BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – the follow up report

On November 19th the BBC News website published an article titled “Jerusalem attack: Synagogue reopens for worshippers“. Like previous BBC coverage of the terror attack in Har Nof the day before (see here), this article too provides readers with a variety of supposed ‘reasons’ for the recent surge in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem and elsewhere, several of which were also to be found in Yolande Knell’s ‘backgrounder’ of November 7th.Pigua Har Nof follow up art

  1. ‘Settlements’

“The advancement of plans in recent months for new settlement homes on land annexed to the city has angered Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.”

  1. A “cycle of violence” and the summer conflict.

“Jerusalem has experienced months of violence since a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death in July in a suspected reprisal attack by Jewish extremists for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank in June.

The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence, leading to a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip that claimed more than 2,000 lives.”

  1. A supposed “dispute” over Temple Mount.

“Tensions in Jerusalem have recently been heightened by a dispute over a compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism. The compound is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging a longstanding ban on Jews praying at the compound. Last month, a prominent Jewish activist was shot and wounded by a Palestinian gunman.”

Once again we see the BBC promoting the inaccurate notion of a “dispute” over Temple Mount despite the fact that the Israeli government has stated clearly and repeatedly that it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. We also see once again BBC promotion of the inaccurate claim that the campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims at Temple Mount is an “Orthodox” issue.

Notably, the issue of Palestinian incitement is once again absent from this report.  

The article includes a graphic (also used in additional reports) which shows what it inaccurately describes as the “pre-1967 boundary” in Jerusalem.

Pigua HAr Nof follow up art graphic

That line is of course the 1949 Armistice Line which was never intended to be a “boundary” – as specified in the Armistice Agreement itself.

“Article II
With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

  1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;
  2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

Another notable feature of this article comes in the following paragraph:

“Before dawn on Wednesday, Israeli troops demolished the home of a Palestinian who killed a baby and a woman last month by ramming a car into a Jerusalem tram stop. The man, Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi, was from Silwan, an area of occupied Arab East Jerusalem.”

With regard to the use of the phrase “Arab East Jerusalem”, the BBC’s style guide instructs as follows:

“BBC journalists should seek out words that factually describe the reality on the ground and which are not politically loaded. Avoid saying East Jerusalem ‘is part’ of Israel or suggesting anything like it. Avoid the phrase ‘Arab East Jerusalem’, too, unless you also have space to explain that Israel has annexed the area and claims it as part of its capital (East Jerusalem is sometimes referred as Arab East Jerusalem, partly because it was under Jordanian control between 1949 and 1967). Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of Palestine.”  

Curiously, the BBC apparently believes that Jordan’s 19-year belligerent occupation and subsequent annexation of parts of the city of Jerusalem (unrecognized by the international community) justifies the description of those areas of the city – including neighbourhoods from which Jews were expelled – as “Arab East Jerusalem”. Even more bizarre is the BBC’s apparent belief that such terminology is not “politically loaded” and hence meets its guidelines. 

BBC Radio 4 history programme misleads on Hebron massacre

The November 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 history programme ‘Spin the Globe’ focused on the year 1929, with part of the broadcast – presented by historian Michael Scott – relating to that year’s Arab riots in what was then mandate Palestine. The programme’s synopsis states:Spin the Globe 18 11

 “…in Palestine, there was an outbreak of rioting between the Muslim and Jewish population.”

The relevant segment can be found from 14:40 here.

Scott’s introduction to the item misleadingly leads listeners to believe that efforts to establish a Palestinian state were underway in 1929.

“…in Palestine, 1929 was the year in which the ongoing dispute over the establishment of a Jewish and Palestinian state escalated to new heights of conflict, as Dr Eugene Rogan of Oxford University explains.”

Rogan: “Well the events of 1929 really demonstrated the way in which religion could come to take nationalist overtones. If you look at the origins of the massacres that took place in both Jerusalem and Hebron in 1929, we have to go back to a series of seemingly benign incidents that took place in the summer of 1928 when Jewish worshippers raised a screen to separate male and female worshippers at the side of the Western – or Wailing – Wall. This was for Jewish worshippers a way to create a more conducive environment for men and women to come together to pray. But for Arab onlookers it seemed as though the Jews were trying to create an open-air synagogue at the Western Wall that they feared could be a prelude to claiming the Western Wall as a sort of privileged area for the Jews. It is a retaining wall of the Haram complex – the area of great religious importance to Muslims in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque are both part of this Haram complex that overlooks the Western Wall so whatever happens to the Western Wall really proved to be a flash point to Muslim sensitivities as well.”

Notably, no effort is made to inform listeners of the very relevant issue of the significance of the Western Wall to Jews or of the fact that the Haram complex is also called Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism – or why that site is so important to Jewish culture and religion. The BBC’s style guide, however, clearly instructs that both terms should be used.

“Temple Mount - both words capped. Note that the area in Jerusalem that translates from Hebrew as the Temple Mount should also be described, though not necessarily in the first four pars, as known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (ie lower case ‘al’, followed by a hyphen – and never ‘the al-Haram al-Sharif’, which is tautological). The Arabic translates as the Noble Sanctuary.”

