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December 21, 2015 6:58 am

BBC Western Sahara Pieces Betray Double Standards on Disputed Territories

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An empty town in Western Sahara, an area the BBC does not refer to as "occupied." Photo: Wikipedia.

An empty town in Western Sahara, an area the BBC does not refer to as “occupied.” Photo: Wikipedia.

At the beginning of November, the BBC World Service produced two pieces concerning a decades-old conflict involving an invasion, disputed territory, thousands of people living in refugee camps, and more than 20 years of failed negotiations.

However, BBC audiences did not hear the words “occupied” or “illegal under international law” as they so frequently do in content relating to Israel. In fact, what they did hear in those two programs was a nostalgic and sympathetic portrayal of Morocco’s “Green March” into Western Sahara in 1975.

The audio version of that episode of “Witness” uses the term “disputed territory” in its synopsis.

In November 1975, King Hassan the Second ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into disputed territory in the desert. He wanted to claim the colony of Spanish Sahara for Morocco. The Green March led to a diplomatic victory for the King, but sparked a guerrilla war and decades of instability in the region. Witness speaks to a Moroccan who was on the march.

The synopsis to the filmed version of the same program uses the same term.

Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war.

Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.

The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco,” and readers will not find terms such as “occupied” or “international law” in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.

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  • You can complain as much as you like the BBC NEVER makes a mistake and is NEVER biased against Israel.

  • Ruud Meeuws

    The reporting of the conflict in Israel is different because of antisemitism. Almost all the media in the world are antisemitists. Tenach Psalm 2:2 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed.

  • So, the BBC regularly ignores “occupation” elsewhere, but 24/7 loudly trumpets the concept with reference to Israel? No surprise there, because when it comes to the hard realities of international life “politics” is normally dominant and much touted “international law” is really subservient.

    Any thoughtful student of international law would immediately be struck by the stubborn, exaggerated emphasis which the BBC and Israel’s other enemies and detractors peculiarly place on that one, single — relatively subordinate — legal doctrine, i.e. the law of belligerent occupation.

    For the distinctly POLITICAL purpose of contriving a crushing diplomatic defeat for the Jewish State, the BBC and Israel’s other enemies and detractors wildly exaggerate the scope and importance of the doctrine of belligerent occupation, while ignoring some other elements of public international law that regularly take precedence, according to the normal legal canons.

    For example, since WW1 directly relevant treaties have universally and authoritatively been highlighted as the premier source of public international law. This means that a relevant specific right explicitly set out in a directly pertinent treaty obviously outranks the generalities of the doctrine of belligerent occupation. Every international lawyer knows the key rule of interpetation: “specialia generalibus derogant, non generalia specialibus.” Namely, the specific derogates from the general, not the general from the specific.

    The BBC ought to be reminded that a consistent series of declarations, resolutions and treaties from 1917 to 1924 specifically recognized the Jewish People’s connection with its historic homeland and explicitly called for “close settlement by Jews on the land,” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. If so, how can Jews’ building homes, schools, hospitals and synagogues there possibly violate the doctrine of belligerent occupation?

    With reference to the Jewish State, the bizarre focus on that one doctrine of belligerent occupation is an egregious instance of discriminatory targeting of Israel — exactly because there is regularly no such similar exaggerated application of the identical “belligerent occupation” doctrine in all those other situations in which a country is alleged to be “occupying” territory, as a result of warfare.

    How about Turkey in Cyprus? What about Russia in the Crimea? How about India in Kashmir? What of Morocco in the Western Sahara? In other words, the BBC — like Israel’s other enemies and detractors — rushes to wildly inflate that one particular element of public international law, only when it comes to using it as a POLITICAL weapon against Israel.

    And, this is exactly why I always say that “international law is much akin to an ongoing discussion about rights in which every government and NGO has its lawyers, and every law professor and layman an opinion.”

    BBC take note — the Jewish People has consistently affirmed its moral and legal rights in its aboriginal homeland for two to three millennia, during which time some then self-identified “Jews” have always lived there. The connection between the Jewish People and its aboriginal homeland is even a stubborn truism of both Christianity and the Koran. Critically, Christian and Muslim recognition of the link between “the promised land” and the Jewish People by many centuries antedates the crystallization of the current dispute there.

    The Jewish People’s moral and legal rights in its aboriginal homeland were already specifically recognized by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. The Jewish People’s rights in its ancient homeland were later more potently proclaimed in the post WW1 treaties that established “a national Home for the Jewish People,” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

    Now, purely objectively, how much reverence ought we to have for some obviously contrived argument of self-interest and/or malevolence resting on the quaint, boutique doctrine of belligerent occupation? Prima facie, how much credence ought we to accord to the highly peculiar allegation that that it is per se immoral, illegitimate or illegal for a Jew to build a home or a hospital west of the Jordan River?

    But, just think of this — how many foolish left-liberal and liberal Jews have BBC propaganda and prejudice tricked into feeling apologetic that other Jews might be building a home or a synagogue somewhere there?

    And what is even worse, there are even some left-liberal and liberal Jews who have been filled with powerful moral indignation because some other Jews are building homes there. At the very least, I would say that significantly misinformed are both the BBC and those self-righteous left-liberal and liberal Jewish critics of Israel.

    But, if pressed further, I would characterize the BBC as malevolent — perhaps even evil — because it knowingly, consistently and regularly spreads outrageous falsehoods that can reasonably be understood as conducing to Holocaust2.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Sometimes it is very difficult to work out what a Zionist Propagandist is bunging on about and this is no exception. There are so many forces involved and so much legal action that “disputed territory” seems a realistic description of Western Sahara

    It is the writer who invites comparison with the West Bank and I note her last sentence “The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco,” and readers will not find terms such as “occupied” or “international law” in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.”

    Since the complaint is directed at the nomenclature used in reference to Western Sahara one reasonably can assume she does accept that relating to the West Bank. If not it is very sloppy writing.

    “Occupied” – no doubt about that – “illegal under International Law”? – yes that describes the Settlements

    No dispute here.

    • Anschel

      You’re dead wrong on all counts!