Political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Beit Sahour

On November 24th two loosely sports-themed filmed reports – apparently also shown on BBC television news programmes – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Knell Krav Maga

One – titled “Israeli form of self-defence ‘on rise’” – is by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell and its synopsis reads as follows:

“Following a recent increase in knife attacks by Palestinians, there has been a dramatic rise in Israelis taking self-defence lessons.

Many study Krav Maga, an Israeli method developed for the military and incorporating different fighting techniques.

Our Middle East Correspondent, Yolande Knell, went along to a class.”

To her credit, Knell managed to keep politics out of her report – which is a lot more than can be said for her colleague Lyse Doucet who used her report – titled “The Palestinian runners pounding the pavements” – to promote blatant political messaging and inaccurate information.

The synopsis of that report reads:

“As tensions remain high between Israelis and Palestinians, lives of young people on both sides of the divide are being affected.

Three years ago two Danish aid workers and a Palestinian basketball player founded a running group.

What began as a Palestinian marathon has grown into a global running club which is as much about rights as it is about running.

Lyse Doucet met the Palestinian co-founder of the Right to Movement in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour.”

Doucet’s interviewee is George Zeidan who – like one of those “Danish aid workers” mentioned in the synopsis – used to be employed by the political NGO DanChurchAid.Doucet Beit Sahour

As was the case when her colleague Jon Donnison showcased ‘Right to Movement’ over two years ago, Doucet makes no attempt to provide BBC audiences with an impartial portrayal of the political agenda of the organization she highlights and promotes. Hence, viewers hear the following from George Zeidan – with no effort made by Doucet to inform them that Beit Sahour has been under the full control of the Palestinian Authority for two decades.

“Any runner outside Palestine have to just put on his running shoes and tie his shoes and go out to run. To me if I want to do this I take several other steps that I have to plan. I have to plan which street I’m going, when, and that’s because of the Israeli occupation.”

Doucet also adds her own inaccuracies to the cocktail:

“Pounding crowded streets in the city of Beit Sahour wouldn’t be any runner’s first choice. But these runners say they haven’t much choice; not when tensions are now running so high in an area surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and Jewish settlements.” [emphasis added]

Beit Sahour lies to the east of Bethlehem and to the north of a number of Palestinian villages located in PA controlled Area A or in Area B. It is not “surrounded” by either “Israeli checkpoints” or “Jewish settlements” at all.

And – despite the fact that in the last two months 21 people have been killed and 189 wounded in 74 stabbings, 10 shooting attacks and 12 car rammings by Palestinian terrorists – Doucet gives her interviewee a platform from which to tell BBC audiences who they should view as really being under “continuous threat”.

“We’re running here every Saturday for three years. But nowadays, with the current issues between Palestinians and Israelis and the continuous threat from the Israeli soldiers to be….for a Palestinian to be attacked….we just not comfortable and safe to be here.”

Doucet refrains from clarifying to viewers that no Palestinian has been “attacked” by Israeli soldiers for jogging and hence the “threat” is obviously a figment of her interviewee’s political agenda. Her subsequent claims regarding a “dirt track” which supposedly “lies on privately owned Palestinian land” but is “under Israeli military control” are of course impossible to substantiate given the absence of exact coordinates but she fails to clarify that the division of territory into Areas A, B and C came about under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people.

Doucet’s supposed nod to ‘impartiality’ in this report comes in the form of the following statement:

“You say that you’re worried about the settlers but now the Israelis are worried about the Palestinians because of the stabbings. They say they’re the ones who are threatened.”

That statement is in fact merely a cue for her interviewee to introduce his own political statement:

“I’m more concerned that the Palestinians are under occupation.”

Doucet’s conclusion to the report is as follows:

“They take to the streets to say they’re telling a different story. But the old story here of conflict and confrontation is far louder and never seems to end.”

Those closing words reinforce the underlying theme seen in this report and much of the BBC’s other coverage over the last two months: the injection of the false notion of equivalence into the story of the current wave of terrorism against Israelis.

Here we have two filmed reports supposedly telling different sides of the same story. But whilst Yolande Knell’s report tells of Israelis trying to augment their personal security during a wave of terror attacks by taking self-defence classes, Doucet’s report is nothing more than the provision of a platform for opportunistic political propaganda which does nothing to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.  

