BBC omits relevant information on school demolition

The last four paragraphs of a report by Yolande Knell which was published on the BBC News Website’s ‘Middle East’ page on May 8th (‘EU cancels Israel event over far-right minister’s plan to attend’) informed readers that:

“…the EU harshly condemned Israel’s demolition on Sunday of an EU-funded elementary school for Palestinian children near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military said the structure – in part of the West Bank under full Israeli control – was built illegally and was unsafe, leading to an Israeli court decision to demolish it.

On its Twitter account, the EU delegation to the Palestinians said it was “appalled” by the action, which it said would affect 60 children, and that the demolition was illegal under international law.

Palestinians often justify what Israel deems as illegal building in the West Bank by saying it is virtually impossible to obtain official construction permits.”

So what is missing from Knell’s account of that story?

The ruling concerning the demolition of the school in Area C was handed down by the Jerusalem District Court on March 8th 2023. As noted by the political NGOSociety of St Yves’ which petitioned the court, the structure had been constructed illegally in 2017 and a ‘stop work order’ was issued by the court in April of that year, with additional court hearings held over the next five years. In other words, contrary to Knell’s portrayal of the story, not only “the Israeli military said the structure…was built illegally”: the petitioner admits that was the case and the court ruled accordingly.

While Knell was obviously less interested in that side of the story, she was quite happy to unquestioningly promote the EU’s claim that the demolition of an illegally built structure in Area C – which is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations per the Oslo Accords – “was illegal under international law”.

Interestingly, Knell did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the exact location of that school: a national park:

“Israeli authorities on Sunday demolished a building that housed a European Union-funded Palestinian school near Bethlehem, prompting protests by the Palestinian Authority and European Union.

Israeli Civil Administration engineers razed the structure, which Palestinians constructed in 2017 without a permit in the Herodium national park in the West Bank.

The demolition followed a District Court ruling from March, in which the structure was defined as a safety hazard at risk of imminent collapse.” [emphasis added]

If the BBC had to report on the demolition of an unsafe structure built without planning permission in one of the UK’s national parks, one can hardly imagine that the sensitive location would be omitted from the story.

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