The mangling of truth when reporting the Middle East

Following the publication here in early September of a new SBS news directive that told journalists not to use the term “Palestinian land” to, er, describe Palestinian land, today’s Australian newspaper has some responses:

Tzvi Fleischer, editor of Australia/Israel Review, which is put out by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, backed SBS’s position.
“It’s sensible where we have a dispute about territory that reports should reflect there’s a dispute and use language that makes that clear without adjudicating that one side or the other is in the right,” he said.
But Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the ruling showed “a lamentable ignorance of the facts and … should be rescinded forthwith”.
“No reputable expert in international law, international relations or my own field of peace and conflict studies would dispute that the land in question is Palestinian,” he said.
“One of the main points of this story is that the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank are Palestinian, and SBS journalists must be allowed to explain that, or viewers and listeners risk being misled and confused.”
Professor Lynch said the BBC Board of Governors had reached the opposite conclusion to SBS when considering the question in 2004 after a complainant objected to references in its broadcasts to “Palestinian land” and “Arab land”. The BBC said in its ruling that “these terms appropriately reflected the language of UN resolutions”.
Professor Lynch and lobby group Australians for Palestine have complained to SBS about the ombudsman’s ruling.
An SBS spokeswoman said no one would comment further.
“SBS does not make public comments on internal editorial decisions which are made from time to time for a variety of reasons,” she said.

Tzvi Fleischer, editor of Australia/Israel Review, which is put out by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, backed SBS’s position.

“It’s sensible where we have a dispute about territory that reports should reflect there’s a dispute and use language that makes that clear without adjudicating that one side or the other is in the right,” he said.

But Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the ruling showed “a lamentable ignorance of the facts and … should be rescinded forthwith”.

“No reputable expert in international law, international relations or my own field of peace and conflict studies would dispute that the land in question is Palestinian,” he said.

“One of the main points of this story is that the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank are Palestinian, and SBS journalists must be allowed to explain that, or viewers and listeners risk being misled and confused.”

Professor Lynch said the BBC Board of Governors had reached the opposite conclusion to SBS when considering the question in 2004 after a complainant objected to references in its broadcasts to “Palestinian land” and “Arab land”. The BBC said in its ruling that “these terms appropriately reflected the language of UN resolutions”.

Professor Lynch and lobby group Australians for Palestine have complained to SBS about the ombudsman’s ruling.

An SBS spokeswoman said no one would comment further.

“SBS does not make public comments on internal editorial decisions which are made from time to time for a variety of reasons,” she said.