BBC misleads on Arab Jerusalemites’ citizenship status yet again

Over the past few weeks BBC audiences have been misled with regard to the issue of Arab Jerusalemites and Israeli citizenship on several occasions.

On November 7th Yolande Knell told listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ that:

“…Palestinians in East Jerusalem are considered to be residents of Israel – not citizens of Israel – and they do feel very isolated, very disenfranchised….”

On November 18th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ were informed by guest academic Rosemary Hollis that:

“…the East Jerusalem Palestinian population are not citizens of Israel like the Arab citizens of Israel that Mr Goldberg’s cousin was describing. They have what they call laissez-passer: they have an East Jerusalem ID.” 

On November 26th visitors to the BBC News website were told in an article titled “Israel revokes residency of Jerusalem attacker’s widow” that:residency art

“The two Palestinians, who were shot dead at the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue after killing four rabbis and a police officer, were cousins from occupied Arab East Jerusalem.

Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal were therefore entitled under Israeli government regulations to residency rights, although not to citizenship, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly.”

The Abu Jamal cousins lived in Jabel Mukaber: a district located within the Jerusalem municipality. Contrary to Connolly’s assertion, they were therefore entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship like any other resident of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control in 1967. If they chose not to exercise that entitlement, they would still remain permanent residents with the right to vote in municipal elections and to receive the same social security benefits, education, pensions and healthcare as any other Israeli. Regardless of whether or not they hold Israeli citizenship, Arab residents of Jerusalem have a blue ID card of the same format as any other Israeli citizen – not “an East Jerusalem ID” as was claimed in the Radio 4 programme – with the exception being that those who have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship would have the nationality clause left blank.

This is not a complicated issue but as we see, the BBC repeatedly gets it wrong and hence materially misleads its audiences on the topic.

The article also states:

“Under what is known as a “family reunification” rule, Palestinians elsewhere can apply for the right to live with a husband or wife in East Jerusalem once they are married.

That is the right that Israel said it was revoking in the case of Nadia Abu Jamal, who is believed to have been married to Ghassan Abu Jamal.”

The legislation referred to here is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law which is classed as a temporary provision and, contrary to the impression given by the BBC, does not apply exclusively to Palestinian spouses of Arab residents of Jerusalem but means that the spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents who come from countries or territories in a state of war with Israel are not automatically entitled to residency in Israel as a result of marriage, but must apply for that status.

“The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which is worded as a temporary order, concerns reunification among families whose entry into Israel represents a security risk in the eyes of the security services. This includes Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and foreign nationals from enemy countries or from regions involved in an ongoing conflict with the State of Israel.”

It is of course worth remembering that many countries – including the UK – do not grant automatic citizenship to spouses on the basis of ‘family reunification’.

Whilst this BBC article amplifies second-hand comment from the political NGO B’Tselem, the quoted statement from the Israeli Minister of the Interior appears to have come from Facebook and if the BBC did contact the Israeli government for comment, that is not evident in the report.  

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: Kevin Connolly’s history of Jerusalem

On November 19th – the day following the terror attack in the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem – the earlier edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from 14:00) which is interesting because it was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as a reflection “on the history of this contested city” and hence provides some insight into the accepted BBC narrative on Jerusalem in general, as well as the one being promoted with regard to the current surge in violence and terror attacks.Newshour 19 11

Connolly opened by equating the building of apartments with terrorist suicide bombings:

“Jerusalem has been a place of division and dispute and discord for as long as history has been written. The city was shaped by ancient battles and modern wars but the suicide bombings and settlement constructions of more recent times fuel a sense of separateness – sometimes a hatred – that has its roots in its status as a city holy to Jews and Muslims alike.”

He went on:

“To walk the streets of the Old City within walls built 500 years ago is to sense the antiquity of the dispute and to feel how the closeness of Muslim and Jewish quarters have created a kind of friction of proximity. Grievances passed through the generations lie around as thick as autumn leaves and as dry as tinder, waiting only for the spark of circumstance to ignite them. There is a political vacuum here. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is so moribund that the phrase just isn’t part of the daily vocabulary of politics. There was the appalling civilian death toll in the summer fighting in Gaza and there is the corrosive issue of continuing Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.”