Rogan continues:

“And here I think British handling of the Jewish screen at the Western Wall was very clumsy. The British responded with much too much force, created tensions in the Jewish community, provoked an Arab hostility that then led to fights and really between 1928 and 1929 a deepening of tensions between Muslims and Jews over religious sites of importance to both communities. And they blow up in the summer of 1929 when those tensions go from being a matter of fist fights to becoming really massacres.”

Scott: “Around 130 Jews and 115 Arabs lost their lives in a week of fighting in several cities across Palestine with many more people injured. But there were some stories of individual kindness that provided a relief from the bloodshed.”

In fact – contrary to the impression of equivalence created by Scott – most of the Arab dead were killed by British police trying to stop the attacks rather than in “fighting” between Jews and Arabs.

The item then returns to Eugene Rogan, who revealingly describes Hebron’s Arab community as “indigenous” whilst the Sephardi Jewish families who had lived there for centuries are afforded no such title.

Rogan: “It is in Hebron where I think the indigenous Arab community’s response was most humanitarian. The total population of Hebron was about twenty thousand in 1929 and of that between 600 and 800 Jews lived among a majority Arab Muslim population. In the riots of the 24th of August there were about 67 Jews that were murdered by the mob. But the striking thing was 435 Jewish residents of Hebron were actually sheltered by their Arab neighbours. So some two-thirds of the Jewish community was given refuge in apparently 28 Arab households and their protection was recognized by the Jewish authority at Hebron who wrote at the time ‘had it not been for a few Arab families, not a single Jewish person would have remained in Hebron’. So it’s worth remembering that these were terrible events of mob violence but that there were also people of good values who, coming from the majority population – the Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian population – were as abhorrent of the mindless violence as were the Jewish victims of the massacres.”

Of course “not a single Jewish person” did remain in Hebron because even those who survived the massacre were evacuated from the city by the British and later efforts to re-establish the ancient Jewish community in Hebron came to an end in 1936 when further Arab rioting again caused its evacuation.

Those familiar with the factual background to the Hebron massacre and the Arab riots of 1929 in general will of course note that Eugene Rogan’s account completely erases one key factor: the role played by the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini in inciting the violence. Contrary to the impression listeners receive from Rogan, Arab “hostility” was not “provoked” exclusively by the clumsiness of British policies or “tensions between Muslims and Jews over religious sites” but by a long and organized campaign of incitement headed by al Husseini. Just days before the massacre in Hebron, for example, Husseini announced in a sermon that “anyone who kills a Jew will be entitled to the next world”.

“According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. “Defend the Holy Places” became the battle cry.”

“According to Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Passen who was in Palestine at the time, fabricated pictures of Muslim holy sites in ruins were handed out to Hebron Arabs as they were leaving their mosques on Friday, August 23, 1929.”

The political motivations behind this very selective presentation of a key event in the region’s history are glaringly obvious. Coming at a time when the BBC is doing its utmost to avoid informing audiences of contemporary incitement based to no small extent on a theme of ‘threats’ to the same holy sites which is remarkably similar to that used by al Husseini in his campaign, the omission of any mention of that factor is particularly jarring.

The item moves on to the topic of the Shaw Commission with Scott informing listeners:

“The British government, who had the mandate in Palestine at this time and were thus responsible for maintaining law and order, responded to the tragedy by setting up the Shaw Commission to investigate the causes of the August rioting. A subsequent White Paper was published [the Passfield White Paper – Ed.] which wanted to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine: seen as one of the contributing factors to tension in the lead-up to the events of 1929. Yet what happened in Palestine had an impact too on British politics at home, as Professor David Cesarani of Royal Holloway highlights.”

Cesarani discusses the 1930 by-election in Whitechapel, finally informing listeners that:

“….Ramsey MacDonald sent a letter to Chaim Weizmann – the leader of the Zionist organization – effectively cancelling the White Paper, pulling back all of the gestures that had been made towards the Palestinian Arabs.”

Together with Scott’s introduction, listeners would be likely to interpret Cesarani’s account as meaning that Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine was not limited by the British after all. That, of course, is historically inaccurate and misleading.

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Diatribe against anti-terrorist fence on BBC Radio 4

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: Sommerville drops the ball

The day after the terror attack at the synagogue in Har Nof – November 19th – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville produced a filmed report titled “Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack” which appeared on the BBC News website as well as on BBC television news.Pigua Har Nof Sommerville 19 11

Sommerville’s report starts off well enough but as it enters its third minute, viewers hear him say:

“Predictably, the killing sparked clashes across the occupied West Bank.”

Sommerville does not explain to audiences why the premeditated murder of Jews at prayer by Palestinian terrorists should be a trigger for  violent rioting by Palestinians at all – let alone why that should be ‘predictable’. He goes on:

“Palestinian anger has been rising over threats to an important Muslim site.”

Of course there are no actual threats to the Al Aqsa Mosque or any other “important Muslim site”:  the only ‘threats’ which exist are the mythical ones invented by Palestinian leaders in order to incite the population to violence. Not only does Sommerville fail to clarify that point to BBC audiences, but he goes on to state that the terror attack in Har Nof should be understood as having been “motivated” by what are in fact non-existent ‘threats’.

