On 3 March 2009, the BBC Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) ruled that the BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen had violated BBC guidelines calling for accuracy and impartiality in a piece on the effects of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In its 'inside look' at the investigation, the media watchdog CAMERA noted Bowen's silence on the thousands of Jewish refugees exiled from Arab countries after the 1967 war. Bowen justified his mention of Palestinian and 'internally displaced' Syrian refugees because they were a 'political issue', while Jewish refugees were not. (Pardon my ignorance, but I thought a BBC reporter's job was to report the facts, not to attach value judgments). Regrettably the adjudicating committee did not find Bowen's assertion on refugees had violated its guidelines.
From the CAMERA report:
"Regarding CAMERA's point that Bowen mentioned Palestinian and Syrian refugees but ignored the Jewish refugees from 1967, the ECU (Editorial Complaints Unit) stated that, "in an article about the consequences of 1967, it seems reasonable to me to concentrate on the Palestinians."
... it seems to me that [Jewish refugees] have not given rise to the kind of major political problems that the Palestinian refugees have raised, specifically their claim of a right of return to homes now within the State of Israel. Looking at the text of the "Road Map", there is some discussion of "refugees", but none of it refers to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
"It is telling that the ECU views it as "reasonable" to focus on how 1967 affected Palestinians and not the war's effect on Israelis and Jews. That aside, Jews expelled from their countries in 1967 are certainly no less of a political issue than than the Syrians from the Golan Heights who were internally displaced that year; yet Bowen saw it fit to mention these Syrians while ignoring the Jewish refugees.
"The ECU's assertion that the "road map" peace plan does not mention Jews is true, but extremely misleading. The peace plan does not explicitly mention Palestinian refugees either. It refers only to "refugees" in general.
Palestinian, Syrian and Jewish Refugees: Bowen told the adviser that his article did not mention Jewish refugees along with Syrian and Palestinian refugees because he felt the Palestinians, and not the Jews, are a political issue:
Jewish refugees from the Arab world have made homes in a strong and prosperous state. There may one day be the matter of compensation for them as part of an overall settlement, but they are not a political issue. The Palestinian refugees are a political issue because they live in limbo, usually in very bad conditions. Look at Gaza. Most of its population of 1.4 million are Palestinian refugees.
"Bowen's reference to refugees in Gaza is strange. Most Palestinians escaping the fighting in 1967 fled from the West Bank, where they had lived as Jordanian citizens under Jordanian rule, to the "East Bank" of Jordan proper, where they remained Jordanian citizens under Jordanian rule. Refugees in Gaza, on the other hand, are almost exlusively from the 1948 war.
"Moreover, Bowen's explanation did not address why he felt it was appropriate to mention the Syrian internally displaced. But even though Bowen said nothing about the Syrians here, it seems that he nonetheless led the adviser to wrongly believe the Syrian displaced of 1967 constitute some sort of "political stumbling block." The adviser summarized the section on refugees as follows:
The ESC will want to assess whether the article mentioning only Palestinian and Syrian refugees because it is those that have been the political stumbling block - not any Jewish refugees either then or now – is duly impartial in the context of a piece looking at the problems resulting from the six day war. And to ask if is fair that this sentence is cast as it is in spite of the "many thousands of Jews expelled from Arab countries as a result of the 1967 war" that Mr Ini mentions.
"(The BBC Trust, following the adviser's framing, would later rule that Bowen's assertion on refugees did not violate the accuracy guideline.)"
Read CAMERA report in full