 Related Articles:

BBC’s Donnison promotes Bethlehem Marathon as non-political event

BBC deems parts of Israeli right of reply statement “irrelevant”

Bethlehem Marathon: the bit the BBC did not report




Palestinian Authority news BBC audiences will not get from Yolande Knell

As we know, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell recently produced filmed and audio reports from Hebron which, like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of the ongoing wave of terror attacks in Israel, made no effort to inform audiences of the role played by the Palestinian Authority in inciting such attacks and its related glorification of terrorism.

In recent days the Palestinian Authority has held state funerals with military honours for terrorists killed whilst carrying out attacks on Israelis. Palestinian Authority officials were present at the funerals of five terrorists in Hebron on October 31st.

Photo: Maan

Photo: Maan

According to Channel 10’s veteran Arab affairs correspondent Zvi Yehezkeli, this is the first time that terrorists have been given military funerals by the PA and the order to do so came directly from the president, Mahmoud Abbas. Yehezkeli adds that although the PA officially bans the flying of Hamas flags in Hebron, such flags were permitted at the recent funerals there.

Channel 10 also reports that Mahmoud Abbas has ordered financial grants to be paid to the families of the terrorists killed whilst carrying out recent attacks.

The BBC refrained from covering any and all aspects of those recent funerals, meaning that BBC audiences remain uninformed with regard to the PA’s glorification of terrorism as well as its incitement and are therefore deprived of vital information necessary for them to understand this particular “international issue” – information which the public purpose remits as defined in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide.


BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

In addition to the filmed report from Hebron shown on BBC television news programmes on October 30th, Yolande Knell also produced a similar audio report which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (available here from 37:15).Newshour 30 10

Like the filmed version, that audio report promotes the notion that Israelis living in Hebron are ‘illegal settlers’ – despite the signing of the 1997 “Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron” by Palestinian representatives.

Failing to explain the context to the picture she portrays, Knell tells listeners:

“Hebron is unique in the West Bank because it’s divided. Part is under full Palestinian control and the other part […] is under full Israeli control.”

“The soldiers are here right in the heart of the Old City because just along here there are families of Jewish settlers.”

“A few hundred Israelis live here in the occupied part of Hebron and about 40,000 Palestinians. The settlers’ presence here is seen as illegal under international law but Israel doesn’t agree.” [emphasis added]

It is of course Knell’s failure to clarify to listeners that the existing arrangements in Hebron are the result of an agreement between Israel and the PLO which allows her to promote the politically motivated narrative of an “occupied part of Hebron”.

That narrative is also advanced by her interviewee Issa Amro, who is once again inadequately introduced as “a local activist”, with no effort made to comply to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying his political affiliations and agenda.

In common with the filmed item, Knell’s radio report is notable for the fact that it too provides backwind for the Palestinian propaganda seen in recent weeks which attempts to portray terrorists as ‘innocent victims’. 

“As violence has flared in the past few weeks there’ve been a lot of stabbings and alleged stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians in and around Hebron. There’s a big poster being held up here showing all the young Palestinians from the city who’ve been shot and killed as a result. We’re going to meet the mother of one of them. Twenty year-old Saad al Atrash is said to have tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

Saad al Atrash is “said to have tried to stab an Israeli soldier” because that is exactly what he did on October 26th – but those listening to Knell’s account would not be sure of that.

The same theme is also promoted by host Owen Bennett-Jones in both his introduction and closing remarks, providing an opportunity to examine what the BBC sees fit to describe as “alleged” and what it is comfortable portraying as fact.

In his introduction, Bennett-Jones tells listeners: [emphasis added]

“At least twenty Palestinians from Hebron have been shot dead in attacks and alleged attacks.”

At the end of the item Bennett-Jones says:

“Now to bring you up to date, there have been protests across the West Bank again today, including in Hebron. In Bethlehem an eight month-old baby living close to the site of clashes died of tear gas inhalation. Earlier, Israeli police said they shot dead a Palestinian who’d tried to carry out the first stabbing attack in Jerusalem in two weeks. In Nablus, two Palestinians allegedly tried to stab members of the Israeli security forces near a checkpoint. Both were shot – one died and one was wounded.” [emphasis added]

The death of a baby, supposedly due to tear gas inhalation, is presented to BBC audiences as fact even though investigation showed that claim from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health to be unfounded and Palestinian doctors dismissed the claim, saying that the infant had an existing health problem which was described by relatives as a birth defect.

An attack in Jerusalem in which a man was moderately wounded by a terrorist with a knife is presented to listeners as an attempted attack.  

