Thursday 21 January 2010

Smoke and Mirrors

Did you see Panorama last Monday evening? As I watched Sarah Corbin’s documentary, I was disturbed and shocked as I saw what appeared to be Israeli brutality and inhumanity towards Arab residents in East Jerusalem. But I have learned over the years that more often than not, there is another side to the story and, sure enough, Honest Reporting issued a damning rebuttal of Corbin’s report.

The BBC's flagship documentary, says Honest Reporting, distorts Jewish history and Jewish rights to Jerusalem while promoting a one-sided and biased agenda.

Any pretence at balance was thrown out of the window as reporter Jane Corbin made it clear that, under the BBC's own interpretation of international law, anything Israel does in East Jerusalem is illegal. Israelis were presented as usurpers of Palestinian rights and property in eastern Jerusalem in a one-sided piece of agitprop.

Analyst Robin Shepherd commented:

Rarely will you get a clearer insight into the flagrant institutional bias inside the world's most powerful media outlet than this. The slipperiness of the tactics employed, the unabashed censorship of vital historical context, and the blatant pursuit of a political agenda constituted a lesson in the techniques of modern day propaganda. It was something to behold.

Honest Reporting examines some of the assumptions, claims and biases that underpinned Monday’s Panorama.

Denying Jewish Rights to Jerusalem

The BBC's institutional anti-Israel bias often manifests itself not in what is broadcast but what is left out. It reports events as though Jewish history in Jerusalem began in 1948, omitting to mention that the only time East Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

Before 1865, the entire population of Jerusalem lived in what is now East Jerusalem Later, the city began to expand beyond the walls because of population growth and both Jews and Arabs began to build in new areas of the city.

By the time of partition, a thriving Jewish community lived in the eastern part of Jerusalem, an area that included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This area of the Jerusalem contains many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In addition, major institutions such as the Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are on Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian House Demolitions

The programme gave the distinct impression that house demolitions by Israel are almost a daily occurrence. Jane Corbin disingenuously pulled a supposed list of dozens more demolitions scheduled to take place and we were treated to emotive scenes and Palestinian claims that such demolitions are driven by "racism" and "ethnic cleansing".

We were not told that illegal constructions by Jews typically take the form of additions to existing legal structures, such as closing a balcony or hollowing out an extra room under an existing building. In the Arab sector, however, illegal constructions often takes the form of multi-floor buildings with 4 to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.

The Hanoun Family Eviction

It was distressing to see the Hanoun family camped in the street outside their previous home. Their eviction has become something of a cause celebre and Jane Corbin did her best to portray the Hanouns as victims of Israeli malice.
The Hanoun family case, it turns out, is not quite as simple as the BBC would have us believe. After 1948, the neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and in the mid-1950s Jordan settled Arabs there who took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.

After the 1967 Six Day War, after Israel gained control of East Jerusalem in a defensive war, the Jewish-owned property that had been seized by Arabs was liberated and transferred back to Israel. In 1998, Jews entered deserted houses while at the same time, a slow process of evicting Arab families who apparently refused to pay rent to the two Jewish organizations began. The Hanouns were evicted because they had refused to pay rent for years.

Shooting in Silwan

Panorama made much of the fact that some Jews living in eastern Jerusalem are armed. As if to illustrate the apparent threat this poses to the Arab residents of the area, she interviewed the victim of a shooting incident that took place in September 2009. We were treated to scenes of crying children and a story of suffering. There was no interview with any Israeli spokespeople regarding the incident. While it is not in dispute that the Palestinian was shot, the BBC relied solely on his testimony without any Israeli response.

Israel’s Police Foreign Press Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld says that following the incident, the Israeli police immediately detained a Jewish suspect for questioning who told them he had been surrounded by six Arabs inside the neighbourhood and was attacked by them. After being surrounded, he used his weapon in an act of self defence. This was an isolated incident that could have taken place in any of the neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

In fact, Jewish residents of Jerusalem have far more to fear from their Arab neighbours. While the incident described above is remarkably rare, not so rare were the suicide bombings, stabbings and even bulldozer attacks that have been carried out by Palestinian terrorists residing in eastern Jerusalem. The armed guards and security in the area is necessary to protect not only Jews but also Jewish holy sites from potential Arab extremists.

Read the full HR report here.