As noted here earlier, the BBC News website did not publish any coverage of Israel’s 75th Independence Day. However on the afternoon of the following day – April 27th – the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell chose to give worldwide amplification to a Palestinian Authority tantrum concerning a congratulatory message from the president of the European Commission.
In a report headlined “Palestinians condemn EU’s von der Leyen for ‘racist trope’” Knell began by telling readers that:
“Palestinians have described remarks about Israel by the head of the European Commission as “inappropriate, false and discriminatory”.
It follows a congratulatory video message by Ursula von der Leyen on Israel’s Independence Day on Wednesday.
In it she praised Israel, including for having “made the desert bloom”.”
She continued: [emphasis added]
“The PA singled out Ms von der Leyen’s suggestion that Israel had cultivated barren land, calling it an “anti-Palestinian racist trope”.
The phrase “making the desert bloom” is commonly used by Israel and its backers to describe what they view as the country’s success in developing the land since the founding of the modern state in 1948.
However, Palestinians argue that it erases their history and suggests that the land was previously uninhabited or untended.”
Knell provided the relevant quote from the European Commission president’s video message:
“Today, we celebrate 75 years of vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, 75 years of dynamism, ingenuity and groundbreaking innovations. You have literally made the desert bloom, as I could see during my visit to the Negev last year.”
Despite there being nothing remotely “racist” or “anti-Palestinian” about the part of the EU president’s statement referring to undebatably groundbreaking Israeli initiatives to promote cultivation in the Negev desert (which makes up over 55% of Israel’s territory) and elsewhere, Knell nevertheless chose to amplify the PA’s politically motivated statement.
Moreover, Knell went on to promote the notion of linkage between a part of Israel that was included in the League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, as well as for the most part allocated to a Jewish state under the proposal put forward in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and “lands Palestinians claim for their hoped-for future state” without clarifying that the Negev is not ‘occupied’ territory.
“The PA statement describes the message, addressed to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, as “propagandist discourse” and part of an “ongoing dispossession” of Palestinians.
The PA claims it “dehumanizes and erases the Palestinian people and falsifies their rich history and civilization”.
In addition, it says that the European statement “whitewashes” Israel’s occupation of lands Palestinians claim for their hoped-for future state and denies what they call “the Nakba” (Arabic for “catastrophe”) of 1948.
Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in the war that followed the Israel’s [sic] creation.”
As ever, Knell failed to inform readers that roughly half of the Palestinians who fled did so before “Israel’s creation” – in many cases on the advice of their leaders – or that “the war that followed” was the result of the invasion of the newly founded Jewish state by five Arab armies.
The PA was not the only Palestinian faction to issue a statement concerning the European Commission’s Independence Day greeting to Israel. As reported by Khaled Abu Toameh at the Jerusalem Post, others also jumped on the bandwagon:
“Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said that von der Leyen’s message to Israel “on the anniversary of its founding on the ruins of our occupied Palestinian land represents the height of hypocrisy and bias in favor of the occupation.”
Abu Zuhri said that the message of congratulations to Israel “expresses the denial of the rights of our Palestinian people and the ignoring of their historical presence in the homeland.” […]
The PFLP condemned the message congratulating Israel on Independence Day as “criminal, biased in favor of the Zionist entity, and disgraceful.” According to the PFLP, the message contains “lies and discriminatory phrases and proves once again that the European Union is a partner to the Zionist entity in its aggression and occupation.””
Yolande Knell’s report however makes no mention of those statements from terrorist organisations that reject Israel’s existence and the similarity of their talking points to the ones promoted by the Palestinian Authority.
As we see, Yolande Knell had no qualms about uncritically promoting a nonstory purely in order to amplify the Palestinian Authority’s political talking points. Not for the first time the BBC’s funding public may wonder how Knell’s activist journalism actually “build[s] people’s understanding” of the region to which she is assigned.