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Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review
BBC Governance Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street
London, W1U 4AA

Submission to the Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review

By David Guy

Subject:    Lack of impartiality in BBC Country profile:

Israel and Palestinian Territories.
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/803257.stm) Please note that the country profile is frequently revised, for example, after the election of new leaders. A copy of the original document at the time this analysis was written can be found in the Appendix.

Impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC's commitment to its audiences. It applies across all of our services and output, whatever the format; from radio news bulletins via our web sites to our commercial magazines and includes a commitment to reflecting a diversity of opinion.

Editorial Guidelines in Full
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/edguide/impariality/)

Full profiles provide an instant guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions.

Country Profiles
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/country_profiles/default.stm)

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Title Analysis
  4. Map Analysis
  5. Opening Analysis
  6. Overview Analysis
  7. Facts Analysis
  8. Leaders Analysis
  9. Media Analysis
  10. Missing Information Analysis
  11. Summary
  12. Conclusion
  13. Appendix: Country Profile Original Text

1. Abstract

The BBC Country Profile for Israel and the Palestinian Territories is exhaustively dissected for accuracy, fairness, context, balance and lack of bias, actual or perceived. Dozens of factual errors; ambiguities; examples of misleading jargon; controversial statements produced as fact; confusing timelines and opinion hiding behind weak semantic shields are shown, in this single Internet page.

In addition, important issues, which as either ignored completely or given inadequate coverage, are listed.

The conclusion is reached that the Country Profile is useless as a fair guide to the region and demonstrates a consistent bias against Israel.

As the profile fails both to adhere to professed standards of BBC impartiality and to fairly cover the politics, economy and history of Israel and the Palestinians, even under the narrow focus of the land dispute, the recommendation is made that this profile be rewritten.

Back to Headings

2. Introduction

The British Broadcasting System portrays itself as not only a news organization but as an accurate, fair, in context, balanced and without bias, actual or perceived (Terms of Reference for the Impartiality Review) provider of information. It offers Country Profiles as an instant (short) guide to every country in the world and a large number of other areas referred to as territories.

No background knowledge is demanded from the readers. The reader is a proverbial ‘man from Mars’; intelligent but uninformed and unwilling to search elsewhere on the site for explanation. So it must be assumed that care is taken that the language is intended to be clear, simple, neutral and unambiguous.

It must also be assumed that the BBC intends the Country Profiles to exclude irrelevant material and include all the relevant material, necessary to form a reasonable, accurate impression. Where there is dispute over the facts an informed, reasonable balance must be maintained.

News reports may suffer from apparent partiality due the pressured conditions of news gathering including time pressure, the limitations of format and priorities inherent in news programmes and bias, lack of knowledge or incompetence, acknowledged or not of the correspondent, presenter or editor. However Internet profiles should suffer none of these problems. It must be assumed that Country Profiles are reviewed for error, ambiguity and neutrality then corrected where necessary.

Unfortunately it is my contention in this submission that the Country Profile for Israel suffers from errors, biases and important omissions giving a much distorted picture. The problems in this profile do not even themselves out and always favour the Palestinian narrative.

What follows is an almost line-by-line analysis of the profile with comments. The analysis follows the structure of the profile and is divided by the headings used in the profile.

Back to Headings

3. Title Analysis

Israel and the Palestinian Territories form one profile.

There are many countries in territorial disputes with their neighbours or with elements of their own population. In every case I have checked the BBC deals with the disputed area as a separate territory, for example Morocco/Western Sahara and India/Kashmir. Only in the case of Israel is the territorial dispute included in the title of profile.

It must be noted that Israel’s territorial dispute with the Syrians over the Golan Heights captured in the same war of 1967 is given a separate territorial heading.

The claim that Palestine is indivisible is a standard Palestinian propaganda claim. Islamic elements refuse to accept the existence of Israel in any form for this reason. There are many records of Palestinian spokesmen, including Arafat, that they will reclaim all Palestine when the time is right.

