By Stephen Franklin
July 28, 2011
On the Today programme on 27th September last year “At midnight last night, the moratorium on Israelis building new settlements in the West Bank came to an end. It had lasted for ten months. What happens now? The question matters enormously because the Palestinians have always said there can be no real peace agreement while the Israelis are, as they see it, seizing their land”.
The BBC Trust (in response to a complaint that I made) have just found that the statement was inaccurate in the sense that it was not sufficiently clear and precise, but not intentionally misleading.
The statement that the moratorium was on new settlements was immediately reinforced by the statement that the Israelis were, as they see it, stealing their land. It could not have been more clear or precise or more false or more misleading.
The consequence of the misleading impression given too UK politicians is that Israel is always seen by the UK government and most MPs as the one blocking progress in the peace negotiations, while PA praise for suicide bombers and salaries to imprisoned terrorists that are greater than those paid to the PA civil service go unnoticed amongst UK politicians.
The moratorium on new settlements started on 14th June 2009, when Mr Natanyahu said "The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements." (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+leaders/2009/Ad...). It is still in place.
As the BBC, and Jeremy Bowen in particular, know full well the moratorium that ended was on building within existing settlements. Natanyahu was the first ever Israeli Prime Minister to impose such a moratorium, and did so at some political cost at home. During all the 10 months of that moratorium the Palestinian side refused to have any direct talks with the Israeli negotiating team.
It seems ludicrous that, at least in part because of an inaccurate and extremely misleading report that Israel should be considered the obstacle to peace by British politicians.
It is absurd that the BBC Trust consider the fault in accuracy to be one of failure to present output in clear, precise language. The language was clear and precise and UNTRUE.
It is equally absurd of the committee to say the Jeremy Bowen had largely corrected the inaccurate introduction. Nothing that he said corrected the impression that the moratorium that had just ended was on new settlements and that it would allow Israelis to “as they (Palestinians) see it (resume) seizing their land”. As the BBC's Middle East Editor he has much greater responsibility for their Middle East reporting than other BBC journalists. Bowen knew the truth and DID NOT correct the false impression given by the introduction. He was therefore KNOWINGLY misleading the audience. That is the BBC test and Bowen was clearly content to leave with a misleading impression of the facts.