An incident at Tapuach Junction in which two Palestinians arrived at the scene on a motorbike and then approached a Border Police officer whilst wielding knives is portrayed as ‘alleged’.

This narrative-driven selective framing is obviously not conducive to meeting the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and impartiality and does not contribute to meeting its remit of enhancing audience understanding of the story.


Kevin Connolly tells BBC Radio 4’s ‘Feedback’ complaints rooted in narratives

h/t MD

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ (which, as readers may know, has a ‘get involved’ facility) describes itself as a “forum for comments, queries, criticisms and congratulations”. The October 30th edition of that programme included an item (from 02:29 here) concerning criticism of the BBC’s reporting on the current wave of terror in Israel, introduced by presenter Roger Bolton as follows:R4 Feedback Connolly

“But we begin this week with the long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence has escalated once again and with it, allegations of bias in the BBC’s coverage.”

Later on, a statement from BBC News concerning such allegations was read out on air.

“The BBC’s responsibility is to remain impartial and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments. We cover stories as they happen and our role is to explain and give context and so we endeavor to reflect a range of voices amid deeply held views. BBC News reports widely and extensively across TV, radio and online on many different aspects of this ongoing and complex conflict and we are committed to do so in an accurate, fair and balanced way across our coverage.”

Listeners then heard from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly.

“The pressure comes and goes according to the pressure of the news. The higher the profile the story has in our news bulletins, the more we will hear from people who have very strong views on the conflict themselves about how our coverage measures up against their own feelings and they will scrutinize every aspect of our language, the words we choose to use, the amount of historical context we manage to add to pieces, the precise manner in which we report disputed factual circumstances. We absolutely accept that, you know, we are accountable to the British public and they are entitled to express what are often very, very strong opinions and a very strong sense of disappointment when they feel that our narrative is not close enough to the narrative of one side or the other.”

Referring specifically to his reports for Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, Connolly goes on to reveal his system of collegial fact checking – which readers may find particularly interesting given his recent item broadcast on that programme.

The BBC’s public purpose remit requires it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. However, Connolly’s above response suggests that the fulfillment of that remit by means of the provision of accurate and impartial information is being eclipsed by the fact that the corporation is caught up in a narrative of narratives.

Of course narratives concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict exist just as they do on many other topics such as climate change, immigration or Britain’s membership of the EU. But there are facts which should transcend any attempt to package a story in a particular fashion and it is that factual information which members of the British public pay to receive – precisely in order to enable them to assess the validity of any particular narrative and enhance their understanding of the facts behind the story. 

However, as Matti Friedman wrote last year:

“The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

Were the BBC to get back to journalistic basics, Kevin Connolly might be better placed to appreciate that when members of the public complain about his misrepresentation of Britain’s administration of the Mandate for Palestine, his distorted accounts of the Six Day War or his recent claim that Temple Mount is an exclusively “Islamic” site, it is because he is factually wrong.

Connolly’s dismissive assertion that such complaints are rooted in a wish to see the BBC adhere to a certain “narrative” do little to convince audiences of the BBC’s commitment to accurate and impartial reporting as its main priority – or its capacity for self-criticism.

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra exposed by Yolande Knell

Nearly nineteen years ago, in January 1997, Israel and the PLO signed an agreement called the “Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron“. That document came about under international tutelage like the rest of the Oslo Accords, which have been described as follows:

“This overall series of commitments and obligations constitutes a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN.”

Under the terms of that agreement, Israel would administer the area defined as H-2 and the PA the area defined as H-1, with both Israelis and Palestinians continuing to live in the city of Hebron.

However, the BBC’s Yolande Knell has apparently not heard of that agreement willingly signed by the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people.  

After a hiatus of almost a week in its reporting on the current wave of terrorism in Israel, on October 30th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a filmed report produced by Knell for BBC television news programmes under the title “Tensions rise in Hebron between Israelis and Palestinians“.Knell Hebron 30 10

During that report, Knell told viewers that:

“Hebron is unique in the West Bank because it’s divided. Part is under full Palestinian control and the other part is under full Israeli control, although most of the people living there are Palestinians.”

So far, so good – except that Knell makes no effort to explain to viewers that the arrangement she portrays came about because the Palestinians agreed to it. She then takes viewers through a checkpoint.