“It was this that motivated the killers – Ghassan [and] Uday Abu Jamal – said Uday’s father. He told me ‘this was done to protect our holy sites; to prove that we won’t be moved. This is a religious war’.”

Later on Sommerville tells audiences that “Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violence” and the report then cuts to footage of Abbas saying:

“We strongly condemn this kind of incidents. We categorically reject attacks against civilians. At the same time I would like to say that while we denounce these acts, we also condemn attacks against Al Aqsa Compound and other holy places.”

Sommerville fails to correct the misleading impression given to viewers by Abbas’ words by informing them that there have not been any “attacks against Al Aqsa Compound”.

It is the BBC’s job to enhance audience understanding of international affairs by means of accurate and impartial reporting. The corporation cannot achieve that aim if its correspondents simply regurgitate Palestinian propaganda whilst making no effort to inform audiences of the facts behind that deliberate misinformation. 

BBC’s Connolly presents anti-Israel political activist as ‘community leader’

Kevin Connolly’s recent excursion to the Golan Heights was also reported in the form of a radio report which was broadcast on two separate BBC platforms on November 13th as part of the BBC News ‘Syria Days’ project.

In the morning the item appeared on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme (from 00:45:40 here) and later on a slightly expanded version was broadcast in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:47:00 here).

Both introductions to the item – from Sarah Montague and James Menendez respectively – ran along the following lines:

“Our correspondent Kevin Connolly has been to the Golan Heights where a line of separation divides Syria from Israeli-occupied territory and he’s been to see what the future looks like from there.”

In fact, Connolly’s item provides very little in the way of factual information – not least because at this stage of affairs, nobody can really proffer more than an educated guess about what future regional developments may bring. His report opens with the sounds of a theatre performance in Arabic and Connolly telling listeners:

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

“We are in the small, dark theatre in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The play – a one-man show – deals with the agonies of the past: the story of Palestinian refugees.”

There is of course no link whatsoever between the Golan Heights and “the story of Palestinian refugees” but what Connolly saw was probably part of a recent festival promoted by an organization which has relevance to an interview conducted later in his report.

The report’s first interviewee is Tal Pelter from Ein Zivan, described by Connolly as someone who “makes wine in an Israeli settlement on the Golan and is still making plans for the long-term future here.”

Connolly then goes on to promote the usual trite, homogeneous portrayal of Druze residents of the Golan Heights seen so often in the Western media:

“Most of the Druze of the Israeli-occupied Golan continue to regard themselves as Syrians. They follow the television news from Damascus and await the reunification of a country from which they were cut off by the wars of 1967 and 1973. But they know that the staggering destruction of Syria’s civil war is changing everything in the Middle East. Tayseer Maray – a community leader in Majdal Shams – senses that a historic process is now underway in which countries like Syria and Iraq created at the end of the First World War are disappearing, to be replaced by a single Arab State.”

Connolly’s introduction of his interviewee does not inform audiences that Tayseer Maray is in fact a long-time political activist who heads an organization called ‘Golan for Development’ (organizer of the above theatre festival) which is linked to OPGAI: a forum of anti-Israel campaigning organisations mainly from the Palestinian sector, including Badil and the AIC.

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

Listeners hear Maray say:

“This country or this new country that will emerge, it’s clear. I mean now we can see that the border between Syria and Iraq does not exist and also I think that Lebanon sooner or later will be part of what’s going on and Jordan is not in very stable situation. I see that we will have really very big Arab country that will exist in this area.”

Connolly: “Is this the end of the age of the nation-state in the Middle East?”

Maray: “I think that it will be the end of the nation-state in the normal meaning.”

Unfortunately, Connolly did not ask his interviewee what sort of “very big Arab country” he predicts – Sunni or Shia – or whether or not his latest predictions differ in any way from those he was making in 2010 (long before the Syrian civil war began) when he personally told this writer that an Iranian-led caliphate was just around the corner.

Connolly’s third interviewee is Efraim Halevi who raises the possibility of a different scenario than the one proposed by Tayseer Maray: one of the disintegration of Syria and Lebanon into ethnic, religious and political ‘statelets’.

What BBC audiences will have been able to take away from Connolly’s report is unclear, but one thing is certain: they would have been better equipped to judge the context and relevance of Maray’s predictions for the Middle East had they been informed – in line with BBC guidelines on impartiality – of his political activities and associations. 

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: filmed reports amplify inflammatory misinformation

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on the morning of November 18th included seven filmed reports which, as well as being shown to viewers of BBC television news programmes, were also published on the BBC News website.

Out of those seven reports, two are interviews with representatives of Palestinian factions which the BBC saw fit to broadcast and promote on that day. First up was Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad (Hamas spokesperson: ‘Every day Jerusalem is boiling’), with the synopsis to that interview as it appears on the BBC News website yet again failing to inform audiences that pathologists who conducted an autopsy on the bus driver found dead at a Jerusalem bus depot the day before – including one chosen by the man’s family – reached the conclusion that there was no evidence of anyone else having been involved in his death.Pigua Har Nof int Hamad

“On Monday a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in a vehicle in Jerusalem – Israeli police said he had committed suicide but the driver’s family said they suspected foul play.”

