BBC defends its refusal to list Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel in Olympic Coverage

The British Broadcasting Corporation is coming under fire on Monday from Israel’s Prime Minister and Olympic athletes after the organization refused to list Jerusalem as the nation’s capital but noted that East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian territories.

Mediaite  The BBC corrected their original entry, but still do not list Israel’s “capital” as Jerusalem. In a statement provided to Mediaite, the BBC has issued a defense of their updated Olympic facts page for Israel and affirmed their position as an unbiased news organization.

In mid July, several Israeli media outlets noted that the BBC had refused to list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in their coverage of the Olympics. Jerusalem, where the nation’s Knesset operates, was not listed as the nation’s capital.

Since 1950, Israel’s formal capital has been the city of Jerusalem. Other news organizations covering the Olympics, such as NBC, have unequivocally listed Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.

Until several days ago, BBC listed the capital of Palestine as East Jerusalem despite the fact that Palestine is not a formally recognized nation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman issued a stern statement expressing his government’s dissatisfaction with the BBC and saying that he was “dismayed” by the broadcaster’s decision not to list Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.

“Every country [and noncountry] participating in the London 2012 games has been given a page on your website with background information about the country, including mention of the capital city. Every country [and non-country], except Israel,” wrote Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev. “Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, and accordingly we respectfully request the immediate rectification of this matter.”

Both the Palestinian and Israeli entries on the BBC’s website now have been amended. Palestine’s entry lists Ramallah as the “administrative capital.” Jerusalem is now listed as Israel’s “seat of government” with the caveat that most foreign nations locate their embassies in the city of Tel Aviv.

Regev said that the change was not satisfactory and again requested that “Israel’s capital be identified accurately on [The BBC’s] website.”

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the BBC has a history of sensitivity towards the dispute over Jerusalem’s official status. In 2007, after referring to the city as Israel’s capital, BBC offered a retraction and apology to Palestine for their “factual mistake.”

A BBC spokesperson told Mediaite that the BBC maintains its impartiality and the correction that the BBC made to both Israel’s and Palestine’s pages is sufficient.

INN  Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday issued a response to a decision by the BBC not to refer to Jerusalem on its 2012 Summer Olympics’ web site as the capital of Israel. The web site says that Jerusalem is Israel’s “seat of government…though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

Barkat issued a statement protesting the BBC’s decision, saying that “throughout the history of Jerusalem, with over a dozen conquerors, only the Jewish people have called the Holy City of Jerusalem our capital. Jerusalem today, under Israeli sovereignty, has returned to the role it played 2000-3000 years ago. There is unprecedented freedom of movement and religion and the world is welcome and encouraged to enjoy the beauty and majesty of Jerusalem. We will not accept those who deny our history, our sovereignty, and our right to determine our own capital. Irrespective of the BBC’s political agenda, Jerusalem was, is, and will always be the capital of Israel and the spiritual, political, and physical center of the Jewish people.”