Israel profile,” 11 September 2012).
And this seat of government, according to the BBC, is Jerusalem. All of it. This is despite the fact that international law is quite clear that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory, illegally occupied and annexed by Israel. Israel, however, refuses to accept UN resolutions on Jerusalem and continues to claim it all, undivided, as its own. The BBC, it would appear, is backing Israel up on this.
This is how Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is presented on the BBC website: “Israel profile. Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”
The Israeli government does not recognize Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, and so the BBC obligingly does not give a capital for Israel in its country profile — noting, instead, in its specially-created “seat of government” category, that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”
The website also runs a profile for “Palestinian territories” and this gives an “intended seat of government.” Under this category, BBC editors have written “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital” (“Palestinian territories profile,” 31 August 2012).
Concealing the truthThere are no difficulties here for the BBC in making a distinction between East and West Jerusalem. Rather, the difficulty for the BBC lies in admitting that Israel occupies the “Palestinian territories.” Nowhere in the profile is the occupation mentioned, and the land is not referred to as the “occupied Palestinian Territories” — the wording used by the United Nations — but simply as Palestinian territories. And of course there is nothing to inform the reader of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem from 1947 onwards, and how the division of the city came about.
The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign challenged the supposedly impartial BBC on its assertion that the whole of Jerusalem is Israeli territory, a falsehood which Israel is keen to propagate in its attempts to create facts on the ground.
The PSC pointed out over a series of email correspondences since July that it would be simple enough for the BBC to add the word “West” to let its audience know that Israel’s seat of government is not in Jerusalem, but in the western half of a divided city. This would also guarantee 100 percent accuracy, surely a priority for a major news organization.
Richard Hutt, complaints director at the BBC, sent a detailed email on 18 September to say: “It seems to me that the current content on the page for Israel acknowledges the Israeli view, but contextualizes it so that it is clear to readers that this is disputed.”
With no hint of irony, Hutt goes on to say, about a page that is subtitled “Facts”: “Although more information would have been helpful, I do not believe that the content would mislead readers as to the basic facts.” More