In that phone interview with the presenter of a BBC television news programme, Hamad (who of course is based in Gaza – not Jerusalem) says:

“…every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day there is a new crime in Jerusalem. Every day there is a crime against the Palestinian citizens, either in the Al Aqsa Mosque or in Jerusalem as a city.”

The presenter makes no effort to correct the misleading impression given to listeners by Hamad’s baseless allegations. He continues:

“We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers; not to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack Al Aqsa Mosque, attack the Palestinian, to kill the Palestinians. Yesterday they killed a Palestinian driver. I think that they all should open their eyes. There’s a revolution in Jerusalem. There’s uprising, there is tension and they did not take any action in order to stop this, to protect the Palestinians. But they did everything to protect the settlers.”

Of course nobody – “radical religious” or otherwise – has attacked or “decided to attack” Al Aqsa Mosque, but Hamad’s lies remain uncorrected by the docile presenter. Likewise – as mentioned above – the bus driver was found to have committed suicide but Hamad’s inflammatory misinformation was nevertheless broadcast to millions and remains on the BBC News website for millions of others to view.

Later on in the day the BBC also interviewed Mustafa Barghouti of the PNI (Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Occupation responsible for attack’) who opened with the following blatant falsehoods – unchallenged by the programme’s presenter.Pigua Har Nof Barghouti

“We’ve been advocating non-violence but when we conduct non-violent, peaceful demonstrations we are attacked violently by the Israeli army. They injure us, they shoot at us, they even kill young people who are peacefully demonstrating with gun shots.”

Later on, in response to the presenter’s assertion that “some Israelis feel” that Mahmoud Abbas “has been making provocative statements”, Barghouti says:

“No. I think in this case Mr Netanyahu has been provoking the Palestinians, is trying to transform this conflict – which is a national liberation movement trying to get freedom – into a religious conflict. It’s not a religious conflict and we don’t want any people who pray to be attacked; this is unacceptable.”

The presenter fails to point out to audiences that several of the recent terror attacks have been claimed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – both religiously motivated Islamist terror organisations – or that much of the incitement coming from Palestinian officials in recent weeks has had a blatantly religious theme. Barghouti goes on:

“But Palestinians are attacked. During the last week a mosque was burnt. Yesterday a Palestinian bus driver was hanged by Israeli settlers.”

Presenter: “Do you have evidence for that?”

 Barghouti: “And then the Israeli army claims there was no responsibility for that. A Palestinian child was burnt alive….”

Presenter: “They say that was a suicide, don’t they? Israel says…”

Barghouti: “No. They claim so but this is not true because our autopsy has shown that he was…there was no way that he hanged himself inside a bus. It makes no sense. And the physical evidence from our autopsy people has shown that this man was killed – not he hanged himself…”

As we see, not only does Barghouti promote the notion that the bus driver was murdered despite the scientific evidence pointing to the contrary but – although no criminal investigation or trial have taken place – he also ‘knows’ who did it and is allowed by the BBC to air his defamatory allegations unhindered. As was reported in Ha’aretz:

“The Palestinian coroner, who was present during the autopsy of the Palestinian bus driver who was found dead on Sunday in Jerusalem, agreed that the cause of death was suicide, insists the Israeli director of the institute that performed the autopsy.

The death of the driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, who was found hanged inside his bus in Jerusalem, has been treated in the Palestinian media and street as a murder perpetrated by Jews.

Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine director Dr. Chen Kogel notes that Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Al-Aloul, appointed by the family of the driver, was present throughout the autopsy and concurred with the conclusion that the cause of death was suicide. […]

The controversy over Ramouni’s death began with a report from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an saying that the Palestinian coroner had reached the opposite conclusion and that Al-Aloul, who attended the autopsy on the family’s behalf, believed the cause of death to be homicide and not suicide. The report did not quote Al-Aloul directly, but ascribed this claim to him. The Palestinian pathologist has neither confirmed nor denied the report since its publication.”

The Times of Israel notes that the Palestinian pathologist is not answering calls.

Despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, the BBC provided two Palestinian interviewees with an unhindered platform for the amplification of unproven accusations against “settlers” and “radical religious men” based on nothing more than rumour and fertile imagination. Furthermore, that libel (together with additional written versions – see here and here) remains on the website of the organization which increasingly bizarrely claims to be “the standard-setter for international journalism”. 

Whilst the BBC continues to avoid supplying its audiences with proper information on the topic of the recent campaign of incitement by assorted Palestinian leaders, it clearly has no compunction about allowing itself to be used for amplification of such malicious – and dangerous – incitement. 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – the TV news interview

Four months ago, during the summer conflict, we noted here that the BBC has a number of guidelines relating to the subject of the broadcast of images of people killed or injured in violent circumstances.

The corporation’s guidance on “Violence in News and Current Affairs“, for example, instructs on the issue of consistency.

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of the availability of material.” 

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of where it comes from.”