So, couched in Connolly’s flowery language are several messages for listeners, with the first one being that there is a very old dispute in Jerusalem which he is not going to fully explain. However, what audiences are clearly intended to take away as factors causing the contemporary version of that dispute are the absence of political negotiations, the death toll in Gaza in the recent conflict (yet again we see the BBC presenting those hostilities as having taken place exclusively in the Gaza Strip) and Israelis building and living in specific areas of the city. Both the latter two factors will be understood by listeners to be Israeli-caused and members of the audience who followed the BBC’s coverage of the collapse of negotiations last April would be likely to believe that Israel is responsible for the lack of political process too. No Palestinian contributions to the dispute appear on Connolly’s list. He continues:

“But today, as often in the past, those grievances are focusing on one holy site within these city walls. It is a compound which contains both the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif: the place where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended into heaven. It’s also the spot on which the ancient temples of the Jews stood: those buildings destroyed by foreign invaders which contained the Holy of Holies and which are the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and identity. To Jews it is the Temple Mount. The Christian Crusaders coveted it too, but the sectarian passion that made Christianity a factor in these bitter struggles has at least receded over time. By long-standing tradition only Muslims are allowed to pray here. Jews and Christians may visit, but may not threaten that monopoly of worship. Any hint that that status quo might change can have an incendiary effect in Palestinian society and in the wider world which is immediate and deeply felt. It is genuine too, although of course extremist Palestinian groups can manipulate the fear by circulating rumours that change is in the wind.”

If at this stage listeners anticipated finally hearing some BBC reporting on how the topic of Temple Mount is used by groups ranging from Salafist Jihadists, the Northern Islamic Movement, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood through to the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to “manipulate fear” for political benefit, they would be sorely disappointed yet again. Instead, Connolly’s report turned to a very tepid and euphemistic account of the 1929 Arab riots which, like the recent Radio 4 programme on the subject of the Hebron massacre, erases the topic of Arab incitement.

“When Britain governed the Holy Land between the wars, clumsy management of this status quo issue provoked widespread violence that lasted for months and left more than a hundred people dead.”

Connolly goes on:

“Now some Jews do want that status quo to change. They want the right to worship at their own holiest place. We’ve been assured off the record at the highest levels of government here that no change in the current arrangements is contemplated or will be tolerated. The problem is, of course, that in this poisonous atmosphere fuelled by toxic cocktail of suspicions, there are large numbers of Palestinians who just don’t believe that assurance.”

Why Connolly felt the need to describe “off the record” statements from the Israeli government is unclear: identical statements clearly explaining the government’s position have been made publicly on numerous occasions. But of course what is really interesting about both Connolly’s item and the BBC’s treatment in general of this topic is that it has completely avoided any exploration of why the issue of equal rights of worship for members of all religions to whom that site is holy should raise such opposition and be considered so incendiary in the 21st century.

Connolly closes:

“In the Jewish religious tradition of Jerusalem, the dead of yesterday’s attack – killed as they worshipped – were buried within hours. A car toured the neighbourhood alerting mourners to the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Twersky. It’s thought that his grandfather died in those riots back in the 1920s: a grim family history that illustrates the wider history of this place. Palestinians too have died in political violence, of course. We are left to wonder – as previous generations have wondered – how many more funerals there may be before this current cycle of violence plays itself out.”

Once again, BBC audiences are presented with a report which avoids any serious reporting on the contribution of incitement, conspiracy theories and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders and official sources to the recent surge of violence and terrorism in Israel.

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: World Service’s ‘Newshour’ – part one

The BBC World Service’s news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’ began its coverage of the terror attack which had taken place at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem earlier in the day on November 18th in the afternoon version of the programme – available here from 00:45 to 12:50 and from 30:00 to 39:00.Newshour 18 11 early

Presenter Razia Iqbal’s short introduction was followed by an eye-witness account from paramedic Akiva Pollak who was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Next came a recording of a statement by the Israeli Minister for Internal Security, Yitzhak Aharonovich, after which Iqbal told listeners:

“The synagogue attack comes a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem. Israel says this was a suicide but his family says he was murdered. Hamas said the attack was retaliation for the death of the bus driver.”

That was followed by a recording of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying:

“The Hamas movement praises the attack in Jerusalem and considers it a normal reaction to the killing of Yusuf al Ramouni and repeated Israeli crimes at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Hamas confirms how important it is to avenge Israeli crimes.”

This of course was not the only occasion on November 18th upon which the BBC – despite the scientific evidence provided by senior pathologists – elected to amplify a dangerous narrative based entirely on evidence-free Palestinian incitement. That same propaganda was promoted on BBC television news and on the BBC News website – see here and here.

After informing listeners that Mahmoud Abbas had condemned the attack – adding “and also called for an end to what he called Israeli provocations” – Iqbal introduced the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly who claimed that:

“..quite a lot of violent incidents in the past few weeks appear to have been the result of individuals acting alone with no planning and no preparation…”

Connolly did not inform listeners of the very relevant fact that many of those perpetrators belonged to assorted terrorist organisations or that some of the attacks were later claimed by such groups. Later on in the conversation, Connolly presented audiences with his menu of ‘contributing factors’ to the surge of terror and violence over the past few weeks.

