BBC’s lame response to Guerin critique

Orlaguerin_1A Sept. 13 HonestReporting communique critiqued BBC’s Orla Guerin’s televised report from Gaza, while Palestinians were rampaging through former Jewish settlements. Said Guerin:

Palestinians came streaming to the settlements that caused them so much pain, to sightsee and to loot. Israel stole thirty-eight years from them; today, many were ready to take back anything they could. [view video]

BBC responded to the many HR subscribers who expressed concern for Guerin’s language:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding a report on our News Website
from our Middle East Correspondent, Orla Guerin, on the Palestinian
return to the Gaza settlements.

Orla Guerin was in no way trying to “justify” the actions of Palestinian mobs in this report. Her reference to the Palestinians’ sense of having time stolen from them was an attempt to give context to their actions – not to justify them.

As I am sure you are aware, the UN believes that settlements — to which Orla Guerin was referring to in this report when she used the word “stole” — have no legal validity and obstruct the peace process (e.g. Security Council Resolution 446, 22 March 1979). Many governments also hold that Israeli settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that ‘The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’

The British Foreign Office gives this statement on its website:

“Our policy on settlements is clear: settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Continuing illegal Israeli settlement activity threatens the prospects for a two-state solution and is an obstacle to peace.”

In United Nations Security Council Resolution 465 (1980), the Security Council demanded that Israel “dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction or planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.”

Accordingly, we do not agree with the assertion that this report sought to “rationalize the Palestinian mob violence”. The use of the word “stole” was a reference to Israel’s occupation of this land for the previous thirty-eight years following the 1967 war.


BBC Information

First of all, Palestinians didn’t ‘return’ to the Gaza settlements — there was nothing there before Jewish settlements sprung up in the barren desert in the ’70s and ’80s. The land of Gush Katif was known as ‘cursed ground’ by local Arabs, who were convinced nothing could grow in that arid and mineral-poor region.

Next, the status of the settlements is properly defined as disputed — it’s well-known that there are plenty of diplomatic opinions that point in the opposite direction from those quoted by the ostensibly ‘impartial’ BBC. (Many, for example, do not believe the Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the West Bank and Gaza, and/or recognize that the Geneva Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war, but was never intended to include the situation of voluntary settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.)

But perhaps most importantly, even if one were to accept the argument that the Gaza settlements were illegal under intenational law, in what way did these small patches of land ‘steal the lives’ of local Palestinians for ‘thirty eight years’? That statement of Guerin’s goes far beyond ‘context’ for the actions of the Palestinians that day — it’s a tendentious statement that, once again, aligns the BBC reporter with one side of the Mideast conflict.

And that’s just not professional journalism.

Comments to BBC: click here