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

BBC’s Knell misrepresents Netanyahu statement, side-steps PA incitement

The early version of the November 5th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was presented by Julian Marshall and included an item from Yolande Knell (available here from 14:00) on the topic of that day’s terror attack in Jerusalem.Newshour 5 11 Knell

Marshall introduced the item as follows:

“Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel over what it says is unprecedented Israeli escalation in Jerusalem. Earlier, Israeli police clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians inside Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount. Also in East Jerusalem today, Israeli police say one person was killed and nine people injured in a suspected terrorist attack by a man who rammed his car into pedestrians along a tram line in East Jerusalem. The man was subsequently shot dead. The BBC’s Yolande Knell joining us now from Jerusalem, and Yolande – as I understand it Hamas have said that they were behind that attack.”

As was the case in BBC News website reporting on the terror attack, the incident was inaccurately portrayed by Marshall (and later by Knell) as having taken place in “East Jerusalem”. Knell responded with a description of Hamas which omitted any reference to the organisation’s terror designation: clearly a highly relevant piece of information under the circumstances.

“That’s correct. The Palestinian militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack and has praised it, indeed. That, of course, has drawn criticism from the Israeli government. We’ve had a statement from the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ahm…he accuses the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of being directly responsible for what’s happened in East Jerusalem today…ahm…and said that it’s due to his partnership with Hamas. Of course a reconciliation deal between the president’s Fatah faction and Hamas was signed earlier in the year. Ahm…they now back a unity government…ahm…which is made up of technocrats. Ahm…they have been accused of inciting violence.”

So did the Israeli prime minister really say on November 5th that Abbas was directly responsible for the terror attack “due to [i.e. because of] his partnership with Hamas”? What was actually said is this:

“Over the past several days, we have witnessed increasing incitement by the head of the Palestinian Authority, including sending a condolence letter to the family of Yehuda Glick’s assassin, and a call to prevent the entry of Jews onto the Temple Mount by any means. This incitement has found practical expression on the ground. Today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem is the direct result of the incitement by Abu Mazen and his Hamas partners.”

But Knell’s whitewashing of Abbas’ incitement did not end with her creative interpretation of Netanyahu’s words; she then went on to tell BBC audiences the ‘real’ reasons for the surge of violence in Jerusalem.

“But this really comes on the back of mounting tensions in East Jerusalem over several months now and there are many factors for that. Ahm…the Israeli government policy of expanding Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem – which the Palestinians of course want as the capital of their future state – is one of the reasons. There have been some extremely controversial announcements of course. Settlements are seen as being illegal under international law although Israel disagrees with that.”

In other words, Knell would have listeners believe that Palestinian terrorism can be ‘explained’ by planning announcements and of course she fails, as usual, to inform them of the existence of legal opinions which contradict the BBC narrative regarding ‘settlements’. She continues – likewise failing to inform audiences that demolished structures are those which were built without planning permission, as would be the case in any Western country.

“Then we’ve had other aspects – Palestinian homes being demolished in just the past few days. And then all of these issues around restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound…ah…this holy site for Muslims, of course, but also for Jews who call it Temple Mount. Ahm…and it’s because of those tensions that we’ve had this announcement from official media in Jordan saying that the country is now recalling its ambassador for consultation because of all these problems around access to the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

Knell neglects to inform listeners that temporary age restrictions on entry to the site and rare closures are implemented solely as a means of trying to reduce tensions and avoid the violent rioting by young men.

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions during the past few weeks, the BBC continues to deprive its audiences of the ability to fully understand the background to the recent violent events in Jerusalem by consistently side-stepping the crucial issue of incitement by the member factions of the Palestinian unity government currently in power.  The list of alternative ‘reasons’ for rioting and terrorist attacks proffered by the BBC, however, continues to expand. 