“As you can see, it’s guarded by Israeli soldiers. […] The soldiers are here right in the heart of the Old City because just along here there are families of Jewish settlers.”

No attempt is made to inform audiences of the historic background to Jewish settlement in Hebron. After a brief interview with someone described on screen as a “settler leader”, Knell tells BBC audiences:

“The presence of Jewish settlers here is seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

So too, apparently, does the PLO because it agreed to their “presence” in Hebron back in 1997.

Knell’s insertion of the BBC’s standard mantra on ‘international law’ may not be at all surprising, but it does raise an interesting question. Her application of that standard insert to a place where Israelis live according to the terms of an agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians suggests that either the BBC is either woefully under-informed or – in similar fashion to its bizarre approach to Israel’s capital city – considers itself qualified to over-rule and ignore existing documents and agreements which do not fit in with its political narrative.

It would of course be very helpful were the BBC to issue a clarification on that topic.

Additional noteworthy features in this report by Yolande Knell include the provision of backwind for the Palestinian propaganda seen in recent weeks which attempts to portray terrorists as ‘innocent victims’. [all emphasis added]

“As violence has flared this month there have been a lot of stabbing attacks and alleged attacks on Israelis in and around Hebron. A lot of young Palestinians have been shot and killed as a result.”

An on-screen caption preceding an interview with the mother of a terrorist who attacked a soldier with a knife on October 26th read:

“Saad al Atrash is said to have tried to stab a soldier. He was shot dead.”

Also notable is the inclusion of an interview with Issa Amro in this report and – not for the first time – the inadequate description of that relatively frequent BBC interviewee as a “Palestinian activist”. With Amro’s employment by an anti-Israel organization concealed, viewers would of course have been unable to put the claims he made into their appropriate context.

Knell closed this report by telling BBC audiences that the story of the current wave of terrorism in Hebron is all about ‘narratives’.

“Basically on the ground here you get two starkly contrasting narratives. Speaking to the Israelis over there, they see all of this as hateful, senseless violence. But Palestinians here say that their anger stems from the political situation and their feelings of despair. This is really a nationalistic struggle but increasingly, it’s also taking on a religious dimension.”

Of course this wave of terrorism has been fueled by religiously themed incitement from the start, but the BBC continues to downplay that aspect of it by both failing to report that incitement (and Hamas’ strength in Hebron) and focusing instead on a narrative with which Western audiences – and journalists – are much more at ease. 

BBC explains why it can’t always report history accurately

Readers no doubt recall the audio report from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which – despite including inaccurate portrayals of both Israeli and British history – was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on October 24th.FOOC Connolly 24 10

A member of the corporation’s funding public who wrote to BBC Complaints about that report received a response which includes the following ‘explanations’. [all emphasis added]

“I fully appreciate your concerns surrounding BBC reporting of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians during From Our Own Correspondent broadcast on 24 October 2015.

There are lots of newsworthy events happening the world over that deserve just as much time spent on them as that dedicated to the Middle East. We’ve to make difficult decisions based on the evidence and independent verification our news teams can gather in order to report on the news we do. This does lead to subjective decisions being taken on what news we report on and as is often the case the lack of reporting on any issue lays the BBC open to criticism from interested groups/supporters who accuse the BBC of deliberately failing to tell the whole story. This is never our intention.

We’re subject to ensuring our news coverage is of national interest to our domestic audience and there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict that some sections of our audience would like.

As a public service broadcaster and ingrained in our Royal Charter all journalists and news teams have a firm commitment to impartiality and we cannot be seen to be taking the word of interested groups and we always aim to verify all stories we receive before we give airtime to them. The situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is fraught with difficulties, two sides with opposing views, each seeking to undermine the other. It is a difficult path our journalists take, they’ve to bury their emotions as much as possible to remain impartial when reporting on the attacks that take place in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and any other conflict. They come under intense pressure to report on what one side is saying but they’ve to keep a clear head and remain committed to reporting events as they happen to avoid emotional language.

I can tell you feel very strongly that the BBC has failed to properly convey the impossible situation that Israelis are in. Our only goal is to report truthfully and honestly the situation faced by both Israelis and Palestinians without bias. “

Common sense would of course dictate that if indeed “there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict”, then it would be prudent to avoid featuring sloppy and inaccurate accounts which mislead the BBC’s “domestic audience” about its own (and others’) history so prominently in BBC reports. The “national interest” of that audience is surely not served by misrepresentation of Britain’s administration of the Mandate for Palestine and one must also ask just how much “time or resources” are required in order for BBC correspondents to portray the well-recorded events of decades ago accurately.

