The BBC has figured out their Narrative on these leaked documents from the Israel/Palestinian peace process. Naturally, Israel gets the worst of it. But there is a moment of glaring hypocrisy.
Jerusalem’s troubled geography
Right from the start, we see the direction it’s headed.
The release of thousands of leaked documents apparently showing Palestinian willingness to compromise over Israeli settlements once again highlights Jerusalem’s troubled geography – and damages the credibility of both sides, writes the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.
Both sides look bad? I suppose that’s why so many Palestinians have been complaining that Fatah is undermining their hopes and dreams, because the documents are equally damaging to Israel’s credibility? Color me skeptical. But first, we get the usual BBC agenda-driven historical moment in a vacuum.
As a main topic of the leaked documents concerns East Jerusalem, it’s only right that the BBC sets the scene. We’re told that Israel “captured” East Jerusalem in the Six Day War, but are provided zero context (remember that word for later) as to why they were in a position to do so. All we’re told is: “For the Palestinians and many in the Arab world this was a disaster.” Yes, it’s Arabist Gospel that Israel was an unprovoked aggressor in that war, but the BBC needs to be dealing in facts, not fiction. Israel’s move into East Jerusalem is presented in a vacuum, and the reader is left to assume whatever they like.
Of course, in 1967, there was no such thing as Palestinians, outside of Arafat’s little activist group. The people of East Jerusalem were Jordanians then. So the BBC creates a little alternate history. The propaganda is so deeply entrenched in their minds – and, most likely, in BBC editorial policy on the subject – that they write it as fact. But after being educated by the BBC, the average BBC audience member must find it very distasteful to learn that many Israelis viewed this “disaster” as a “miracle”. I think we can see the Narrative taking shape.
Now for the bit where Jonathan Marcus explains how these documents make Israel look bad. First, he carefully explains the Palestinian position on East Jerusalem, the Settlements, and some of the larger picture. There is no mention of any Israeli concerns, as if it’s unimportant, although there’s a lone subheading about ‘holy places’. We’ll get to that shortly. Then Marcus writes this:
While the main thrust of these documents is to show a Palestinian Authority far more willing to offer compromises than the Israelis have ever been willing to admit, the story is not entirely one of sharp divisions and unbridgeable gulfs.
Now we see how Israel is made to look the villain even here. Nasty old Israel has been dishonest and lying about Palestinian negotiations, right? Who’s really not the valid partner in the peace process, eh, BBC? Forget about all those people complaining that ceding a little territory is proof that Fatah is failing their people, etc. It’s really Israel who doesn’t want peace.
The leaked documents show that in August 2008 Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was willing to break with his hardliners, accepting that Jerusalem would in some way be partitioned, allowing both Israelis and the Palestinians to use it as their capital.
Yep, those nasty old hardliners, the real obstacle to peace, eh, BBC? A joint capital was always the only way, don’t you know. And what about those holy places?
This offer, made just a few months before US President Barack Obama took office, included provisions for the token return of some Palestinian refugees and on potentially the most contentious issue of all – access to the holy places at the heart of the city – interim arrangements involving Israel, the Palestinians, the Saudis and the Jordanians.
Indeed, the Palestinian side too seems to have been willing to envisage imaginative solutions to resolve the problems of access and control over the holy basin.
So you see, it’s….wait…the holy what now? Who has access to which holy places now, BBC? No context whatsoever. In fact, as those who look to the BBC for their information wouldn’t know, Jews are not allowed to pray at the only actual holy site in the entire religion: the Temple Mount. They are permitted to worship only at the base of a retaining wall around the perimeter of the compound. Jews are not permitted to worship or even dress too orthodox on the actual premises. Only Muslims are permitted. The fact is, this is tolerated by the Israeli government because all hell would break loose if they did anything about it. The BBC never honestly addresses this issue. No special segments on any religion programmes about how Judaism is the only major religion in the world not in control of its own holy site. (This always begs the question of how this situation could exist if Jews really had so much power over world affairs. They control everything except that? But that’s for another time.) But they are more concerned about Palestinian rights.
To which holy sites do Palestinians not currently have access, BBC? Which sites would be blocked if Israel controlled East Jerusalem? Are we supposed to seriously believe that Israel would prevent Muslims from worshiping at the site? Based on what evidence? Again, the reader is left in a vacuum, with details supporting only one side of the argument.
Now here it comes, the moment we all expected:
This of course was all more than two years ago. Since then a more right-wing Israeli government has come to power. It has set itself firmly against any division of Jerusalem. A US effort to freeze settlement building and to get substantive talks under way has also failed.
This is the context in which these leaked documents must be read.
BBC hypocrisy on display. After providing zero context about the key issues involved, the BBC’s middle east correspondent has the temerity to lecture you about context: the context which fits the Narrative, of course.
Israel = bad. It’s the fault of those nasty right-wingers. The Obamessiah’s efforts failed – oh, wait, sorry, He can’t fail, it’s the “US effort” which failed – due to nasty right-winger Israeli racists. Nothing to do with Palestinian intransigence or anything. The only correct solution is a partition of Jerusalem, with the Jews ceding the most important areas. Fatah is clearly a willing partner in peace. Only Israel is at fault.
The peace process is damaged now, frets Marcus. Fatah leadership looks weak now because – this must come as a shock as it’s contrary to what the BBC often tries to tell us – the Palestinians actually don’t want any compromise at all. Israel looks bad because, well, the only thing one can draw from this article is that we’re supposed to come in with the perspective that they’ve always been bad, except for that brief moment of unicorns and rainbows under Olmert. There really isn’t any evidence provided as to how much from the leaked documents make Israel look bad, which is why Marcus needs to actually come right out and tell you how to interpret the story. The change in government isn’t new information, Israel’s various offers haven’t been kept secret, so what’s so damaging here? Instead, the revelations are spun to make Israel appear to be dishonest. There’s nothing of substance.
It seems that, in the alternate history in which the BBC lives, Israel is already the bad guy before we even begin. And don’t bother looking to them for any context worth trusting.