“I mean we would say that washing around in the background of what is a palpable increase in tension in Israeli society are a couple of issues. There was the summer conflict in Gaza; there is continued Jewish settlement in an Arab district of East Jerusalem called Silwan.”

Yet again we see inaccurate BBC portrayal of the summer hostilities as having taken place exclusively in the Gaza Strip, along with another politically motivated presentation of the legal purchase of properties in a certain Jerusalem neighbourhood by people of a specific ethnic/religious group as “settlement”. Connolly goes on:

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course. Now that is a site sacred to both faiths – to Muslims and to Jews. Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven from that very point. Jews believe that it’s where their ancient Temple – destroyed by the Romans – stood; where the Holy of Holies of the Jewish faith is. Now by a very long tradition, only Muslims are allowed to pray at that site. Jews can go there but they may not pray. Now in recent years a Jewish religious movement has grown up arguing the right of prayer should be extended to Jews. Any attempt to tinker with the status quo is regarded as an incendiary issue – not just in Palestinian society but in the wider Arab and Muslim world – and I think it’s almost certainly that issue much more than the others which is fuelling, as I say, what is a very, very noticeable increase in tension, not just in Jerusalem but also in the occupied West Bank as well. So the atmosphere is changing here for the worse and of course you know the lesson of history here is that cycles of violence like this one are much easier to start than they are to stop. You know, Israel says it has no plans to change that status quo whatever religious Jews argue but that assurance is simply not believed in sections of Palestinian society.”

As has been noted here before, the status quo on Temple Mount actually relates to additional issues besides prayer rights for non-Muslims (Connolly failed to inform listeners that the site is also holy to Christians, who are not allowed to pray there either) and other changes have been made to aspects of the status quo over the years which have not been regarded as an “incendiary issue”. Interestingly, despite its being defined by Connolly as a “key” issue, at no point in its extensive coverage of the topic of Temple Mount has the BBC made any attempt to address the subject of why the egalitarian idea of equal prayer rights for members of all faiths at a site holy to three religions should produce such a violent reaction in the “Arab and Muslim world” or how that issue has been employed over the years as a catalyst by leaders with political interests, just as it is being used now.

Kevin Connolly did, however, respond appropriately in this item to Razia Iqbal’s following statement:

“And the attack at the synagogue has provoked extremist views on both sides and there have been calls for all sorts of reactions to it today. Has there been any reaction on the street?”

Connolly: “There have been small gatherings of people on the streets and I think I’d be cautious of the word extremist in terms of the reaction here. People here are very shocked by the scale and the nature of the violence. A lot of pictures are circulating here on social media of bloodstains on the floor of the synagogue, of bodies of the dead covered in prayer shawls, so there’s a real sense of shock here.”

Later on in the programme, listeners heard a recording of the US Secretary of State’s condemnation of the terror attack before Razia Iqbal introduced two interviewees from Jerusalem – presented as giving an Israeli and an Arab view of life in the city. However, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality (as was also the case on the BBC News website’s live page of the same day), the Israeli interviewee – Daniel Seiderman – was presented only as “a lawyer” and not as a political activist with the NGOs ‘Ir Amim’ and ‘Terrestrial Jerusalem’, meaning that audiences were not able to place his contribution in its correct political context and to understand that they were actually hearing two views from the same school of thought rather than differing ones.

The evening version of the November 18th edition of ‘Newshour’ will be discussed in a later post. 

 

BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack on Radio 4’s PM – part one

Some eight hours after the terror attack in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on November 18th, the BBC Radio 4 programme PM – which purports to provide audiences with “interviews, context and analysis” – spent some twenty minutes or so of its broadcast (available here for a limited period of time) covering that subject.PM 18 11

In the news bulletin which followed the brief introduction to the programme, listeners heard the newsreader say:

“Four Jewish worshippers have been killed at a synagogue in Jerusalem by two Palestinian men armed with butchers’ knives and a gun. One of the dead has been named as 68 year-old Avraham Goldberg from Britain who went to live in Israel in 1991. The two attackers, from occupied East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell is in Jerusalem and says tensions are running high.”

Knell: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there will be a harsh response from Israel to this latest attack, calling it the cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers. Now on the Palestinian side, what they will say: Israel is also inciting the violence here in Jerusalem. In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site. It’s the third holiest site in Islam. For Jews, who call it Temple Mount, it is the holiest site in their religion.”