That topic was raised here because of the BBC’s recurrent use of graphic images of casualties filmed in the Gaza Strip during this summer’s hostilities, with one example being the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen from July 14th which showed particularly graphic footage taken in a morgue. At no point during the seven weeks of BBC coverage of the conflict were BBC audiences shown comparable images filmed in Israel, indicating a clear lack of application of “consistent editorial values”.Bowen filmed 14 7

It is of course highly unlikely that a film crew would be permitted to film at all inside a morgue in Israel (or other Western countries) and extremely doubtful whether such footage – even if it were filmed – would be considered appropriate for broadcast by BBC editors. But the fact that it is socially acceptable to film such explicit images in a certain society or country does not – according to the above guidance – provide automatic legitimacy for their broadcast.

Nevertheless, BBC editors somehow did apparently find it editorially justifiable to show graphic images from one side of the summer conflict but not from the other, despite those instructions to “apply consistent editorial values”.

This topic now comes up again because on November 18th during an interview with BBC World News about the terror attack which took place in the synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem just hours beforehand, Minister Naftali Bennett held up a photograph of the scene of the attack which included one of the victims. Bennett was immediately told by the presenter:

“Sorry, we don’t want to actually see that picture: if you could take that down.”

It would be understandable if the BBC did not wish to show images it has not previously seen and deemed editorially justified according to the numerous related guidelines – although that is clearly not the message conveyed by the presenter. However, the fact is – as has been pointed out elsewhere – that from the point of view of the content itself, no less graphic images from the Gaza Strip were shown to BBC audiences during the summer with the only difference being that they were usually filmed by the BBC itself – obviously in many if not most cases with Hamas permission (and presumably encouragement) to record footage in the hospitals and morgues it runs and the areas it controls.

As long as only Gaza is allowed to bleed on BBC television news, the lack of consistency in BBC editorial decisions will of course remain an issue for public discussion.

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: the backgrounder

As was mentioned in an earlier post, the BBC News website’s live page reporting on the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem on November 18th claimed to be able to provide audiences with the answer to the question “what caused the attack?”.

Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder on live page

Readers were directed to a ninety second video titled “Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks” which was also promoted separately on the BBC News website as well as appearing as a link titled “Unrest explained” in at least three of the written articles appearing on that day.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

The synopsis to the video reads as follows:

“Four Israelis have been killed and eight injured as two men armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked a West Jerusalem synagogue, police say.

The attackers – Palestinians from East Jerusalem – were shot dead.

The deadly attack comes after months of unrest and apparent revenge killings, as BBC News explains.”

It has not been updated to reflect the fact that Master Sgt Zidan Saif also died later in the day of injuries he sustained whilst responding to the terror attack, bringing the number of Israeli dead to five.

As we see, the synopsis and the title both inform BBC audiences that “apparent revenge killings” (note the plural) have been taking place for “months”. In fact there was one murder – that of Muhammed Abu Khdeir – which can accurately be described as a revenge killing and the suspected perpetrators  were caught by the Israeli security forces within days and are currently standing trial. 

The other deaths in recent months have been the result of terror attacks, of the summer war instigated by Hamas, cases in which Palestinians engaged in violent rioting were shot or cases in which terrorists were killed.

The video’s message is related in text which reads as follows:

“In a city constantly on edge, the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue comes after months of unrest.

In July a Palestinian teenager was killed in an apparent reprisal for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.

Escalating violence led to a conflict in Gaza that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

In October a dispute over a holy site in Jerusalem triggered further unrest.

Palestinians have carried out several deadly attacks against Israelis.

Killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces have also fuelled anger.

Jewish settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem heightened tensions.

Some believe this could be the start of a third intifada or Palestinian uprising.”

The wisdom of trying to explain the background to the current surge in Palestinian terrorism and violence in a ninety-second video is obviously questionable from the start but as we have seen above, the BBC claimed it could pull it off and explain the issues to its audiences in that time frame and medium. 

Beyond the glaring fact that the word terrorism does not (once again) get a mention in a video purporting to explain a terrorist attack, audiences are not told that Hamas carried out the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers or who killed the Palestinian teenager. Neither are they told (yet again) that it was actually the hundreds of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist groups which sparked the conflict in Gaza (and of course in Israel too, although the BBC manages to make that fact disappear) and the discovery of dozens of cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hamas which exacerbated the hostilities.

The claim of “a dispute over a holy site in Jerusalem” is of course misleading and inaccurate. Israeli officials of the highest level have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that there will be no change in the status quo at Temple Mount, so no “dispute” actually exists. What does exist, however, is a deliberately manufactured campaign of incitement by Palestinian leaders from assorted factions which has been going on since long before October, and of which the myth of ‘threats’ to Muslim holy sites is just one aspect. The BBC of course erased PA incitement and glorification of terrorism during the period following the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers from audience view, just as it ignored incitement from the same source during the summer conflict and continues to do even after four weeks of terror attacks in Israel.

Viewers of this video are not informed that “killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces” happened because those Palestinians were engaged either in violent rioting or in carrying out terror attacks at the time. That lack of context of course creates a very misleading impression, implying justification for “anger” which manifests itself as terror attacks and violent rioting.

