Tuesday 25 February 2014

Chickens, eggs and the BBC

“The unofficial camp was set up as a home for refugees who left or were forced from their original homes because of the 1948 war that followed the creation of Israel.”
This was the subject of a BBCWatch piece pointing out that the original wording in a BBC web article by Yousef Shomali and Yolande Knell had been corrected as a result of a listener’s complaint. Before the correction the wording incorrectly stated: “the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel”. I think that egg laid a chicken. 

However, there is, at least, some background in that piece, which does say that before the current crisis the Yarmouk refugees had been comparatively well integrated into Syrian society, for what that’s worth. Here’s the relevant passage:
Over time, it grew into a busy residential and commercial district of the Syrian capital where about 150,000 Palestinians lived alongside Syrians.
Although the Syrian authorities did not give citizenship to refugees, they had full access to employment and social services. Many say they had relatively good lives compared to their counterparts in other Arab countries.
But after the civil war began three years ago, Yarmouk got caught up in the violence.
Armed rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad moved into the camp and found support among some Palestinian groups.
While tens of thousands of Palestinians fled, about 18,000 were trapped inside.
After months of negotiations, a deal was struck at the end of last year between the Syrian authorities and Palestinian representatives to allow food to be delivered to the camp.
A committee made up of the different Palestinian factions in Yarmouk approached local rebels.
The first food supplies were allowed in on 18 January and some people were allowed to leave for humanitarian reasons, via the safer exit to the north of the camp, into a government-controlled area.
"We were trying to get food and medicines in and help bring out those who are ill, pregnant ladies and university students," says minister, Ahmed Majdalani who led a Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) delegation from the West Bank to Damascus.
"To be honest, the Syrian government was in full co-operation with us and there was also help from the armed groups."
So throughout the BBC’s reporting of the worsening conditions in Syria, particularly in the distressing reports from Lyse Doucet, given that the BBC has a habit of blaming Israel for all the woes of the world, there had been surprisingly little direct blame attributed to Israel, save the arguably necessary/legitimate description of Yarmouk as a “Palestinian” refugee camp.

Harrowing reports

But it had to happen sooner or later. In this morning’s Today programme (8:30 am) Lyse Doucet gave another of her harrowing reports from Yarmouk. Lyse Doucet had clearly alluded to other communities suffering similar hardship and virtual imprisonment in Syria, (transcript of relevant passage below:)
Naughtie: 20,000 people there. What’s the story of the siege? Why has the siege never broken?
Doucet: Jim, starving the people at a time of war is a war crime. So in the Syrian conflict food is a weapon of war. It’s used by all sides. Yarmouk is just one tragic snapshot. across Syria about a quarter of a million Syrians are living in conditions like that.
Who's a Naughtie boy?

Nevertheless, James Naughtie had to make a point of reminding listeners that these refugees were driven out of Israel in 1948, as though - if it weren’t for the Zionists, the ‘Palestinians’ who had been living a “relatively good life in Syria” wouldn’t be starving and under siege.   (Of course according to the BBC the Palestinians in Gaza and the WB are also ‘under siege’) and we don’t even need to go into the status of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, i.e. denied citizenship etc. 

Since he was on the subject, mightn’t Naughtie have also reminded us that the reason Palestinians fled was something to do with a war waged by Arabs who intended to destroy Israel as soon as it was ‘born’?

James Naughtie said: “And, of course they’ve been refugees for some time before this awful conflict began.”
“Yes, some of them have said “This is not our war. “ answered Lyse. “Yarmouk was set up in the aftermath of the 1848 Arab-Israeli war which led to the establishment of the state of Israel.” 

Someone tell her please, that the Arab-Israel war did NOT LEAD to the establishment of Israel. 
“They fled there. It came over the decades the most thriving Palestinian community, a camp which was indistinguishable from the towns which grew up around it. Now it is doubly cursed because it is part of this war. palestinian factions are part of this  war as well, but you could feel the strain of the suffering, as all Syrians are suffering too.  There used to be about 180,000 people living in Yarmouk on the southern edge of Damascus. Now it’s estimated that there are about 20,000 and I can imagine so many people want to get out. [...] but they want to go back in. They say they have no other home.”
So, was it really necessary to remind the listeners in that half-a-story fashion, that Israel is responsible for everything bad that happens to the Palestinians, now and forever?

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