BBC backgrounders’ presentation of ‘facts’ mislead on Jerusalem

The ‘updates’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page informs us that on June 26th changes were made to some of the online backgrounders compiled by BBC Monitoring.

The previous version of the ‘Palestinian territories profile’ (which has been online in various forms for over a decade) as captured in March of this year is available here. As can be seen, it was dated 8 April 2019 when amendments were made following a complaint submitted by CAMERA UK.

The version published on June 26th includes several problematic statements, some of which have also appeared in earlier versions. For example: [emphasis added]

“The war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 saw the former British mandate of Palestine partitioned between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.”

Clearly that portrayal does not adequately inform readers that Jordan and Egypt occupied parts of the territory assigned in 1922 by the League of Nations for the creation of a national home for the Jewish people following their belligerent invasions of the newly declared Israeli state in May 1948.

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) emerged as its leading umbrella group shortly before the Six-Day War of 1967, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and conducted a protracted campaign of violence against Israel.”

The PLO was founded in 1964 rather than “shortly before” the Six Day War and so the BBC’s attempt to suggest linkage between the founding of that organisation and Israel’s capture of areas previously occupied by Egypt and Jordan is not only misleading but also airbrushes the original aims of the PLO.

Statements which did not appear in the previous version of the backgrounder include:

“In 2005, Israel completed the withdrawal of all its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. In 2006, the Islamist group Hamas won elections in Gaza. A year later Hamas took full control of Gaza, ousting Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces in days of fighting.”

Hamas did not win “elections in Gaza” in 2006 – it won the majority of seats in legislative elections held in both the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas in Judea & Samaria, thereby enabling it to form the government of the Palestinian Authority.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War and regards the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of the international community. Palestinians claim it as the capital of a future hoped-for state.”

That portrayal follows the familiar BBC practice of erasing the relevant topic of Jordan’s 19-year illegal occupation of parts of Jerusalem from audience view, as well as the fact that the original PLO charter specifically stated (Article 24) that the Palestinians did not lay claim to areas then occupied by Jordan and Egypt. The link offered to readers leads to a problematic article by Jeremy Bowen dating from 2017.

The latest version of this backgrounder also includes something else entirely new: a sub-section titled “PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: FACTS”. Among the “facts” presented is one concerning the supposed capital city of the entity the BBC describes as “Palestinian territories” despite the fact that final status negotiations to determine the borders of those territories have yet to be completed.

Notably, the BBC does not use the term ‘East Jerusalem’ in this insert and hence it leaves readers with the false impression that Jerusalem (as a whole) is the capital city of the Palestinian territories. Equally remarkable is the fact that despite its previous invocation of the 1947 ‘corpus separatum’ proposal as an ‘explanation’ for its refusal to describe Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, the BBC suddenly appears to have no such qualms. 

While the Palestinians may indeed claim Jerusalem as the capital city of a state that they have repeatedly refused, that aspiration is by no means a “fact” and the ‘proclamation’ to which the BBC refers in brackets currently has no standing. Moreover, the BBC’s Israel profile – which was also updated on the same day – now includes the exact same wording:

In other words, what the BBC has for reasons unknown suddenly decided to present to its audiences worldwide as “facts” is nothing more than political campaigning using one-sided talking points which promote the false notion of ‘equal’ claims to the same city. How that editorial decision can be said to comply with BBC standards of accurate and impartial reporting (not to mention its supposed campaign against disinformation) is unclear but it should perhaps not come as too much of a surprise given the corporation’s dismal past record on the topic of Israel’s capital.

Related Articles:

BBC NEWS CORRECTS INACCURATE ‘PALESTINIAN UNITY GOVERNMENT’ CLAIMS

JEREMY BOWEN PROMOTES POLITICAL NARRATIVE IN BBC’S SIX DAY WAR CENTREPIECE

EXAMINING THE RATIONALE BEHIND BBC POLICY ON ISRAEL’S CAPITAL

WHY DOES THE BBC TRUST’S ESC PRETEND THAT THE 1947 PARTITION PLAN IS A THING?

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