And of course no BBC report can pass up on the opportunity of promoting the simplistic notion that Jerusalem planning committee meetings on the topic of housing which will not be constructed for years in areas which, according to any reasonable scenario, will remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace deal causes “tensions” which prompt the apparently irresistible urge to run down pedestrians with a van.

Not content with having misled audiences for months now with regard to the cause of the summer’s conflict, the BBC continues to promote an inaccurate narrative of a ‘cycle of violence’ in which the advancement of the notion of moral equivalence trumps facts and acts of terror are portrayed as ‘revenge killings’. It comes as no surprise to find the BBC sticking to form by avoiding calling terrorism by name even though most of the euphemistically termed “deadly attacks” were carried out by members of assorted terrorist organisations and claimed by their leaders. 

Whether or not we elect to name this recent surge of violence and terrorism a third Intifada is irrelevant but in order to properly understand current events, BBC audiences do need to know that they – like the previous “uprising” as the BBC so romantically puts it – are running on the fuel of deliberate incitement and glorification of terrorism supplied by the Palestinian leadership: this time around members of a ‘unity government’ made up of those incapable of negotiating a peace agreement and those who reject that possibility outright.

This video backgrounder does nothing to help BBC audiences understand “what caused the attack” in Har Nof as its promotion claims. In fact, it does everything to avoid telling them about the most significant factor behind that attack and others by further perpetuating a narrative which BBC staff have obviously embraced to the hilt, but which is also a smokescreen concealing the story which the BBC shows no sign of intending to tell. 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part two

In addition to its main article on the subject of the November 18th terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem and its inaccurately illustrated profile of the PFLP (both of which were discussed here), the BBC News website also published a number of additional articles on that day.

Profiles of the dual British and American citizens murdered in the terror attack appeared on the website’s UK and US & Canada pages respectively. The BBC News website also ran a live page throughout the day on November 18th under the title “As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack“. On the banner at the head of the page BBC audiences were provided with a number of “Key Points” concerning the story, none of which included the word terror but which did ‘contextualise’ the attack by attributing it to “rising tensions” over what is inaccurately described as a “disputed holy site” (Temple Mount) and “Israeli plans for settler homes”.

Pigua Har Nof Key PointsAmong the numerous notable features of that live page was the fact that just over an hour after it was opened, it was used to amplify inaccurate hearsay concerning a bus driver who committed suicide earlier in the week, with no effort made to inform BBC audiences of the fact that pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had already ruled out foul play until the appearance almost an hour later of a partially informative tweet by a BBC employee.

Pigua HAr Nof Live page 1

 

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The page also included the item below, with no attempt made by the BBC to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing readers that Daniel Seiderman is in fact a political activist with the foreign-funded organisations  Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem.

Pigua Har Nof live page 3

Like the day’s main article, this live page promoted an inaccurate BBC article from April 2014.

“For more on what makes Jerusalem so holy – to Christianity, Islam and Judaism – take a look at this explainer by the BBC’s Erica Chernofsky.”

The BBC supplied readers with a variety of ‘explanations’ for the background to the terror attack.

“A key source of tension in Jerusalem has been the renewal of an ancient dispute over the rights of prayer at a key holy site, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. By long-standing convention, Muslims alone have the right to pray there, but some religious Jews have been campaigning to end that monopoly of worship.”

Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

Political vacuum

The Palestinian position has been that the issue of the al-Aqsa mosque and announcements about settlements have all added fuel to the fire here.

The breakdown of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in April created a political vacuum, and now it seems it has been filled by violence.”

“There have been several deadly attacks and clashes in Jerusalem recently amid tension over a disputed holy site.”

Quentin Sommerville, BBC Middle East correspondent

As horrifying as this incident was, I do not think many people in this city were incredibly surprised by it. More than anything there is a sense of hopelessness here after the failure of peace talks, with no road map or talks. We are hearing a lot of fighting talk, but not a lot of peace talk by either the Israeli or Palestinian leaders to try to de-escalate the tensions.”

“Some background on East Jerusalem: Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 in a move that was not recognised internationally. Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination, and blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell has written a report about the rising tensions.”

Knell’s article was previously discussed here.

“What caused the attack?

What led to the deadly attack in Har Nof? It follows months of unrest and apparent revenge killings, as our video explains.”

That video will be discussed separately in a later post.

In addition to the BBC’s own above ‘explanations’ of the surge in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, it also saw fit to provide context-free amplification on this live page for assorted inaccurate statements and downright lies from a variety of Palestinian officials.

“Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hammad tells the BBC most people in Jerusalem “expected this would happen today or tomorrow, because every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day, there is a crime against Palestinian citizens in either al-Aqsa mosque or in Jerusalem as a city”.

Mr Hammad would not say whether Hamas supported the attack, but said Israel was to blame for the tensions. “We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers, in order to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack the al-Aqsa mosque.” “

And:

“‘Israel responsible’

Mustafa Barghouti from the Palestinian Legislative Council tells the BBC that Israel is “responsible for the bloodshed”.

“In this case, it is the Israeli government that provoked the Palestinians in this terrible manner,” he said, adding that more than 2,000 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers this year.

