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Media Analyses

BBC Removes Misinformation on US, Israel, Geneva Convention

As a result of CAMERA's formal complaint to the BBC, the British media giant removed inaccurate information from its Web site about the Geneva Accords and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The BBC's online informational piece, which since 2004 had been featured on the BBC Web site's "In Depth" section under the headline "The Geneva Conventions," included two egregious distortions. It sharply misled readers by concealing the extent of the United States' departure from its Carter-era position on the legality of settlements; and it quoted a passage from an American report's section on the "Palestinian perspective," casting the passage as representing the view held by the author of the report when in fact it was merely describing the Palestinian position.
The Historical US Position on Settlements
The article asserted: "The United States has in the past called the settlements illegal, but has more recently used milder language, at least in public."
This reference to "milder language" was extremely disingenuous. It was during the Carter administration that the US last referred to settlements as illegal. But the president that followed, Ronald Reagan, explicitly and publicly asserted that the settlements are "not illegal." In the Feb. 3, 1981 edition of the New York Times, Reagan noted: "As to the West Bank, I believe the settlements there — I disagreed when the previous Administration referred to them as illegal, they're not illegal."
Reagan's explicit statement that settlements are "not illegal" cannot fairly be described simply as "milder language" than that of previous administrations. It represents nothing less than an overturning of Mr. Carter's position.
The Mitchell Report
The article also stated that 

the Mitchell report into the causes of Palestinian-Israeli violence that began in September 2000 said: "... customary international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibits Israel (as an occupying power) from establishing settlements in occupied territory pending an end to the conflict.

Although the BBC presented the quoted passage as representing the position of the Mitchell Report, the passage is in fact part of a section of the report entitled "Palestinian Perspective," and clearly was not meant to represent the authors' views.
Article Fully Rewritten
In February 2009, CAMERA filed a formal complaint with the BBC. Shortly thereafter, the news organization noted that it would be correcting the misinformation. In December 2009, the article was completely rewritten, without the errors described above.

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