The BBC puts U.S. corporate and public media to shame, violating taboos on Israel. On "BBC World News America" last night, host Matt Frei asked Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen point-blank about the Israeli government's announcement yesterday (news ignored by other outlets) of "another settlement in the heart of East Jerusalem." Frei even emphasized the gall of the new grab as Netanyahu met privately with President Obama: "Talk about timing, there was news today"--of Israel's new seizures of Palestinian land.
Bowen confirmed: just as Netanyahu rode "in his official limousine heading for the White House for his long-sought-after meeting with President Obama," Israel pronounced final approval for more Jewish-only apartments in Sheikh Jarrah, which Frei called "the heart of" the old city of East Jerusalem. "Jewish-only"; when do we hear such a refrain in the U.S. about the aim of Israeli encroachment onto areas belonging to Palestinians?
Bowen posited that though the new building is "small"--20 flats--, its location "not in the big Jewish settlements," but in the "built-up, old [Palestinian] part" makes the announcement "potentially very sensitive indeed." ["Haaretz" confirms the BBC report on the new Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land.]
"The theme that runs through" the twin stories about Israel today, said Frei, "is that the Israelis have a law unto themselves--or think they do--when it comes to certain issues."
Bowen agreed: "They have a "feeling of impunity about certain issues... because of diplomatic cover" given them by the U.S.
Frei asked whether that cover might have been weakened by Israel's recent actions.
Bowen answered that "When you look at Mr. Netanyahu's diplomatic agenda, he's presiding over deteriorating relations with two very important allies, the Americans and the British." And Bowen picked up General David Petraeus's testimony that Israeli intransigence endangers U.S. interests.
Netanyahu is merely repeating offenses committed last time he was P.M. Recent diplomatic crises must feel like "deja vu" for Netanyahu, Bowen said--or, rather, for us-- because Netanyahu then, too, angered the US by building in East Jerusalem and caused a scandal with an assassination attempt carried out using forged Canadian passports. The diplomatic uproar eventually led to Netanyahu's massive electoral defeat.
BBC coverage betters that of the dominant U.S. news sources. But why does no one even raise an eyebrow over Netanyahu's pretext for Israeli theft--that Jews were "building 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem"?
The millennial excuse--called into question by Shlomo Sand, who has demonstrated that Netanyahu's ancestors were most likely in Eastern Europe--is a new claim for the Israeli government to shovel. For decades, Israeli governments fostered the Western delusion that after a peace deal, Israel would return their '67 booty to the Palestinians.
Owen Bennett-Jones did at least confront West Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat yesterday on "The BBC Newshour" over Barkat's assertion that 2000 years of Jewish longing for Jerusalem justifies turning out the current Palestinian owners. Bennett-Jones incredulously asked: "If everyone went back to where we were 2000 years ago, it would be a crazy world, there would be wars everywhere." Barkat evaded.
Bennett-Jones asked Barkat how many countries recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by lodging their embassies there. Barkat fudged, saying "it was a bit of an insulting question," before repeating his contention that Biblical identification of Jews with Jerusalem justifies modern possession.
But "International Law doesn't agree with" Israeli ownership of East Jerusalem, Bennett-Jones persisted. Barkat begged the question by changing all the terms, announcing that even "settlements"--the former euphemism for "illegal colonies"--is now a proscribed term. No, stolen areas are simply "Jewish neighborhoods."
Israeli "annexation" and "occupation" are out: Israel is "re-uniting Jerusalem." Orwell's prophecies live.