A time-line on the BBC Web site entitled “A History of Conflict” sheds light on the underpinnings of chronic misinformation and bias about Israel by the network. Many of the same themes that characterize day-to-day coverage are apparent in the skewed background features.
Arab perspectives are amplified and endorsed, Arab violence is downplayed and emphasis is given to supposed Zionist or Israeli culpability. Arab leaders’ violent rejection of coexistence with the Jews in pre-state Palestine and anti-Jewish incitement, both central to the conflict, are almost entirely absent.
One example: The period 1929–1936 is gently titled “Arab Discontent” even though the era in question was one of repeated Arab-launched riots against and killing of Jews, a time that might equally have been termed one of “Jewish Discontent.” A selective compiled list of events tilts toward viewing events as driven by the increase in Jewish immigration – not by Arab spurning of coexistence and compromise. In addition, a key development of the “1920’s” was omitted here – the unilateral British decision to reduce by 80% the Mandate territory designated to a Jewish National home. In a stroke in 1922, Transjordan (later Jordan) was created and a Hashemite chieftain from Mecca enthroned.
The Zionist project of the 1920s and 1930s saw hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrating to British Mandate Palestine, provoking unrest in the Arab community.
In 1922, a British census showed the Jewish population had risen to about 11% of Palestine’s 750,000 inhabitants. More than 300,000 immigrants arrived in the next 15 years.
Zionist-Arab antagonism boiled over into violent clashes in August 1929 when 133 Jews were killed by Palestinians and 110 Palestinians died at the hands of the British police.
Arab discontent again exploded into widespread civil disobedience during a general strike in 1936. By this time, the militant Zionist group Irgun Zvai Leumi was orchestrating attacks on Palestinian and British targets with the aim of “liberating” Palestine and Transjordan (modern-day Jordan) by force.
Only the “militant Zionist group Irgun Zvai Leum” is identified specifically as “orchestrating” violence. Yet the primary orchestrator of decades of bloodshed, the longtime Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini is entirely omitted. Historian John Marlowe has said of him: “The dominant figure in Palestine during the Mandate years was neither an Englishman, nor a Jew, but an Arab — Haj Amin Muhammed Effendi al Husaini…”
Anti-Jewish violence in 1920-1921 – which is omitted from the time-line – and the so-called “Zionist-Arab antagonism” of 1929 were both spawned by Husseini. To suggest, as BBC does, that the 1929 riots were an expression of mutual “antagonism” that “boiled over” is a blatant obscuring of one-sided Arab aggression.
The same obfuscation applies to the outlandish characterization of the outbreak of violence beginning in 1936 as simply “widespread civil disobedience” and “a general strike.” British historian Martin Gilbert describes the Arab campaign this way:
On 15 April 1936 the Arab (sic) began a General Strike followed by systematic attacks on Jewish lives, property and fields. On 7 May the Arab leaders met in Jerusalem, and demanded an end to all Jewish immigration, a halt to all Jewish land purchase, and an Arab majority Government… On 13 May the Mufti of Jerusalem declared at Haifa: ‘The Jews are trying to expel us from the country. They are murdering our sons and burning our houses.’ Within a month of the first Jewish death, 21 Jews had been killed, and many farms and orchards burned by Arab action. 6 Arabs had been killed by the police, none by Jews.
From mid-July, Arab attacks on Jews increased. Many Jews were ambushed and killed while driving, , unarmed, on the roads. Between 20 July and 22 September, 33 Jews were killed, and several hundred injured… In all 80 Jews had been killed. (Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, pp. 18, 21)
The remainder of the “Arab Discontent” section touches on the Peel Commission.
In July 1937, Britain, in a Royal Commission headed by former Secretary of State for India, Lord Peel, recommended partitioning the land into a Jewish state (about a third of British Mandate Palestine, including Galilee and the coastal plain) and an Arab one.
Palestinian and Arab representatives rejected this and demanded an end to immigration and the safeguarding of a single unified state with protection of minority rights. Violent opposition continued until 1938 when it was crushed with reinforcements from the UK.
Omitted in this same period is mention of the Nazi involvement of Haj Amin al-Husseini. From the rise of Hitler in 1933, Husseini had been an admirer of the German leader, making contact with the German consul in Palestine. He fled Palestine and moved to Berlin during the war where he worked aggressively on behalf of the Nazis, broadcast radio exhortations to fellow Muslims, urging they join the war against the Allies. He recruited six thousand Muslims eventually organized into a Waffen SS unit that helped in the campaign to destroy Yugoslav Jews. A deputy of Adolf Eichmann’s, Dieter Wisliceny said Husseini even
played a role in the decision to exterminate the European Jews. The importance of this role must not be disregarded…the Mufti repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with whom he was maintianing contac, above all to Hitler, Ribbentrop, and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewiry. He considered this an appropriate solution to the Palestinian problem. (The Mufti and the Fuherer: The Rise and Fall of Haj Amin el-Husseini, by J.B. Schechtman pp. 159-160)