The correct name for the Palestinian entity is Palestinian Authority not Palestinian Territories or Palestinian areas as it is referred to on the Country Profiles page (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/country_profiles/default.stm)

Is the incorrect title proof of partiality? It is an indicator. Calling the Palestinian entity by its correct name of Palestinian Authority acknowledges that while not fully independent it possesses considerable autonomy in finance, education, diplomacy, and communications, not allowed to a country in belligerent occupation. Without this acknowledgment, an uninformed reader might rightly be in doubt about the powers of Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei and assume they lead a government in exile.

Including both entities in the same profile demands equality of treatment. Instances where this equality fails to appear in many places in this document.

It can hardly be a good start when examining a document for impartiality that even the title can be seen as biased.

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4. Map Analysis

Israel and (missing) neighbours

The Golan Heights is missing from the map of Israel, as are the names Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. The Golan Heights was captured from Syria, in the same war of 1967 as the Gaza Strip was captured from Egypt and Judea and Samaria (which you call the West Bank) from Jordan. It was annexed to Israel and its residents are entitled to Israeli citizenship.

To be consistent with the Morocco/Western Sahara and India/Pakistan/Kashmir maps in their Country Profiles the Golan Heights should be shown on the map.

Palestinian/Arab maps often leave Israel off the map. Failing to include the Golan is similarly a political rather than an editorial stance.

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5. Opening Analysis

The first paragraph, (emphasized in bold) sets the tone for the whole profile. Israel is described exclusively by conflict and has no other distinguishing features of interest or importance. By implication if Israel did not exist, there would be no conflicts in the Middle East. This is a highly controversial statement with which to begin the profile.

The division of the former British mandate of Palestine …

It is not clear if you refer to the 1921 division of the British Mandate into an Arab part (Transjordan) and a much smaller Jewish/Arab part (Palestine) or the November 1947 United Nations Resolution partitioning the Mandate, Britain had already relinquished in February, into independent Jewish and Arab states.

… and the creation of the state of Israel …

The Arab states refused to accept the state they had been given by the 1947 partition plan, thereby delaying Palestinian statehood by at least fifty— eight years. A statement that Arab refusal to accept the creation of the state of Israel led to conflict would be more accurate.

… in the years after the end of World War II have been at the heart of Middle Eastern conflicts for the past half century.

The BBC defines the Middle East as all the Arab countries plus Iran and Israel. In the past half century many conflicts, some continuing, have arisen.
This is a partial list of conflicts with no Israeli connection:

  1. Morocco has been involved in a continuing war over Western Sahara;
  2. Egypt used poison gas in Yemen, sent troops against Libya and fought the Moslem Brotherhood;
  3. Iraq invaded Iran and Kuwait and massacred Kurdish and Shiite citizens and was in its turn invaded by America;
  4. Sudan pursues a bloody civil war between Arab North and Christian/Animist South, not to mention the conflict in Darfur;
  5. A million died in the conflict between Algeria and France, etc.

Even in Lebanon, Israel was only a player and not the heart of the long Civil War and the occupation by Syria.

Nor should the BBC forget the events of 1956. Great Britain and France joined Israel in a war to take control of the Suez Canal from Egypt.

In the Middle East, as everywhere else, greed, poverty, dictatorship, scarce resources, religious incitement, nationalism and individual ego play their part in creating conflicts. The BBC ignores other causes of war to libel Israel.

The creation of Israel was the culmination of the Zionist movement …,

The Zionist movement grew out of the nineteenth century nationalism while the Diaspora, in the sense of the dispersion of Jews from the land of Israel, took place in the sixth century. A far more reasonable and non-jargon approach would be to say that after most of the Jews were forced out of Israel in the sixth century, they never stopped praying to return. Political Zionism beginning in the nineteen century made it possible for Jews to realize this dream.

…whose aim was a homeland for Jews scattered all over the world following the Diaspora.

Denying the ancient and continuing attachment by Jews for the land of Israel is a key Palestinian propaganda position. This confusing example of language is both completely without context and serves to obscure the connection. Even competent speakers of English will be perplexed by this usage of the word Diaspora and this one unexplained mention of Zionism.

After the Nazi Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state …

Holocaust like Diaspora requires an explanation for the uninitiated. Perhaps the Nazi German genocide against the Jews during World War II would be clearer.

Pressure came in at least partly from recognition that Jews without a state to protect them could be massacred whenever it suited and that the nations of the world would do nothing to stop it.