Perhaps if the BBC focused more on reporting facts rather than promoting narratives, it would find the presentation of historic events, which in this case are crucial to audience understanding of the context of a news story, far less time and resource consuming. 

Terrorist? Motorist? It’s all the same to the BBC’s Kevin Connolly

As noted in a previous post, the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available for a limited period of time from 25:41 here).The World This Weekend

In addition to Connolly’s amplification of baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to Temple Mount and promotion of the notion that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”, a number of additional themes seen repeatedly in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel were promoted by Connolly and the programme’s presenter, Edward Stourton.

Stourton’s introduction began with promotion of equivalence between Israelis murdered by terrorists and the perpetrators of those attacks – who clearly interest him more than their victims.

“Forty-one Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories but the figures don’t really tell the full story. Many of the attacks which have resulted in those deaths were carried out by young Palestinian men with knives and they must surely have acted in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be killed themselves. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has thrown up violence in all sorts of forms, but this is new.”

The inaccurate notion that the current violence is “new” has also been seen in previous BBC content but of course there is nothing “new” at all about knife attacks or – as the second Intifada showed – about Palestinians committing terror attacks in which the likelihood of their being killed in the process was either obvious or intended.

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

“I have brought you to the Hass Promenade – a steeply terraced park not far from my home that looks east towards the hills of Jerusalem: a holy city, wholly divided.”

He later told listeners that:

“One of the recent stabbing attacks happened a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. The Palestinian village of Jabel Mukaber – home to at least one of the attackers of the last few weeks – is just beside me.”

In fact at least four perpetrators of attacks which took place before Connolly’s report was aired came from Jabel Mukaber – including the two who carried out an attack on a city bus in East Talpiot which has now claimed three fatalities and the one later described by Connolly in this report as “a motorist” – not, of course, a terrorist – who murdered a Rabbi waiting for a bus.

Connolly continued; his commentary too garnished with ample dollops of equivalence:

“Now I said ‘wholly divided’ but that’s not quite right. When the atmosphere suddenly sours as it has soured here in the last few weeks, Israelis and Palestinians alike are angry and frightened. There are victims on both sides, of course. But most people would struggle to identify with the sufferings of the victim on the other side.”

He next promoted a theme which has been dominant in his own previous reports and in other BBC coverage: the description of attacks directed at Jews (rather than “Israelis” as Connolly suggests) as ‘random’ events. Concurrently, Connolly ignored the known affiliations of some of the attackers with terrorist organisations and, predictably, refrained from telling listeners about the connecting thread between all those ‘random’ attacks: incitement.

“Israelis see their country as an island of democracy in a region of chaos and Islamic extremism and they crave a sense of normality. The attacks of the last few weeks have punctured that sense. They have been the work of individual Palestinians who’ve decided to take knives from their kitchens to randomly stab Israelis – soldiers, police officers and civilians. In one case a motorist drove his own car into a queue of pedestrians, with deadly intent. Those knives tear at the fabric of daily life here. Jewish Jerusalem is an edgy place these days where people suddenly feel that any Palestinian might be a knife attacker; any passing car might pose a deadly danger.”

But just in case listeners were by now drifting off message, Connolly brought them back with more promotion of equal suffering and inaccurate portrayal of violent riots as “protests”.

“But Palestinians are fearful too. It’s nearly fifty years since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. You are almost a pensioner if you can remember when every detail of daily life wasn’t under the control of the occupier. […]

And there’s deep anger and resentment at the readiness with which Israeli forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians in protests.”

Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in “the West Bank” have actually lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the past two decades, meaning that Connolly’s attempt to persuade listeners that Israel controls “every detail of daily life” in places such as Ramallah, Nablus or Jenin is decidedly embarrassing.

This report from Connolly contributed nothing new to audience understanding of the wave of terrorism in Israel because it followed the now well-established template of BBC coverage according to which attacks not named as terrorism are portrayed as ‘random’ or ‘spontaneous’  and attributed to ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ created by “the occupation”. 

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

After almost four weeks of BBC coverage of the current wave of terror attacks in Israel, the promoted themes – and the deliberate omissions – which reflect the corporation’s editorial approach to the story have become clear and we will be addressing that topic fully in a future post.

