produce a great deal of violence.”
In other words, although Bowen and Reynolds waxed lyrical about “the most Right-wing coalition in Israel’s history” for twelve minutes, they studiously avoided informing BBC audiences around the world of the political coordinates of a society in which mass murderers of civilians are “the most respected people of all” and which violently opposes egalitarian prayer rights at a site holy to three religions.