However the continuing warfare between Arab and Jew was a much more tangible reason for the recommendation to form two states. This was acknowledged by the commission which recommended two separate states.

…, and in 1948 Israel came into being.

The impression being that it somehow sprang up like Venus from the foam of the sea.  Israel declared independence after a 33 to 10 vote in the United Nations and survived invasion by Arab armies although nearly one percent of the Jewish population were killed.

The Arabs States refused to accept the United Nations decision. This is the first and not the last, missed opportunity for Palestinian Statehood. The BBC failed to mention a vital point in understanding the conflict.

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6. Overview Analysis

Much of the history of the region since that time has been one of conflict between Israel on one side and Palestinians, …

This is looking at history through a most narrow lens. The BBC ignores immigration and absorption of millions of oppressed Jews, particularly from Arab countries, Ethiopia and Russia; reforestation and development of lands left desolate for centuries; establishing a modern, Western orientated state, for most of this time the lone functioning democracy in the Middle East.

The BBC and the Palestinians do define history solely by war. The Israelis emphatically do not.

What is the region? Which countries do you include?

… represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, …

The Arab states only established the PLO in 1964 so on a literal level (70% of the time) you may be correct. However the preeminent position of this organization only came much later. The profile ignores the role of Islamic organizations as Hamas and their at most grudging acceptance of the PLO as representing them.

At no point is the charge that the PLO was or is a terrorist organization, chiefly targeting civilians, mentioned.

Nor the refusal of the many countries to accept this status of representative of the Palestinian people. Jordan only recognized the PLO’s status in 1973. The United States only changed their position in 1993.

… and Israel's Arab neighbours,.…

More accurately Israel’s Arab neighbours and the Palestinians, in that order. The wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 were conducted without significant Palestinian involvement. As previously mentioned neither Great Britain nor France is a neighbour of Israel.

Iraq which has no common border with Israel (i.e. not a neighbour) has participated in all wars against Israel.

The wider Arab world and the non— Arab Moslem world including Iran and Indonesia, which has no territorial dispute with Israel; no citizens claiming to be oppressed in Israel and no financial interest in the outcome, actively supports the Palestinian war effort. This support takes the form of financial aid; participation in international forums; logistic support and arms; boycott of Israel and frequently denial of Israel’s existence on maps and in textbooks.

Until the end of the Cold War the former Soviet Union supplied arms only to the Arabs and supported them in all International forums. America was Israel’s only arms supplier. Thus in large part the Israel/Palestine/Arab dispute should be seen as part of a larger superpower competition.

France and Britain also denied arms to Israel while selling weapons to the Arabs.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, …

Hundreds of thousands of Jews were also displaced from their homes in Arab countries. Unlike the Palestinians they were all successfully resettled in Israel and other countries.

Jews living in areas captured by the invading Arab armies were also expelled from their homes. While about one million Arabs remained in Israel after 1948 not one Jew remained in the areas you now call Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinians in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, have lived under Israeli occupation since 1967.

Since Oslo, the case for tagging Israel as an occupying power has been further weakened by the fact that Israel transferred virtually all civilian authority to the Palestinian Authority. Israel retained the power to control its own external security and that of its citizens, but 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza came under the PA's authority.

Between 1948 to 1967 these same Palestinians lived under Jordanian occupation. When Jordan annexed the West Bank, in 1950,.only two governments — Great Britain and Pakistan — formally recognized the Jordanian takeover. The rest of the world, including the United States, never did.

The Palestinians consider all of Israel as occupied and do not distinguish between those areas in Israel’s hands in 1948 and those in Israel’s hands in 1967.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation was created in 1964, three years before the so-called ‘occupation’. What were they liberating?

Islam claims any territory that was once Moslem remains Moslem for ever. This is the Ummah and Jihad until victory is the only solution

In the words of the Hamas Charter, this is well expressed. The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.

Article Eleven, Hamas Charter, The Avalon Project  at Yale Law School (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm)

Thus Israel is occupied territory no matter what deals are made. Cyprus and Spain, once Moslem should be worried. The PLO intended to liberate any territory under non-Arab control.

The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank are home to around 400,000 people …

According to the CIA World Factbook there are about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2004 est.). A total of 364,000.

