In considering a formal complaint by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the BBC over its description of Jerusalem as an 'Israeli city', the BBC Trust has accepted the assessment of BBC Senior Editorial Strategy Advisor, Leanne Buckle:
“The advisor [Buckle] acknowledged that Israel’s sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem was not recognized under international law. However, she considered that Israel had de facto control over the entire city in a political, administrative and military sense. She also noted that Jerusalem was administered as a single entity by the Jerusalem municipal authority which made no distinction between East and West.”This, presumably, as the PSC point out, is the BBC's acceptance of Israel's 'facts on the ground'.
Yet, beyond the realm of blatant Israeli propaganda, the actual facts could not be clearer. For the purposes of simple clarification:
Ground fact 1. East Jerusalem was invaded and illegally occupied by Israel during the 1967 war. Illegally annexed, thereafter, by a non-recognised Israeli law in 1980, it is still designated Occupied Palestinian Territory by the UN. As stated at Wiki:
"The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) does not recognise Israel's proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is, for example, reflected in the wording of General Assembly Resolution 63/30 of 2009 which states that "any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures." A total of six UN Security Council resolutions on Israel have denounced or declared invalid Israel's control of the city, including UNSC resolution 478 which affirmed that the enactment of the 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law declaring unified Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal and indivisible" capital, was a violation of international law. The resolution advised member states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city. The UN including the Security Council have consistently affirmed its position that East Jerusalem is occupied territory subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory opinion on the "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" described East Jerusalem as "occupied Palestinian territory."Ground fact 2. Almost every international state, including the US and UK, recognise the illegally occupied status of East Jerusalem. Most states also follow the UN recommendation that Jerusalem be "placed under a special international regime, a corpus separatum."
Ground fact 3. Guided by this international understanding, no state has its embassy in West Jerusalem, or any other part of Jerusalem - most are in Tel Aviv.
Ground fact 4. If de facto control of an area is due to an illegal occupation, the name of that controlling/occupying state does not apply to the controlled/occupied area - otherwise, Area C in the West Bank (controlled/occupied "in a political, administrative and military sense" by Israel) would also be called Israel.
On every unequivocal reading of international law, and by any other logical criteria, the whole of Jerusalem cannot be termed part of Israel.
And yet, despite all these legal precedents and protocols, the BBC, like some defiant contortionist, has wriggled free from the facts, emerging shamelessly with this key ruling.
The arrival at such a tortuous position despite all rational evidence to the contrary suggests a body prepared to subvert even its own admission of international legality in order to placate Israel.
The Trust, in effect, acknowledge the inviolability of international law (almost impossible to ignore - even if Israel itself manages to do so) but selectively choose lesser-standing 'administrative' factors on which to base their judgement.
There's no conspiracy at play here. No 'Zionist plot'. The process works, much more routinely, as with other standard forms of establishment protectionism, through safe understandings and dependable placements; having 'right and responsible' people in adjudicating positions, much like US presidents have preferred Supreme Court judges.
The same applies at the BBC, from its lead executives, including self-declared Israeli-supporting Director of News James Harding, to Trust advisers like Buckle, from its director of complaints to its delegated complaint handlers, from its dutiful presenters to its conditioned correspondents.
Even where certain rulings and coverage may not be entirely to Israel's and its Western allies' liking (almost inevitable given the scale of Israeli crimes and violations), the generality of editorial policy, daily reportage and 'critical' tone remains faithful to the essential legality and legitimacy of Israel as a 'rightful, democratic state'.
Indeed, any such 'critical admissions', usually laced with mitigating excuses and protections, help reinforce the BBC's pursued and coveted image of neutrality and obejectivity.
But on all main judgement calls, the BBC, as an integral part of the British state, upholds the best interests of Israel.
As with its executive refusal of the DEC Appeal for Gaza during Israel's brutal assault in 2008/9, the BBC latest Trust ruling over Jerusalem signifies a last vital line of defence. A similar executive lifeboat intervention was required to rationalise the BBC's purging of the recent docu-film Jerusalem: an Archaeological Mystery Story.
Thus, while low-level criticism of Israel may occasionally prevail, any key problem with its vital status will ultimately be checked and blocked by a reliable hierarchy of executive edicts and Trust committees.
Conspiring phone calls don't need to be made, managers and editors don't have to collude, top directors aren't required to exchange mutual nods with ministers. The protective imperative is always simply understood.
Alongside Israel, the BBC will, of course, dispute this.