If you go to the BBC’s website to read about the countries participating in the upcoming London Olympics, you’ll get some interesting information on Israel and Palestine. According to the BBC sports page’s profile on Israel, it simply has no capital, whereas Palestine does have one, in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry is of course up in arms. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Foreign Press Adviser and Spokesperson Mark Regev sent a letter to BBC’s Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar yesterday, expressing his “dismay” at the British network’s “discriminatory” behavior:
While Israel declares Jerusalem to be the “undivided capital of Israel,” the United States and the rest of the world do not recognize it as such, due to the capture and annexation of Palestinian land to the east, north and south of West Jerusalem, following the Six-Day War in 1967. This area has since expanded greatly through extensive settlement east of the Green Line and is referred to by the Israeli government as the Greater Jerusalem area. However to Palestinians and the rest of the world it is occupied territory, and anyone who is familiar with the city is well aware that it is not “undivided” or cohesive in any way – but rather severely divided by walls, barriers, checkpoints, and countless social and economic gaps and inequalities. However, according to all the proposed solutions brought to the table of the so-called “peace process” in the last 30 years, there should be two states for two peoples with a capital of Palestine in East Jerusalem and a capital of Israel in West Jerusalem.
The BBC’s choice raises some interesting questions: Does it make sense for a news site to independently recognize Palestine as a state and declare East Jerusalem as its capital, when the UN and the rest of the world has yet to do so – and when the Palestinians de facto have zero say or sovereignty over what goes on in their “capital?” And does the BBC refusal to list West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital mean it does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in 1948 lands either?
And what are the implications for how media outlets operate? Does that mean sites have the prerogative to recognize any entity they want as a country and proclaim its capital? According to what standards should news sites adhere to when it comes to disputed territories – the facts on the ground, or their vision for the future?
UPDATE: The BBC updated their page just hours after the post was published – under Israel it now says: “Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.” h/t to commenters Yallah and Philos
UPDATE 2: Following the BBC correction, Mark Regev wrote another letter, insisting that “Seat of government” is still discrimination against Israel.
I think Mark Regev should spend more of his time worrying about the discrimination his government inflicts daily on nearly 40% of the “capital’s” population, the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who are systematically disenfranchised.
As for the issue of international recognition, as commenter Aaron correctly pointed out, Jerusalem was never internationally recognized as Israel’s capital – not even West Jerusalem – since the establishment of the state and recognition of the 1949 armistice lines as the country’s borders. However, what I meant is that most of the world would be willing to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a future resolution in which the Palestinians could make East Jerusalem their capital (although I’m not sure how this would de facto take place considering all the “neighborhoods” built by Israel in East Jerusalem for the last 4 decades).