Jerusalem (including those parts lost in 1948 and captured in 1967) is the capital of the State of Israel. It is highly unlikely to be ceded to a Palestinian Sate under any circumstances. Referring to Jerusalem as a settlement equates the suburbs of a city with a few caravans on a bare hill.

… and are deemed to be illegal under international law, …

There has never been a successful court case in any country proving this supposed ‘illegality’. Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria — the West Bank — since ancient times. Only under the Jordanian occupation was this considered illegal.

… although Israel disputes this.

Numerous legal authorities also dispute this. A country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself.

The wording is not neutral. ‘Although’ grammatically begins a subordinate clause to the statement. A more neutral claim would be Israel and the Arabs dispute the legality of the settlements.

Israel evacuated its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew its forces, ending almost four decades of military occupation.

All occupation is necessarily military.

In 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement, …

In one paragraph we jump backwards from 2005 to 1979. At very least this is confusing.

A Timeline is provided for all other countries in the Middle East. Once again this singles out Israel as an exception and provides no guide to the events described.

The Arab League rejected the peace agreement and expelled Egypt from membership.

… but it wasn't until the early 1990s, after years of an uprising known as the intifada, that a peace process began with the Palestinians.

Most opinion credits the Madrid Conference in 1991 as the beginning of negotiations. The First Intifada continued to 1993. The statement is ambiguous and can be read as the Intifada drove Israel to the peace process.

Despite the handover of Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control, a "final status" agreement has yet to be reached.

The Second ‘al Aqsa’ Intifada, still in progress would have much to do with this. Yet it is only mentioned much further down in the Leaders section.

The main stumbling blocks include the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.

According to the Palestinians, these are the main stumbling blocks. According to the Israelis the deliberate failure of the Palestinians to fulfill their commitments under the unmentioned Roadmap and the Oslo Agreements, also unmentioned until much later; terrorism by Islamic and Palestinian Authority personnel and the failure to concede that Israel has any rights whatever, are the main stumbling blocks.

Back to Headings

7. Facts Analysis

Placing Israeli and Palestinian facts one after the other invites comparison. If opinion has no place in the profile it should have no place here.

ISRAEL FACTS

Comment in a facts section.

Jerusalem, for some reason never referred to as West Jerusalem, has always been Israeli and never in Arab hands, including pre-1948.

Almost as many Israelis speak Russian as Arabic. English is commonly spoken as appears on currency, street signs and official publications.

Many Christians would like to know why Christianity is not mentioned in context with either Israel or Palestine.

Israel/Palestine is often referred to as the Holy Land: holy to three religions. However this is not mentioned in the profile.

Strangely Jordan’s Country Profile does make these references, despite the absence of any sites of major importance to any religion.  Jordan's significance results partly from its strategic location at the crossroads of what most Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/828763.stm)

PALESTINE FACTS

The seat of Palestinian Government is currently in Ramallah. Surely it is appropriate to mention this.

Again, the profile ignores Christianity and Judaism. The Islamists may fondly hope for a Palestine without Christians or Jews and uses violence towards that end. If it is important to mention the settlers in the Overview they should be mentioned here.

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8. Leaders Analysis

The BBC has chosen an odd spelling. The Ministry of Foreign Affair and all official sources prefer the variation Katsav. (http://www.president.gov.il/defaults/default_en.asp)

Moshe Katsav has a long history as a politician and social leader. However the Country Profile includes no biographical information.

Ahmed Qurei, Palestinian Prime minister is given two paragraphs.

Mr Sharon became prime minister in February 2001 after beating the Labor incumbent, Ehud Barak.

He was elected in the midst of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) on a pledge to ensure total security for Israel.

He was reelected in 2003 on a pledge not to abandon Gaza!

…One of the principal catalysts of the intifada was Mr Sharon's controversial visit …

Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in 2000 while still Opposition Leader, not as implied by sentence order, after his election. The Intifada began fully ten days earlier at Netzarim when stone throwing escalated to firearms and explosives.

This was not the first time Mr. Sharon had visited the Temple Mount without being the catalyst for any violence.

Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister has been quoted that the Intifada was premeditated and a response to the failure of the Camp David talks. (http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=subjects&Area=relations&ID=SP19401)

… an area of the old city known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and considered to be Islam's third holiest site.

The Temple Mount is considered to be Judaism’s most holy site by all except the Palestinians who deny there was ever a Jewish connection there. By ignoring Israel’s historic claim the BBC indirectly supports the Palestinian campaign to deny a Jewish connection.

The claim that Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site has been frequently ridiculed. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran; received far fewer visitors than conflicting sites, for example, Qom and has been historically ignored by Muslims. The Koran demands pilgrimage only to Mecca and Medina.

Would the BBC be willing to nominate any site as Christianity’s third most holy site, or even its first?

In 2002 his government decided to build a 640-km (440-mile) West Bank barrier.

The opposition Labor Party attacked Sharon and the Likud for delaying the barrier. Sharon’s government was acting on a national consensus.

As the barrier was not an act of Ariel Sharon but a decision of a democratically elected government the whole paragraph is inappropriate in the section on leaders.

It says the structure is necessary to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers …

Successful terrorist attacks dropped significantly in all areas protected by the barrier.

…but the International Court of Justice has said the barrier breaches international law.…

Israel boycotted all proceedings of the International Court of Justice as having no jurisdiction over the issue.

As written this sentence suggests that saving the lives of Israelis is illegal.

The International Court of Justice provided no suggestions for alternative measures and was a nonbinding, advisory decision.

A wealthy cattle farmer, …

Mahmoud Abbas’s source of income is not considered important enough to mention.

Technically, Mr. Sharon is a sheep farmer. Perhaps the writer was confusing him with George W. Bush.

The farming does not define Sharon. Far more important and relevant is that he is a retired major-general and a veteran politician. He also co-founded the Likud, surely as important as Abu Mazen’s co— founding of Fateh.

He also holds an. LL.B., Law & Middle Eastern Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Technically but equally irrelevantly the BBC could describe him as a lawyer.

This missing information is available on the BBC’s profile of Ariel Sharon.
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2001/israel_and_the_palestinians/profiles/1154622.stm)

Mr Sharon has a house in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter.

The house is rarely occupied. His normal residence is the Sycamore Ranch close to the border of Gaza and Israel.

Ariel Sharon was born in 1928 …

Once again the profile takes a confusing path. It begins in 2001; mentions events in 2000, 2002, 2005, the 1990s, 1967, 1982 and1983; finally ending with his birth in1928.

… in Palestine when it was a British mandate.

While this is an interesting factoid, Abu Mazen’s 1935 birth in Palestine while it was a British Mandate is not worth a mention.

His correct title is President of the Palestinian Authority.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of the ruling Fatah faction, won the January 2005 poll to replace the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

This election was boycotted by Islamic factions.

Many analysts regard Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate.

Many other analysts regard him as Yasser Arafat in a better suit. Even with the protection of reported speech this statement appears as an endorsement.

He has condemned the armed Palestinian uprising …

Referring to the current intifada, Mr Abbas has called for a halt to armed attacks on Israeli targets to avoid giving Israel a pretext to destroy the last vestiges of Palestinian autonomy. (BBC Profile) That is hardly a condemnation. Mr. Abbas has also spoke of absorbing Hams and Islamic Jihad into the Palestinian Armed Forces.

Abbas also has made numerous radical statements, for example, claiming that the Nazis killed "only a few hundred thousand Jews," not six million. (in his 1983 book The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement)

But he faces the key challenge of persuading armed groups to stop their campaign of anti-Israeli attacks.

Among these armed groups is the Tanzim, an official part of the Fateh group of which Mahmoud Abbas is head.

The former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital on 11 November 2004, aged 75.

Once again the leader profile takes a confusing chronological path; 2005, 1969, 1935, 1993, 2003 and 2004 with the death of Arafat.

The information about Yasser Arafat is specific but only marginally related to Mahmoud Abbas’s profile.

Yasser Arafat was a former leader of the Palestinians only in the sense he died in office. He never resigned or was overthrown.

Missing information on Mahmoud Abbas is available on the BBC profile.
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1933453.stm)

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9. Media Analysis

The Vienna-based International Press Institute reported in 2003 that 82.9% of violations against press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza since the start of the second intifada had been carried out by Israelis. Most of the "targeted journalists" had been of Palestinian origin.

