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March 13, 2019 8:02 am

The BBC Uses an Omission to Smear Israel on Arab Citizens

avatar by Hadar Sela

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Gal Gadot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The BBC News website recently created a tag called “Israel Elections 2019,” which to date includes just five items. Members of the UK public (who fund the BBC) could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that there is only one newsworthy name in the election campaign.

The latest BBC report appearing with that tag was published on March 11, under the headline: “Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs.

The report opened with a confused introduction [emphasis added]:

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot has become embroiled in a row with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of the country’s Arab minority.

“Love your neighbour as yourself,” the Israeli actress said, amid wrangling over the role of Israeli Arab parties in upcoming polls.

So which is it? “The status” of the 20.9 percent of the Israeli population with Arab ethnicity, or “the role” of the two Arab lists running in the April 9 election?

Only in the article’s 13th paragraph does the BBC bother to clarify that in a response to another Israeli actress, Netanyahu commented:

As you wrote, there is no problem with Israel’s Arab citizens. They have equal rights and the Likud government has invested more than any other government in the Arab population.

Clearly then, this story is not about “a row with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of the country’s Arab minority” as claimed in the article’s opening line.

The report continued:

Mr Netanyahu caused a stir when he said Israel “was not a state of all its citizens”, referring to Arabs who make up 20% of its population.

He cited a “nation-state” law.

The legislation sparked controversy last year.

Arab MPs reacted furiously in July when Israel’s parliament approved the legislation, which says Jews have a unique right to national self-determination in the country and puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language.

That link leads to a BBC report, which was amended after publication to clarify that the legislation “ascribes Arabic ‘special status’ and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed.” As was the case when the BBC first reported on the Nation-State Law last July, no comparison between that legislation and similar laws and constitutions in other countries was provided to readers.

Readers had to go down to paragraph 12 in order to find out the reason why the opening paragraphs of the article referred to the Nation-State Law:

On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu responded with an Instagram post of his own that referred to the “nation-state” law.

“Dear Rotem,” he wrote. “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and only it.”

The BBC’s article goes on to provide background to the story in a section titled, “How did the row start?”

The spat began on Saturday, when Israeli actress and TV presenter Rotem Sela challenged comments made by Culture Minister Miri Regev in a TV interview about the role of Arab parties in the 9 April general election.

Ms Regev repeated a warning by her and Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party that voters should not choose its main rivals because they might form a governing coalition that included Arab MPs.

The BBC did not, however, adequately clarify the highly relevant point that Regev in fact referred to non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Arab parties rather than “Arab MPs.” But the article did go on to amplify claims allegedly made by anonymous “critics”:

Mr Netanyahu’s critics say comments like those made by Ms Regev are part of a bid to court right-wing voters.

The report continued:

At the last election four years ago, Mr Netanyahu apologised after warning that “right-wing rule is in danger” because “the Arabs are voting in droves”.

That link leads to a BBC report from March 2015 relating to a story the corporation had earlier failed to report properly. As the BBC well knows, the part of the quote it has edited out reads, “Left-wing organisations are bringing them in buses,” and continues with a reference to the V15 organization.

Notably, the BBC avoided the topic of that group in all of its coverage of the 2015 Israeli elections. The following year the BBC likewise ignored the findings of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concerning US State Department grants that “were used … to build infrastructure that was subsequently turned into an anti-Netanyahu apparatus for Israel’s 2015 elections, in contravention of State Department practice.”

The BBC report closed with the amplification of unverified claims:

Israeli Arabs, descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained after the State of Israel was created in 1948, have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens.

They say they face discrimination and worse provision than Israeli Jews when it comes to services such as education, health and housing.

By means of omission, the BBC News website has turned a story about an actress and a prime minister posting at cross purposes on social media (as a result of the use of the phrase “a state of all its citizens,” which — crucially — is not explained to readers) into yet another politically-motivated portrayal of Israel as an undemocratic, discriminatory, and racist state.

Hadar Sela is the Managing Editor of BBC Watch – an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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