Most of the deaths occurred during the Israel-Gaza conflict over July and August.”

And:

“Sabri Saidam, political adviser to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, tells the BBC: “Tensions have been mounting because Israel has been pushing for more annexation of land, confiscating more homes and has been working vividly to build more and more settlements.

“As you know this formula is totally unsustainable and infuriates the Palestinians and creates the scenes that we saw today.” “

As has been the case in all previous BBC News reporting on the issue of the rise in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, the topic of Palestinian incitement (including that from partners in the current ‘unity government’) was not independently reported – or even acknowledged – by the BBC and was mentioned only in the form of second-hand statements from Israeli spokespeople.

That editorial policy might perhaps be explained by Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to this live page, in which he defined inflammatory calls by the PA President to ‘defend’ the Al Aqsa Mosque from a ‘threat’ which does not exist as sounding “reasonable” to Palestinians – of whom he apparently has very low expectations indeed.

“Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor

Many Palestinians believe Israel is preparing to allow Jews to pray in the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. The Israeli government has denied that emphatically. But Palestinians listen to calls from hard right-wing Jewish nationalists and believe it might happen.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Palestinians to defend al-Aqsa. For Palestinians that sounds reasonable. The Israeli government has condemned it as incitement to terrorism. Both Palestinians and Israelis are now talking about a third Palestinian uprising – or intifada. It’s too early to say one has started. But in the absence of political action to stop the violence escalating, another intifada is a distinct possibility.”

A version of that statement was also featured in Bowen’s separate article published on November 18th under the title “Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension“. There, displaying a remarkable ability to deny elements of both pre and post 1948 Palestinian violence, Bowen also told readers that:Pigua Har Nof Bowen art

“The two sides are further apart than ever. Their conflict used to be, at root, about the possession of land. But since Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 it has become more defined by religion.

Perhaps that was why the Palestinians chose a synagogue for the attack that killed the four Jewish worshippers. There have been other attacks on Israelis in recent months by Palestinians, one of which killed a baby.”

Bowen whitewashed the PA’s scuppering of the last round of negotiations (as indeed he did at the time) by erasing from audience view that body’s decision to form a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas.

“An attempt by the Americans to revive a peace process failed, despite energetic diplomacy from the US Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Predictably, Bowen also promoted the decidedly stereotypical and condescending notion that Palestinians are unable to refrain from attacking Jews with meat-cleavers, knives guns or vans because of Israeli planning decisions and –as has been the case in previous BBC reports – portrayed property legally purchased by Jews in specific neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as being inhabited by “settlers”.

“Palestinians are also angry about the continued growth of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The big settlements in occupied land in East Jerusalem were built on largely open ground. But now the emphasis is on settling Jewish families in areas that are otherwise populated by Palestinians.

The proximity of the two sides, and the feeling that Palestinians have that their land is being taken by armed settlers, leads to trouble.

A particular flashpoint is Silwan, near the walled old city, which settlers have renamed City of David.”

The existence of Kfar Shiloach and the expulsion of Jews from that area during the Arab Revolt of course does not fit into Bowen’s ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ narrative any more than does Jerusalem’s ancient history.

A link to Bowen’s article and quotes from it were also featured in the BBC News website article titled “Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’” which replaced the main article on the Middle East page later in the evening on November 18th.Pigua Har Nof evg art

Like its predecessor, that article also failed to properly describe the oddly termed “deadly attack on a synagogue” as terrorism. Once again, the report ‘contextualised’ the terror attack by providing readers with the same ‘explanations’ for the violence.

“Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fuelled by tension over a disputed holy site.”

“Tensions in the city have risen in recent weeks, with two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the longstanding ban on Jews praying at the compound.”

And again, no mention was made by the BBC of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from Palestinians of various factions, including partners in the ‘unity government’.

The article again failed to inform readers of the fact that a team of pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had determined that Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni’s death earlier in the week was self-inflicted.

“He [Netanyahu] accused Mr Abbas and militant group Hamas of spreading “blood libel” that a bus driver who reportedly took his own life in East Jerusalem on Monday had been “murdered by Jews”.

Hamas had said the Jerusalem attack was in revenge for the death of the driver, who was found hanged inside a vehicle. His family did not accept the post-mortem findings of suicide.”

As we see, this latest batch of BBC News website reports on the subject of a terror attack in Jerusalem joins all the others produced during the last four weeks in promoting a plethora of ‘reasons’ for the surge in violence and terror attacks in that time, all of which imply that the deterioration of the security situation can ultimately be attributed to Israeli actions. The only references to Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism have been in second-hand quotes from Israelis and the BBC’s news reports continue to avoid independently informing audiences of that crucial factor, thus actively denying them the ability to enhance their awareness and understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part one

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, on the morning of November 18th appeared on multiple platforms including the corporation’s website, radio stations and television. Part one of this post deals with written material appearing on the BBC News website.

Coverage began with typical BBC refusal to independently categorise the premeditated murders of civilians going about their daily business as terrorism.

Pigua Har Nof tweet bbc breaking

In the first four versions of the website’s main article on the incident – currently titled “Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers” – the term terrorist attack was placed in the quotation marks routinely employed by the BBC to distance itself from the description.