This serious charge is completely contradicted by the Palestinian Media analysis: The Palestinian authorities limit freedom of speech and the security services have regularly shut down media outlets, banned publication or broadcast of material, and harassed or detained journalists, including foreign reporters covering the second intifada.

It is unclear when, if ever, a country at war has allowed media freedom to its enemies. The experience of the Falklands War is a clear example where the United Kingdom denied media freedom to its friends.

While not strictly an example of partiality, the failure to report on Cable Network (HOT) and Satellite Network (YES) is a failure of research. 

Israel has repeatedly accused Palestinian TV and radio of inciting violence.

The BBC apparently regards this accusation as unfounded.

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10. Missing Information Analysis

These areas vital to understanding Israel/Palestine have in the opinion of the author been either ignored or minimized in the Country Profile.

  1. The geographical position of Israel as the only convenient land bridge between Africa and Asia to Europe. All historic invasions have used this route.
  2. The strategic position of Israel for controlling the Western Mediterranean without stationing troops.
  3. The historic connection between the three major monotheist religions and the Holyland.
  4. The unbroken attachment of Jews to the land for two thousand years and Jewish immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  5. Any mention of Christianity.
  6. Any history before 1948. The region was occupied by Egyptians, Assyrians, Macedonian Greeks, and Romans before the Arab invasions and Turkish and British sovereignty.
  7. Refugee status of Jews and Arabs following 1948. In particular it ignores the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and areas conquered by Arabs.
  8. The events leading up to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in a defensive war.
  9. The role of the Superpowers and other international players, such as England, France, Iraq and Iran, the United Nations, The European Union and the Arab League in the conflict.
  10. Oil politics.
  11. The role of militant Islam in the conflict and its connection to current events in Europe.
  12. Disputes within the Palestinians in particular between Islamists, for example, Hamas and relative secularists; and disputes between individuals for power leading to violence.
  13. Anti-Semitism
  14. Terrorism
  15. The military and political history of Ariel Sharon.
  16. The academic history of Mahmoud Abbas, in particular accusations of Holocaust denial.
  17. A biography of Moshe Katsav.
  18. The absence of a timeline for Israel and the Palestinian areas.
  19. The absence from the Golan from the map.
Back to Headings

11. Summary

  1. The Country Profile combines country and territory in one profile. No similar conflict combines the disputed territory with the recognized country. Morocco/Western Sahara and India/Pakistan/Kashmir produced as examples of the BBC’s normal approach.
  2. The Country Profile leaves the disputed territory of the Golan Heights off the map and the names of neighbouring countries. This is in opposition to the BBC’s standard procedure in the Country Profile Series.
  3. The Country Profile for Israel and the Palestinian territories is focused entirely on the Israel— Arab conflict on the level of local conflict to the exclusion of all other elements. Specifically the Islamic and multinational/superpower features of the conflict are ignored.
  4. Any Israeli achievements in any field are ignored.
  5. The Country Profile ignores the complex history of the region. In particular it ignores Judaism and Christianity’s connection to the land predating the Arab connection.
  6. The profile wrongly and specifically places blame for all conflicts in the Middle East on Israel by ignoring numerous conflicts to which it is not involved.
  7. The profile is frequently confusing; uses ambiguous and jargon filled language; contains numerous errors of fact, and opinion masquerading as fact. 
  8. Where these errors occur they almost always show Israel unfavourably and are identical with Palestinian positions.
  9. The chronology of the profile is erratic and combined with the lack of a separate timeline makes understanding context difficult.
  10. The biographies of the leaders are slanted in a manner which reflects badly against the Israelis while praising the Palestinians. In particular the military and political career of Ariel Sharon is ignored as is the Holocaust denial of Mahmoud Abbas.
  11. The Israeli media section is in direct contradiction to the Palestinian media section.
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12. Conclusion

Because of the sheer weight of controversial, ambiguous, erroneous and confusing entries, on an almost line— to— line basis, this page fails the BBC pledge to be an accurate, fair, in context, balanced and without bias, actual or perceived provider of information. In short the BBC has failed by its own standards of impartiality.