One particularly disturbing aspect of some of the BBC’s coverage in recent weeks (especially given the corporation’s global outreach) has been the amplification of baseless conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – as was noted in this article:

“According to that conspiracy theory, Israel seeks or intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and whilst assorted versions of that libel have been published and broadcast by the BBC, the corporation has to date not told its audiences in its own words that they are baseless. At best, it has opted to tell them that “Israel says” it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. At worst, it has lent the BBC’s reputation of reliability to such lies.”

As can be seen in the above link, on September 13th listeners to the BBC World Service were told by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad that Temple Mount is a “Muslim site” and that: [all emphasis added]

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”


“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.” 

Nawal Assad also promoted the Palestinian narrative according to which all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

On October 9th viewers of a filmed report broadcast on  BBC television news programmes heard Orla Guerin also promoting the inaccurate notion that all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque” when she told them that “It’s [the Old City of Jerusalem] home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews“.  

On October 13th an interviewee in a report by Yolande Knell told viewers of BBC television news programmes that al Aqsa Mosque had been ‘invaded’ and ‘disrespected’ and that Israel is “fighting our religion” – Islam. Not only did Yolande Knell fail to relieve viewers of the misleading impressions created by those inaccurate claims, she went on to amplify them yet again in an audio report broadcast two days later on BBC Radio 4.

On October 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also told viewers of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes that Temple Mount is “the Aqsa Mosque”.

“Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.”

On October 24th in an audio report aired on BBC Radio 4 Kevin Connolly likewise promoted the notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa compound” – and that the entire site is solely “Islamic”.

“The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control…” 

Prior to that, on October 18th, Connolly had also told listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 25:41 here – the rest of the item will be discussed in a separate post) that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”:The World This Weekend

“There’s a nagging fear that Israel might be planning to erode the Islamic identity of the sacred compound around that golden dome in the distance.”

Refraining once again from clarifying to listeners in his own words that such claims are entirely baseless, he continued:

“Israel repeatedly denies having any such plans but the denials fall on deaf ears. That is an issue with the power to provoke a kind of anger which is just not understandable in Europe or North America.”

Had BBC audiences received comprehensive information over the past four weeks on the topic of the incitement concerning Temple Mount which has been put out by Palestinian Authority sources and officials of the highest level (among others), they might have been able to understand what causes those “deaf ears”.

Likewise, had they been informed of the religious motifs evident in much of that incitement, they would have been better placed to join the dots between the whipping up of anger to a point at which young Palestinians murder Jews on the street in Jerusalem and the murders of cartoonists and Jews in a shop in Paris or a British soldier on a London street. 

But of course the topic of the incitement fueling this wave of terror – and in particular that disseminated by the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority and its ‘secular’ president – has been studiously avoided by the BBC over the last few weeks, except when alluded to briefly using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula. The reason for that is that the religious aspect of this story is one which does not comfortably fit into the BBC’s wider narrative and so it has been consistently sidelined in favour of ‘contextualisation’ featuring ‘occupation’, ‘humiliation’ and ‘failure of the peace process’.

However, as can be seen in the examples above, the BBC apparently has no problem accepting – and amplifying – the falsehood that Temple Mount (significant to all three Abrahamic religions) is “the al Aqsa Mosque” and exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”. The aim of that narrative is of course to deny Jewish history and negate Jewish links to Jerusalem.

Who would have thought that we would have reached a point where the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has embraced the role of amplifier of a false narrative rooted in religious and racial intolerance? 


BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

The BBC’s reputation as a reliable source – underpinned by a supposedly unwavering commitment to cast-iron accuracy and impartiality in its reporting – means that members of the public, researchers and educators regard its content as being an authoritative record. The BBC itself relates to its online archive content as “historical record” and its Director of Editorial Policy and Standards has stated that “[h]owever long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”.

Mr Jordan might therefore care to consider a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available from 00:43 here) which was broadcast in the October 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent”.FOOC Connolly 24 10

Ostensibly providing listeners with a historical angle to the current wave of terror in Israel, Connolly’s report is remarkable for the fact that it once again promotes the notion that the attacks are of a “random and spontaneous nature”, ignoring the issue of incitement and the growing number of cases in which perpetrators have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations.

Concurrently, Connolly’s messaging for listeners includes the employment of statements such as:

“…the readiness with which Israel’s security forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians”

And, referring to checkpoints outside the Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which a very significant proportion of the attackers have come:

“….the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”.