Notably, a rare example of BBC use of the word incitement – a topic the BBC has consistently avoided addressing over the past few weeks when it is voiced by Palestinian leaders – came in the form of Yolande Knell taking it upon herself to paraphrase what she thinks “the Palestinian side” will say. Listeners then heard from Kevin Connolly who, after describing the incident – including a recording of the account of an eye-witness – and the subsequent funerals for four of the victims, went on to provide BBC audiences with ‘context’ for the incident which adds nothing new to the list of ‘reasons’ for the recent surge in violence and terrorism which the BBC has now been touting for weeks.

Connolly: “Now many underlying factors have contributed to a kind of toxic cocktail of grievances which is worsening the atmosphere here in Jerusalem, not least the summer conflict in Gaza and continuing Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. But the biggest single factor is a generations-old dispute over rights to worship at a holy place in Jerusalem’s Old City. Muslims alone have the right to pray at al Haram al Sharif or the Temple Mount. Israel, which controls the Old City, says no change is even contemplated but rumours that Jews might be allowed to pray there have an incendiary effect in Palestinian society and in the wider Islamic world.”

As ever, Connolly made no attempt to explore why “Palestinian society” and “the wider Islamic world” should be so offended by the prospect of equal prayer rights for members of all religions at a site important to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. After a brief recording of a statement by Israel’s Minister of Justice Tsipi Livni, Connolly continued:

“Now, Palestinians blame Israel for the increase in tensions in recent times, pointing not just to that religious dispute but to those other factors I mentioned: continuing Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the loss of life in the summer war in Gaza.”

Once again we see employment of the term “Arab East Jerusalem” – terminology the BBC’s style guide recommends should be avoided – as well as the inaccurate depiction of the summer conflict as having taken place exclusively in Gaza. Notably, Connolly made no attempt to inform listeners of Hamas’ responsibility for the “loss of life” in that war, be it by the terrorist organisation’s initiation of the conflict through missile fire at civilian targets in Israel, its use of cross-border attack tunnels or its deliberate employment of human shields throughout the conflict. Connolly continued, introducing a BBC frequent flyer‘ who is – not for the first time – described as “influential” despite the fact that his party secured a mere two seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the last elections in 2006.

“Mustafa Barghouti is an influential Palestinian politician.”

Barghouti: “They’ve been provoking the Palestinians constantly. I want to remind you and I remind everybody that since the beginning of this year, the Israeli army and Israeli settlers have killed 2,260 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including 600 children. And they’ve been attacking the mosque in…Al Aqsa Mosque…and the settlers have been attacking Palestinians. This is a very explosive atmosphere and I hold Netanyahu himself responsible for every bloodshed that has happened whether for Palestinians or Israelis.”

Connolly made no attempt whatsoever to put Barghouti’s propaganda into its correct context by informing listeners how many of those Palestinian casualties were terrorists or violent rioters. He also failed to point out that, contrary to Barghouti’s baseless allegation, nobody has “been attacking” the Al Aqsa Mosque. Instead, Connolly’s closing words once again promoted the BBC’s redundant ‘cycle of violence’ mantra which of course avoids ascribing any agency to Palestinians.

The item then moved on to an interview with the cousin of the British-Israeli man murdered in the Har Nof terror attack, Avraham Goldberg, after which – presumably in order to provide audiences with the context and analysis promised by the programme – presenter Eddie Mair interviewed Professor Rosemary Hollis of City University London. That part of the programme will be discussed in part two of this post. 

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 – 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

 

Pigua Har Nof live page 2

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

Pigua Har Nof 2

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. 

What is missing from Yolande Knell’s BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem violence?

Two weeks and two days after the first of the recent terror attacks in Jerusalem the BBC News website published a backgrounder article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of its Middle East page on November 7th under the title “Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral“. Readers were told at the top of the article that:Knell backgrounder written

“Tension is growing around Jerusalem’s holy compound – Yolande Knell examines the issues”

Predictably, the article adopts the standard BBC practices of erasing all history before June 1967 and falling short of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of the many legal opinions which fall outside the BBC’s chosen narrative.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the sector in 1980 in a move not recognised internationally.”

“The settlements on occupied land are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Knell’s article provides BBC audiences with a range of ‘explanations’ for the surge of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem.

  1. The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and police measures to contain rioting:

“He was the spark that lit this uprising. Now we’re facing a lot of problems with the [Israeli] Occupation and having the Israeli border police next to our home only makes matters worse,” says Mr Abu Khdeir. “Anger is rising.”