The Country Profile for Israel and the Palestinian Territories is a poor guide to history, politics and economic background and needs to be revised immediately.

Production of a timeline should be commenced immediately.

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13. Appendix

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/803257.stm

Country profile: Israel and Palestinian territories

The division of the former British mandate of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel in the years after the end of World War II have been at the heart of Middle Eastern conflicts for the past half century.

The creation of Israel was the culmination of the Zionist movement, whose aim was a homeland for Jews scattered all over the world following the Diaspora. After the Nazi Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state, and in 1948 Israel came into being.

Much of the history of the region since that time has been one of conflict between Israel on one side and Palestinians, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and Israel's Arab neighbours, on the other. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, and several wars were fought involving Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Palestinians in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, have lived under Israeli occupation since 1967. The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank are home to around 400,000 people and are deemed to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Israel evacuated its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew its forces, ending almost four decades of military occupation.

In 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement, but it wasn't until the early 1990s, after years of an uprising known as the intifada , that a peace process began with the Palestinians. Despite the handover of Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control, a "final status" agreement has yet to be reached.

The main stumbling blocks include the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.

ISRAEL FACTS

Population: 6.7 million (UN, 2005)

Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv

Area: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics cites 22,072 sq km (8,522 sq miles), including Jerusalem and Golan

Major languages: Hebrew, Arabic

Major religions: Judaism, Islam

Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot

Main exports: Computer software, military equipment, chemicals, agricultural products

GNI per capita: US $17,380 (World Bank, 2005)

Internet domain: .il

International dialling code: +972

PALESTINIAN FACTS

Population: 3.8 million (UN, 2005)

Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem

Area: Palestinian Ministry of Information cites 5,970 sq km (2,305 sq miles) for West Bank territories and 365 sq km (141 sq miles) for Gaza

Major language: Arabic

Major religion: Islam

Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 Jordan dinar = 1,000 fils, 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot

Main exports: Citrus

GNI per capita: US $1,120 (World Bank, 2005)

Internet domain: .ps

International dialling code: +970

Israeli president: Moshe Qatzav

Israeli prime minister: Ariel Sharon

After asking President Qatzav to call an early general election, Mr Sharon announced in November 2005 that he was leaving the right-wing Likud Party to form a new centrist party. He said that peace with the Palestinians and Israeli security would be its key goals.

It is expected to be some months before elections take place.

Mr Sharon became prime minister in February 2001 after beating the Labor incumbent, Ehud Barak.

He was elected in the midst of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) on a pledge to ensure total security for Israel. One of the principal catalysts of the intifada was Mr Sharon's controversial visit to Jewish holy sites on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an area of the old city known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and considered to be Islam's third holiest site.

In 2002 his government decided to build a 640-km (440-mile) West Bank barrier. It says the structure is necessary to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers, but the International Court of Justice has said the barrier breaches international law.

Mr Sharon also pursued a plan to evacuate more than 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. He said the August 2005 pullout, which stoked anger among pro-settlement activists, was aimed at making Israel safer and could help to revive an international peace plan.

A wealthy cattle farmer, Mr Sharon has a house in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter. As housing minister in the early 1990s, he presided over the largest expansion of Jewish settlements since the 1967 war.

Mr Sharon became closely identified with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when, as defense minister, he sent Israeli troops all the way to Beirut, where the PLO was then based.

He was forced from office in 1983 after an Israeli tribunal which found him "indirectly responsible" for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees by Israeli-allied right-wing Lebanese militiamen.

Ariel Sharon was born in 1928 in Palestine when it was a British mandate.

Palestinian leader: Mahmoud Abbas

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of the ruling Fatah faction, won the January 2005 poll to replace the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, had already succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), having been Mr Arafat's deputy since 1969.

Many analysts regard Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate. He has condemned the armed Palestinian uprising and favours the resumption of negotiations with Israel. But he faces the key challenge of persuading armed groups to stop their campaign of anti-Israeli attacks.

Mahmoud Abbas was born in 1935 in Safed, a town in present-day northern Israel. He co-founded Fatah - the main political grouping within the PLO - with Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s.

Mr Abbas established contacts with left-wing Israelis in the 1970s, and was the main Palestinian architect of the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to the foundation of the Palestinian Authority.

