A quarrel between the Prime Minister’s Office and the BBC over the broadcaster’s disinclination to list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is rumbling on, with the PMO’s spokesman sending a second letter demanding the BBC change its Olympics website to explicitly refer to the city as the country’s capital.
“I am afraid that despite your efforts, Israel is still discriminated against on the BBC’s London 2012 Olympics website,” PMO spokesman Mark Regev on Thursday wrote to the station’s Middle East Bureau chief, Paul Danahar. “Unlike all the other countries listed, in Israel’s case, our capital Jerusalem is not classified by the BBC as such but rather as a ‘Seat of government.’ I kindly request that Israel’s capital be identified accurately on your website.”
At first, Israel’s entry on the BBC’s special website dedicated to the Olympics didn’t mention Jerusalem — or any other city — at all. The entry for Palestine, however, listed “East Jerusalem” as capital. On Wednesday, Regev wrote a first letter to Danahar, expressing his dismay over the fact that “every country (and non-country) participating” at the Games has a capital except Israel.
The same day, the PMO also created a Facebook page called “Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel.” (“Following the BBC’s decision to omit Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel from its Olympic Games website, this is your place to support Jerusalem – the one and only Capital of Israel,” it states. As of overnight Saturday, the page had garnered about 9,300 “Likes,” with the numbers rapidly going up.)
The day after the first PMO letter was sent, the BBC changed its entries for both Israel and Palestine: Israel still has no capital, but the site lists Jerusalem as the seat of government — “though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.” The site’s entry for Palestine reads now: “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”
That change did not satisfy the PMO; hence Regev’s second letter with its objection that “Israel is still discriminated against.” However, since Israel’s entry on the BBC’s Olympics site now corresponds to the country’s entry on the regular homepage of BBC News, it may be unlikely that the BBC will again alter its entry on the site for the Olympics.
The BBC is hardly alone in refusing to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital. Even the US State Department insists that the administration’s policy “with regard to Jerusalem is that its status has to be solved through negotiations.” The London-based Guardian newspaper persistently calls Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. Earlier this year, the paper ran a correction after having “wrongly referred to [Jerusalem] as the Israeli capital.”