  1. Alleged ‘discrimination':

“Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination…”

  1. ‘Settlers':

“[Palestinians] blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.”

  1. The existence of a campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount:Knell backgrounder filmed

“Recent clashes have been fuelled by Jewish demands to lift a ban on their religious practices at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site in the heart of the Old City.”

  1. Temporary restrictions on access to Temple Mount for Muslims as a means of reducing violent rioting:

“At the al-Aqsa mosque compound, age restrictions continue to be imposed on Palestinian worshippers heading to Friday prayers, a move described by Israeli authorities as a security measure.”

  1. The absence of ‘peace talks':

“In the absence of peace talks to address the core issues, there are many reminders that the political vacuum can quickly be filled by violence.”

Those last two points were also promoted in a filmed report by Knell published on the same day under the title “Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site“. In that report – also shown on BBC television news – audiences were told: 

“Tensions have been mounting over restrictions at this site – holy to Muslims and Jews. Today Israeli police lined up around the Old City to impose restrictions on Palestinian Muslims heading to the Al Aqsa Mosque. They said this was for security.”

And:

“Recently there have been fresh reminders of how the political vacuum can be filled with violence. On Wednesday a Palestinian militant from Hamas drove into pedestrians, killing two people. It was the second such attack in Jerusalem in two weeks.”Knell backgrounder Bowen Tweet

However neatly the notion that recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere is fuelled by a lack of negotiations may fit into the BBC’s narrative, there is one blatantly obvious hole in Knell’s “excellent Jerusalem analysis” as it was dubbed by her Middle East editor. No amount of ‘peace talks’ or political process would have dissuaded Hamas or the PIJ from carrying out the recent terror attacks or inciting violent riots because those terrorist organisations are inherently opposed to any kind of political negotiation with Israel.

Of course those of us with apparently better memories than Yolande Knell also remember the spate of terrorism which followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, not to mention the initiation of the second Intifada by the Palestinian Authority as a means of bringing political process to an abrupt end.

The last round of talks (July 29th 2013 to April 29th 2014) was no different: the statistics show that during the nine months of negotiations a rise in terrorism was seen in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria (consistently under-reported by the BBC) rather than the opposite – as Knell’s redundant theory would have it.

Knell backgrounder chart

Notably though, Knell’s article refrains from making any mention whatsoever of the issue of incitement and glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority: major contributing factors to the recent violence, terror and unrest seen in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Truly “excellent Jerusalem analysis” genuinely intended to inform audiences of the background to this particular issue would of course not have omitted that all-important factor. The advancement of a politically-motivated narrative, however, would.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell tells WS audiences violence in Jerusalem caused by Jews trying to enter Al Aqsa Mosque

Inaccurate BBC representation of Golan Heights ‘relics’

BBC News’ recent big multi-platform feature on Syria (more on that later) included a filmed report from the Golan Heights by Kevin Connolly which, in addition to being aired on BBC television news, also appeared on the BBC News website on November 13th under the title “Could Syria be a catalyst for change in the Middle East?“.

In the report, Connolly correctly told viewers that:

“The landscape is littered with relics of the fighting in 1967 and in 1973 when Syria tried and failed to win back the land it lost.”

However, the footage used to illustrate that statement by Connolly included the following images, neither of which have anything to do with either the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War or indeed with the modern states of Israel or Syria.

Connolly Goaln filmed 2

Connolly Golan filmed 3

The first image shows a pillbox constructed by the British in 1941 near Ein Tawfik in the south Golan Heights, close to the 1923 border between British-administered Mandate Palestine and French-administered Mandate Syria. The second image shows a nearby tank barrier also constructed during the Second World War with the intention of preventing French and/or German tanks entering Mandate Palestine via the Golan Heights.

Had the BBC’s cameraman swung a little to the right, he would have seen a statue and a plaque commemorating the fact that Eli Cohen passed through that tank barrier on his way to El Hama in 1962 – five years before the Six Day War.

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Later on in the report, Connolly told audiences:Connolly Golan filmed

“Land on the Syrian side of the UN-controlled checkpoint [Kuneitra] is in the hands these days not of the Syrian army but of an Islamist rebel group.”

In fact there is more than one rebel group currently holding positions in that area. Connolly also stated that:

“Israel has been fortifying its fences and responding with force whenever shells or missiles hit land under its control.”

In actual fact, whilst Israel has indeed responded with retaliatory fire on occasion, it has by no means done so in all of the dozens of cases of cross-border fire – deliberate or accidental – which have taken place in the past months and so Connolly’s assertion that Israel responds “whenever” such fire takes place is inaccurate.