Pigua Har Nof on HP

 

Pigua Har Nof 1

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In subsequent versions of the article – of which there were twenty-one in all – the word terror and its derivatives also appeared exclusively in the form of quotes; for example:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry said the act of “pure terror… simply has no place in human behaviour”. He called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn it.”

And:

“Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a harsh response.

He ordered the homes of the attackers to be destroyed and called for the people of Israel to stand together in the face of a “wave of terror”.”

Versions 3 and 4 of the report inaccurately informed BBC audiences that Rabbi Yehuda Glick had been shot at Temple Mount.

Pigua Har Nof 3

From version 7 onwards, readers were told that:

“Praising the attack, Hamas said it was in revenge to the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.

Israeli police said it was a case of suicide, but his family did not accept the post-mortem findings.”

The information concerning Hamas’ praise for the attack was removed from later versions.

“Hamas said it was in revenge for the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.”

The BBC did not make any effort to inform audiences that the verdict of suicide was in fact not given by “Israeli police” but by pathologists who conducted a post-mortem, including one chosen by the deceased’s family. As the statement issued by the Ministry of Health indicates, the pathologists concluded that there was no evidence of foul play.

“On Monday afternoon, 17 November 2014, an autopsy was carried out on the body of Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni by personnel from the National Center for Forensic Medicine with the participation of Dr. Saber al-Aloul, who was chosen by the family.

The findings of the autopsy indicate self-hanging.

There were no findings that indicated the involvement of any external agent in the act of hanging.

We are continuing various laboratory tests in order to clarify whether or not any foreign substances are present in the body fluids.

During the autopsy, there was agreement – including by the pathologist chosen by the family – regarding the findings and their significance; there was no suspicion that death was caused by anyone else.”

As has been the case in other recent BBC reports relating to terror attacks in recent weeks and in the ‘backgrounder’ by Yolande Knell which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th and appears as a link in this article, the report provides audiences with a number of ‘explanations’ for the terror attack. Despite the Israeli government having stated unequivocally on several occasions that the status quo regarding Temple Mount will not be changed to include equal rights of worship for non-Muslims, the BBC continues to promote that issue as a cause of “tensions”, along with Israeli planning decisions.

“Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fuelled by tension over a disputed holy site.”

“In the last few weeks, tensions have risen sharply – largely as the result of the revival of an ancient dispute over rights of worship at a site within the walls of the Old City. […]

In recent times, some religious Jews have begun to argue for a change in the status quo which would also allow them to pray there. Any hint of such change is viewed with deep anger in the Islamic world.”

“Tensions in the city have risen in recent weeks, with two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem.”

“The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound.”

Once again we see the inaccurate portrayal of the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue. 

As has been the case in all previous BBC reports on recent terror attacks in Jerusalem, incitement by senior Palestinian figures – including partners in the Palestinian unity government – is not presented to BBC audiences as a contributing factor to the surge in violence and terrorism. The BBC informed readers of this report that:

“Earlier, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying: “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.””

It did not, however, inform them of the praise for the attack issued by Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor and his party Fatah.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

An additional link appearing in this report leads readers to an inaccurate article – still uncorrected – published in April 2014 in which Temple Mount is described as being situated in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The report also includes an insert on the topic of the terrorist organization to which the Har Nof attackers belonged and on the same day the BBC produced a profile of the PFLP which is inaccurately illustrated with a photograph of flags belonging to another terrorist organization – the DFLP.

Late in the evening of November 18th, the above article was replaced on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage by an additional report which will be discussed – along with others – in a later post. 

Anachronism and inaccuracy in BBC News Jerusalem reporting

Two recent BBC News website articles – “Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks“, November 13th and “Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access“, November 14th – made use of the illustration below.

Temple Mount graphic

The term ‘Wailing Wall’ is of course a British invention, appearing in nineteenth century English travel literature and employed by the British after their conquest of Jerusalem in 1917. It is not used by Israelis or Jews: the much older place-name HaKotel HaMa’aravi – translated as the Western Wall – is the one used by the people for whom the site has cultural and religious significance. And yet, despite the fact that the BBC is conscientious about employing place-names such as Mumbai and Beijing rather than the old Anglicised terms Bombay or Peking, it continues to promote the anachronistic term ‘Wailing Wall’ even in its style guide.

“Western Wall - (in Jerusalem) avoid ‘Wailing Wall’ except after a first reference – eg: The man attacked tourists near the Western Wall (the so-called Wailing Wall).”

In both the above reports, BBC audiences were told that:

“Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound [Temple Mount].”

Orthodox Judaism is of course by no means homogenous and includes numerous different streams of thought, with some groups coming under the umbrella term Orthodox strongly opposed to visits by Jews to Temple Mount, let alone Jewish prayer at the site. Among those who have been involved in the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount are people ranging from members of the National-Religious movement (Dati Leumi) to Labour Party MP Hilik Bar. Thus the BBC’s presentation of the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue is as inaccurate and misleading to audiences as its portrayal in previous reports of the issue as a “Right-wing” campaign.