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The BBC’s insistence on referring to the whole of Jerusalem as an Israeli city, despite the position of international law, is being challenged in the office of the Information Commissioner by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al Aqsa.

The two organisations have today submitted a request to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) asking that it investigates the BBC’s decision to consider Jerusalem, in its entirety, to be Israeli.

The BBC’s decision was outlined in an email sent to Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in May last year by the BBC Trust. The email made clear that the BBC did not consider it was in breach of its editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality by referring to Jerusalem as an Israeli city.

This is despite the fact that East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied Palestinian territory by the UN and the international community, including the UK government. West Jerusalem is considered to be under de facto Israeli control only, but not under Israeli sovereignty.

The Trust defended its decision on the basis of a finding by the BBC’s Senior Editorial Strategy Advisor, Leanne Buckle. The Trust wrote: “The advisor acknowledged that Israel’s sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem was not recognized under international law.”

However, it ruled that the BBC could continue referring to Jerusalem as an Israeli city because: “She [Buckle] considered that Israel had de facto control over the entire city in a political, administrative and military sense. She also noted that Jerusalem was administered as a single entity by the Jerusalem municipal authority which made no distinction between East and West.”

PSC and Friends of Al Aqsa originally made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the BBC, asking it to release information relating to Buckle’s decision-making process. The request was rejected by the BBC, resulting in today’s appeal at a higher level, to the Information Commissioner.

Sarah Colborne, Director of PSC, said: “PSC has come across many instances where the BBC, in its reporting, calls Jerusalem an Israeli city, including on its online country profiles page for Israel.

“Such a reference is not only inaccurate and misleading, but it also plays straight into Israeli propaganda which wants journalists to accept that Jerusalem belongs to Israel and then convey this lie to their audiences.”

Ms Colborne added: “We’re baffled as to why the BBC is going to so much trouble to convey Israel’s agenda on Jerusalem to its audiences, and totally discounting the position of international law which quite clearly states that Jerusalem is not Israeli.

“To make reference to either East or West Jerusalem would be so easy, and would result in accurate journalism. However, the BBC seems to be more concerned with portraying the Israeli line on the status of Jerusalem, at the expense of accuracy and impartiality, and we want to find out why.”

The FoI request and appeal to the ICO is also supported by CorporateRegister.com