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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The bias of BBC's history of PalArab refugees

I just noticed a BBC page that is intended as a backgrounder on the Palestinian Arab refugee situation, and as you would expect, it is filled with anti-Israel spin:

Today there are millions of Palestinians living in exile from homes and land their families had inhabited for generations.
The implication is that the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs lived in the area for generations, and this is simply false. A great percentage, perhaps as high as half, moved into Palestine after the Zionists started building a thriving economy in the late 19th century.
Many still suffer the legacy of their dispossession: destitution, penury, insecurity.
Because they are stuck in "refugee" camps by their Arab "brethren."
Palestinian historians, and some Israelis, call 1948 a clear example of ethnic cleansing - perpetrated by the Haganah (later the Israeli Defence Forces) and armed Jewish gangs.

Official Israeli history, by contrast, says most Palestinian refugees left to avoid a war instigated by neighbouring Arab states, though it admits a "handful" of expulsions and unauthorised killings.
The BBC does not admit that any impartial historians support the "official Israeli history" which implies that it is lying propaganda, while the far-left Israeli historians and Palestinian Arab historians are not spun that way at all. It is clear who the BBC believes.
What is undisputed is that the refugees' fate is excluded from most Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts because, given a right of return, their numbers endanger the future of the world's only Jewish state.

The issue of the refugees is therefore seen by many Israelis as an existential one.

Four million UN-registered Palestinian refugees trace origins to the 1948 exodus; 750,000 people belong to families displaced in 1967 - many for the second time.

Palestinian advocacy group Badil says another million and a half hail from pre-1948 Palestine but were not UN-registered, while an additional 274,000 were internally displaced inside Israel after 1948, and 150,000 were displaced in the occupied territories after 1967.

That makes more than six million people, one of the biggest displaced populations in the world.
Note how the BBC accepts Badil's numbers without question. Also there is a sleight-of-hand here where the BBC, like Badil, is not differentiating between "refugees" and "displaced persons," lumping the PalArabs who moved within Israel after 1948 or the Jordanian citizens who moved to Jordan in 1967 - who are citizens of their countries - together with the dwindling refugee numbers and their ever-increasing descendants. The only purpose in doing this is the exaggerate the problem, not to illuminate it.
Israel steadfastly argues that all refugees - and it disputes the numbers - should relinquish any aspirations to return to what is now its territory, and instead be absorbed by Arab host countries or by a future Palestinian state.
The BBC doesn't bother to report Israel's count, because they accept the Palestinian Arab narrative and reject Israel's.
It disavows moral responsibility by arguing that 800,000 Mizrahi Jews were displaced from Arab countries between 1945 and 1956 (most of whom settled in Israel) and insists Palestinians left willingly.

But that view is at odds with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Resolution 194 asserts the refugees' unconditional right of return to live at peace in their old homes or to receive compensation for their losses.
The exact text is "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date..." Since they have not shown the desire to live in peace with Jews, this shows that the BBC's interpretation is incorrect.
As far as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country," it is unclear whether this applies - their country, presumably the British mandate of Palestine, no longer exists. Their returning to their homes, in fact, would compromise the Jews' and Israelis' rights to self-determination, which is enshrined in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The BBC ignores that issue, only concerning itself with the rights of the Palestinian Arabs.

Even if the UDHR applied, it would only apply to the original 1948 refugees, not to the generations that follow.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of their cause, the practicality of return and questions of moral justice, in Mid-East diplomacy the refugees' fate has been largely ignored.

This has been achieved by a dual process pegging all solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict to the 1967 war, and discounting the events of 1948 as an element of the conflict.
Here the BBC seems to be advocating Israel's destruction, by saying that the descendants of Palestinian Arabs do have the right to move back to pre-1948 towns that no longer exist while Israel does not have the right to determine who can become a citizen.
Israel has effectively deployed a number of arguments to justify this, such as saying that it is the only Jewish state, the refuge of Jews from around the world, while there are 22 Arab countries where the refugees could go.

It also points out that UN General Assembly resolutions have no force under international law and says the unassimilated refugee population has been held hostage by frontline Arab states waiting for Israel's destruction.

The diplomatic focus on 1967 has been advantageous for Israel: territory occupied at that time is regarded as the entire problem, and solutions can therefore be limited to dividing up that land.

This is problematic for Palestinians, however, because it sidelines the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of 1948 - an issue that for them lies at the heart of the conflict.
Notice how the BBC consistently parrots the Palestinian Arab viewpoints as being factual and without attribution, while the Israeli viewpoints are always attributed to Israel and thus implying that they are biased.

Also notice how the BBC doesn't put quotes around the word "Nakba", because it agrees with its characterization as being a catastrophe.

Palestinians accuse Israel of a kind of "Nakba-denial", absolving itself of liability, but thereby condemning itself to perpetual conflict with its Arab neighbours.

Israel vigorously denies such a characterisation. Zionist historians justify what happened in 1948 by saying the new Jewish state was threatened with annihilation by the invading Arab armies.

But some of Israel's "new", or revisionist, historians argue that its founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, exaggerated the Arab threat, in order to implement a covert plan to expel Palestinian civilians and grab as much of the former Palestine as possible.
Again, it is clear who the BBC believes, and again it doesn't consider the idea that non-Zionist historians may believe the Zionist narrative. It is consistently pushing the revisionist historian viewpoint as the truth - and it simply isn't.
Demography - the need to have a large majority of Jews to sustain a Jewish state - has certainly been a key concern for Israel since its foundation.

Under a 1947 UN-sanctioned plan to partition Palestine, Israel would have been established on 55% of the former territory, and without a significant transfer of population the Jews in that territory would have scarcely exceeded the Arab population there.

The 1948 war ended with Israel in control of 78% of the former Palestine, with a Jewish-Arab ratio of 6:1.

The equation brought security for Jewish Israelis, but emptied hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns of 700,000 inhabitants - the kernel of the Palestinian refugee problem today.

With the justification of not wanting to jeopardise its Jewish majority, Israel has kept Palestinian refugees and their descendants out of negotiations on a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But for most Palestinians, their fate remains an open wound, unless there is a Middle East peace deal that acknowledges what happened to the refugees.
To its credit, the BBC does not seem to refer to current PalArabs as "refugees" but it still assumes that somehow, uniquely in the world, descendants of a single refugee population has the right to move back to the country of its ancestors no matter how long after they leave. The concept that they should be absorbed by their host countries, as refugees have been for millennia, is not on the BBC radar because they wholly swallow the lie that Palestinian Arabs deserve to move to a country that the vast majority have never lived in.

They similarly absolve the Arab nations from their role in keeping the PalArabs in their miserable state and using them as pawns in their own fight against Israel. That story is simply ignored, as is the discrimination that Palestinian Arabs suffer in most Arab countries.

This is not an unbiased history - this is a clear advocation of the Arab viewpoint and it is wrong more often than it is right.