His brief stint as premier was plagued by power struggles with Mr Arafat over the control of the Palestinian security apparatus and over planned reforms. Mr Abbas resigned in September 2003.

The former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital on 11 November 2004, aged 75.

Palestinian prime minister: Ahmed Qurei

Ahmed Qurei, also known as Abu Ala, was tasked with forming a cabinet by the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

One of the architects of the Oslo peace accords, Mr Qurei is regarded as a moderate and a pragmatist. He took office in September 2003.

ISRAELI MEDIA

Israel's press and broadcasters are many and varied, and account for differences in language, political viewpoint and religious outlook.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), set up along the lines of the BBC, operates public radio and TV services and is funded mainly by licence fees on TV sets.

Channel 2 and Channel 10 are the main commercial TV networks. Most Israeli households subscribe to cable or satellite TV packages.

Commercial radio arrived in 1995, but faces competition from a proliferation of pirate radio stations; some 150 were said to be on the air in early 2003. A proportion of these unlicensed stations carry ultra-Orthodox programme material.

All Israeli newspapers are privately-owned and several are available on the internet.

The media rights watchdog Reporters Without Frontiers reported in 2004 that the "traditionally robust and independent" Israeli media had had to withstand "harassment and intimidation" by the authorities.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute reported in 2003 that 82.9% of violations against press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza since the start of the second intifada had been carried out by Israelis. Most of the "targeted journalists" had been of Palestinian origin.

The press

Yediot Aharonot - Tel Aviv-based daily

Ha'aretz - Tel Aviv-based daily

Jerusalem Post - daily

Ma'ariv - Tel Aviv-based daily

Globes - business daily

Television

Israel Broadcasting Authority - public TV, operates Channel 1

Channel 2 - national, commercial

Channel 10 - national, commercial

Radio

Israel Broadcasting Authority - operates public radios, including speech-based Reshet Aleph, news-based Reshet Bet, music-based Reshet Gimmel, Arabic-language Reshet Dalet

Galei Zahal - Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Radio, broadcasts news and music to mostly-civilian audience; also operates music and traffic news network Galgalatz

Internet

Israel has a large IT industry and one of the world's most technologically-literate populations. Around two million people had internet access by 2002 (ITU figure).

PALESTINIAN MEDIA

Television is the key medium for news and information in the Palestinian areas. Satellite dishes are common, and pan-Arab broadcasters, particularly Qatar's Al-Jazeera TV, are popular among viewers.

Official radio and TV stations operate alongside dozens of private radio stations and a handful of private TV stations. Jordanian TV is widely-watched in the West Bank.

The Palestinian authorities limit freedom of speech and the security services have regularly shut down media outlets, banned publication or broadcast of material, and harassed or detained journalists, including foreign reporters covering the second intifada. Self-censorship by Palestinian journalists is widespread.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Frontiers reported in 2005 that threats, violence and killings of journalists had "increased alarmingly" amid political instability.

Control of the official radio and TV was transferred from the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to the information minister in 2005. But media analysts questioned how far the measure represented a real step towards creating a public-service broadcaster.

Palestinian media outlets were badly damaged by Israeli military operations in the wake of the second intifada. Radio and TV stations were destroyed, including, in January 2002, the premises of the Palestinian Authority's TV and radio stations in Ramallah. Israel has repeatedly accused Palestinian TV and radio of inciting violence.

The press

Al-Quds - Jerusalem-based, largest-circulation Palestinian daily

Al-Ayyam - Ramallah-based daily

Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah - Palestinian National Authority daily

Radio

Voice of Palestine - official

Television

Palestine TV - official

Satellite Channel - official, Gaza-based

Private TV stations include Al-Quds Educational TV, Al-Mahd TV, Al-Majd TV, Al-Nawras TV, Al-Sharq TV, Amwaj TV, Bayt Lahm TV, Shepherds TV and Watan TV

News agency

Palestine News Agency - Wafa - official, in Arabic, English, French and Hebrew

Internet

Around 145,000 people had internet access by 2003 (ITU figure).

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/803257.stm

Published: 2005/11/21 22:22:06 GMT

© BBC MMV

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