Daily Israel Report

BBC Rejects Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

The BBC issued an apology this week for having referred to Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel in one of its broadcasts.
By Ze'ev Orenstein
First Publish: 6/15/2007, 10:50 AM

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) issued an apology this week for having referred to Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel in one of its broadcasts. The apology came in response to complaints by four Muslim-British organizations: Arab Media Watch, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Friends of Al-Aksa and the Institute of Islamic Political Thought.

The reference to Jerusalem that drew the complaints occurred on March 24th, when a presenter on BBC’s Football Focus program mentioned that Jerusalem was, in fact, the capital of Israel, as well as her “historic soul."

The BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit issued an official response to the complaint, stating, "The reference was a passing one in a context where the focus was on sport, not politics. While recognizing the sensitivity of the issue of the status of Jerusalem, the ECU took the view that the program-makers had taken sufficient action by acknowledging the error and rectifying the website."

The BBC took an additional step in their efforts to appease the four Muslim-British organizations that issued the complaints. Fraser Steel, head of editorial complaints at the BBC, sent each organization a letter in which he stated: "We, of course, accept that the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and that the BBC should not describe it as such. I was therefore pleased to see that Katherine Tsang [BBC Information adviser], when she wrote to you in April, acknowledged the error and apologized for it. [Presenter] Steve Boulton and other senior managers in BBC Sport told us they very much regret the mistake and apologize for it."

"Senior managers will try to ensure, as you suggest, that the mistake is not repeated. Because it appears on the website, there will be a public acknowledgement of the error, and the action taken in consequence."

Steel added: "I'd like to add my apologies for this most regrettable, but I'm sure accidental, factual mistake. I appreciate that the status of Jerusalem is of particular concern to Palestinians, and it is important that it is not misrepresented. I am confident that lessons have already been learned, and they will be emphasized as a result of my decision."

The apology over the reference to Jerusalem being the capital of the Israel is, in fact, consistent with BBC policy. Under the heading, 'Israel and the Palestinians: Key Terms', the BBC outlines its official position towards Jerusalem: "The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its status is dependent on a final agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Between 1949 and 1967, the city was divided into Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem, and Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem. Israel currently claims sovereignty over the entire city, and claims it as its capital, after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war. That claim is not recognized internationally and East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied territory."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in response: "Jerusalem is Israel's capital. It is the right of every sovereign state to determine which city will be its capital. If this is not accepted by everyone today, I am confident it will be in the future."

Azzam Tamimi leads the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, one of Muslim-British organizations that complained. In 2004, in an interview with the BBC, Tamimi, a Hamas supporter and a member of the Muslim Association of Britain, expressed his desire to become a suicide bomber. In the same interview, Tamimi rejected Israel’s right to exist.

Addressing their success in pressuring the BBC to issue an apology for the Jerusalem reference, the website of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee exclaimed, “Victory to the Intifada!”

Visa Credit Card Company Rejects Israel’s Claim to Jerusalem
The BBC is not the only one who has recently called into question the status of Jerusalem serving as the capital of the State of Israel.

Recently, a Visa credit card customer noticed that his bill listed items he bought in Jerusalem’s Old City as purchases made outside the country of Israel.

The customer, whom the Hebrew newspaper Ma'ariv identified as "A," said the credit card company told him that according to its list, the store in the Old City is located in "Palestine" and not in Israel.

A company executive stated, "The firm has no control over definitions in Visa's international system."

Jerusalem No Longer Home to World’s Embassies
Late in 2006, both Costa Rica and El Salvador relocated their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The move was considered significant, as, with the move, there are no longer any countries whose official embassies are located in the nation’s capital.

Traditionally, an embassy is located in the capital city of the host country.

On October 23, 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act into United States law. The Jerusalem Embassy Act states, “Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital. Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel… Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.

However, within the Jerusalem Embassy Act there is a provision that enables the President of the United States to issue a presidential waiver, delaying the move of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “if he determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

Since the passing of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, each U.S. President, Bill Clinton and George Bush has taken advantage of this provision every six months.

Despite failing to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act, United States President George Bush stated that, “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”