But Connolly’s politically motivated framing of the story reaches its zenith in his inaccurate portrayal of the history of Jerusalem.

“Even the British – eternally torn between the desire to have an empire and the desire to have an empire on the cheap – left some kind of mark.”

“British rule lasted more than thirty years in the Holy Land.”

Mandate Palestine was not of course part of the British Empire, as Connolly implies in those two proximate statements. Britain indeed administered the Mandate for Palestine, but that mandate was established (along with several others) by the League of Nations with the specific aim of reconstituting a Jewish national home: a task which the administrator did not complete in the years before it returned that mandate to the League of Nations’ successor, the United Nations, on May 14th 1948.

Having distorted one very relevant part of the history by erasing the Mandate for Palestine from audience view, Connolly then goes on to promote a blatant factual inaccuracy.

“The British left in 1948, leaving the Arab kingdom of Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the Old City and West Jerusalem in Israeli hands.”

The uninformed listener would obviously take that statement to mean that Jordanian control over parts of Jerusalem was both recognised and perfectly legitimate: the result of their having been handed over to it by the previous ‘landlord’.

Despite having erased from the picture the fact that Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem actually came about by means of a belligerent invasion of Israel by Jordan (together with four other Arab nations) immediately following Britain’s abandonment of its role as administrator of the League of Nations mandate and Israel’s declaration of independence, Connolly goes on to include a demilitarized zone (surely unexplainable according to his version of events) in his story.

“The route I follow crosses what was then an edgy and dangerous DMZ – a demilitarized zone across which Israel and the Arab world contemplated each other in mutual hostility.”

He proceeds, erasing yet another episode of Jordanian belligerence from his account:

“In the war of 1967 Israel crossed the DMZ and drove the Jordanians out of the Old City and out of East Jerusalem. The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control, where they remain to this day.” [emphasis added]

Here we have yet another example (previous recent ones can be seen here, here and here) of the BBC’s adoption and promotion of the inaccurate narrative whereby all of Temple Mount is al Aqsa and Connolly even portrays the site as exclusively “Islamic” – despite the fact that it is of significance to members of three religions.

He continues:

“…the victory of 1967 brought the Arab population of East Jerusalem and dozens of outlying villages which had belonged to Jordan under Israeli military occupation.” [emphasis added]

Of course those locations were in fact under Jordanian occupation and their later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community, meaning that Connolly’s claim that they “belonged to Jordan” is inaccurate and misleading.

The take-away message promoted to listeners to this report is that the roots of the current wave of violence are to be found in the Israeli occupation of areas that previously belonged to “the Arab kingdom of Jordan”. Not only is that an inaccurate portrayal but in order to frame the story in such a way, Connolly distorts and erases the history of the region in a manner which actively hinders audience understanding of the wider issue.

Given that this report potentially risks wasting public resources by becoming the subject of editorial complaints, the BBC clearly needs to issue prompt corrections to the plethora of inaccuracies promoted by Kevin Connolly.


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BBC News tells audiences Israeli fears of terror attacks are ‘paranoia’

During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Paranoia Connolly

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterize their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.

In that article – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between the distress of Israeli Jerusalemites who have seen at least sixteen terror attacks resulting in five fatalities in their city in the last three weeks with that of Palestinians who, according to his account, are inconvenienced by roadblocks and suspicious looks.

“But at times of rising tensions and rising casualty figures like this, the two populations that normally lead parallel lives share something very profound in common.

They are united by their fears for the dangers their families might face and by the deep urge that’s within all of us to keep our children safe.”

In the section of his report devoted to the neighbourhood of Issawiya, Connolly writes:

“Even in better times there is deep resentment in Issawiyah at the practical outworking of the occupation – Palestinians in villages like this pay the same local taxes as Israelis in West Jerusalem but strongly feel they don’t receive the same services.

They point to the condition of the roads and pavements and the absence of recreational facilities.

“There are Jewish districts where they have parks for their dogs,” one man told me, “And here we don’t even have a park for our kids.””

He of course refrains from informing readers that residents of Issawiya were at the forefront of opposition to the creation of a national park on their doorstep.

Although he describes the inconvenience of roadblocks implemented to try to deal with terrorism, Connolly does not provide audiences with relevant context, failing to clarify that a very significant proportion of the perpetrators of attacks during the first three weeks of October came from Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

“There is an Israeli checkpoint at the main entrance to the village. The local people say that if anyone throws stones at the soldiers who man it, they close the road and force commuters returning from Jerusalem to wait in their cars for anything up to an hour.”

Connolly tells readers that:

“Fear for the safety of children does unite the two communities, although the fears are different.

Israelis worry their children might be the victims of a politically-motivated street attack – Palestinians fear the readiness with which Israeli police and soldiers resort to lethal force, especially if they live in a part of the West Bank where it is easy to get caught up in street protests.” [emphasis added]

Those “street protests” are of course more accurately described as organised violent rioting and Connolly’s apparent belief that Palestinian parents lack the agency required to prevent their offspring from participating in such activities is quite remarkable.

Connolly closes his article with promotion of a dominant – yet inaccurate – theme seen in much BBC coverage in recent weeks.

“…the fears and anxieties triggered in this latest round of violence here are individual and deeply personal just as the attacks appear to have been spontaneous. […]

But the random nature of the violence and its lack of an apparent link to any known organisation is going to make any kind of diplomatic or political intervention here even harder than usual.”

Yet again the BBC conceals the incitement from assorted Palestinian factions which has fueled this wave of terrorism – and the known links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist groups – from audience view.

In addition to his written report, Kevin Connolly also produced a similar audio one which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on October 24th. The item (available here from 01:49:43) opens with the following introduction from host James Naughtie.

“As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, the American Secretary of State John Kerry has begun a round of diplomacy trying to reduce tension in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories where an upsurge of violence has left about 60 people dead in the last few weeks. Most of the dead are Palestinians. Some have died in the familiar violent clashes with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank but some of the deaths have occurred when individual Palestinians not known to be members of militant groups have made stabbing attacks on Israelis and then been shot by the police or the army. It’s a new kind of attack and its left people in both communities anxious and frightened.”

Could audiences determine from that introduction that one-sixth of those casualties are Israelis murdered in terror attacks? Would they understand that those killed whilst engaged in violent rioting include some 17 people from the Gaza Strip and that the border fence there has been breached by such rioters on several occasions? Would they also comprehend that Naughtie’s portrayal of “some” Palestinians shot whilst carrying out terror attacks (and not only stabbings, as he inaccurately states) actually means that they number around half of the Palestinian fatalities and that a similar number of terrorists have been caught alive?

One doubts very much that Radio 4 listeners went away with an accurate perception of events from that introduction and in addition, they were certainly misled by the inaccurate claim that such terror attacks are “a new kind”. Moreover, with the BBC having failed to provide its audiences with an accurate picture of Palestinian terrorism during the nine months preceding October 2015, listeners would have no way of knowing that Naughtie’s claim is inaccurate.

As in his written article, in that audio report Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between victims of terror and their attackers, fails to provide context when describing the inconvenience caused by roadblocks and erases the all-important issue of incitement by portraying the attacks as “random and spontaneous”.

“We think of Jerusalem as a place of division – and so it is – but in times of rising tension and rising casualty figures, there is something that unites its two peoples: the grinding daily fear about how you keep your family safe.”

“On the way into the outlying Palestinian village of Issawiyeh there’s an Israeli checkpoint – an irritation for local people arriving home from their daily work in Israeli West Jerusalem.”

“The US Secretary of State John Kerry is working on all of this now, trying to calm fears. But what can politicians do when attacks are random and spontaneous and fears so personal and so deeply felt?”

Kevin Connolly apparently believes the narrative of equivalence he promotes in these two reports. He is obviously comfortable with promoting the idea that a pensioner murdered in a shooting attack on a city bus, a 59 year-old deliberately run over and then hacked to death with a meat-cleaver and a young father stabbed to death whilst walking with his family are just the same as the people who decided to carry out those attacks and were shot by security forces rushing to the scene.

He is also clearly at ease with promoting the myth that attacks on Jews for no other reason than the fact that they are Jews which are praised and glorified by Hamas and PA officials alike are “spontaneous” and “random”. And, as we see in these two reports, he has no qualms about promoting the narrative that the emotions of people who are experiencing “not a very nice feeling” and traffic inconveniences are the same as those of people who fear that they may be targeted by a terrorist simply because of who they are after seeing over 50 such terror attacks in a matter of a few weeks.

Whilst Connolly’s adopted narrative may serve to provide space-filling material for assorted BBC platforms and advance a political agenda, it certainly does nothing to contribute to meeting the BBC’s obligation to enhance audience understanding of this particular “international issue”.