 

BBC’s Connolly fails to tell all about the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount

The November 8th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ opened with an item by Kevin Connolly on the topic of Temple Mount. The programme is available here, with the relevant segment commencing at 00:38.FOOC 8 11 Connolly

Connolly’s account includes the following:

“A strict status quo governs rights of access to this holiest of places. Muslims alone have the right to worship. Jews may visit but may not pray. Any hint of change could instantly provoke widespread disorder. Here’s how powerful that status quo remains. Jordan controlled East Jerusalem until 1967 and so controlled access to the Western Wall – insensitively but memorably known to British troops of an earlier occupation as the Wailing Wall.”

In standard BBC mode, Connolly begins his historic account from 1967 and does not inform listeners when, why or how Jordanian control commenced or what the situation was before that brief 19-year stint of Jordanian occupation. He also fails to mention that Jordanian control of access to the Western Wall meant no access for Jews, along with the destruction of numerous synagogues in the Old City, from which all Jewish residents had been expelled. And of course Connolly’s description of the British administration of the Mandate for Palestine as an “occupation” is inaccurate. He continues:

“So when Israel captured the Old City in 1967 it put the most important place of prayer in Judaism back in Jewish hands.”

Connolly is of course referring to the Western Wall in that statement – as is apparent from his next lines – but his description is misleading in that it fails to inform listeners that whilst the Western Wall is in indeed the most important place to which Jews have access to pray, it is not the most important place. He goes on:

“But Israel also captured Haram al Sharif, or Temple Mount. There’s a photograph that shows young paratroopers flying the Israeli flag nearby. Their commanders quickly and smartly ordered them to take it down and then returned control of the sanctuary which contains the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock to the control of the Islamic religious authorities. Even in the afterglow of a series of stunning military victories that defined the modern Middle East, Israel was anxious to avoid doing anything here that might provoke a wider holy war. After all, a clumsily managed row over the site under British rule in the 1920s had triggered violent rioting and widespread loss of life.”

Connolly’s opaque reference is of course to the 1929 riots but he refrains from informing listeners which party instigated the “violent rioting” or of the similarity between the pretext used to incite then and that being used by the president of the Palestinian Authority and others today.

“In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a “mechitza” (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but Husseini used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque. […]

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

Instead, Connolly promotes other reasons for the current tensions in Jerusalem:SONY DSC

“But some Jews now talk again of revising the status quo. Why, they ask, should they not pray there since the place is sacred to them and since Israel controls access to the Old City? Jerusalem was already feeling edgy; a legacy of the summer fighting in Gaza and continuing Jewish settlement in Arab areas of the east of the city. The Israeli government says the status quo will remain, but you sense it wouldn’t take much to make things worse – a reminder to those of us who live in Jerusalem that the very things that make the place one of the glories of our shared civilization make it difficult and dangerous too.”

Whilst Connolly’s monologue puts significant emphasis on the topic of the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount, beyond the issue of rights of worship and access he does not actually bother to inform BBC audiences what that status quo includes.

  • The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to manage the site and be responsible for arrangements and for religious and civil affairs there.
  • Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they would be able to visit it. (This right of freedom of access to the Mount was also eventually anchored within the context of the Protection of Holy Places Law.)
  • Israel, by means of its police force, would assume responsibility for security in the sacred compound, both within the site itself and regarding the wall and gates surrounding it.
  • Israeli sovereignty and law would be applied to the Temple Mount as to the other parts of Jerusalem, to which Israeli law was applied after the Six-Day War. (This stipulation was approved more than once by the Israeli High Court of Justice.)
  • It was later decided that the only entrance gate through which entry to the Mount by non-Muslims, including Jews, would be permitted would be the Mughrabi Gate, which is located at the center of the Western Wall, whereas Muslims would be able to enter the Mount through its many other gates.
  • Over the years the raising of flags of any kind was prohibited on the Mount.

Neither does Connolly inform his listeners how that status quo has been changed over the last 47 years.

Whatever one’s opinion of the campaign by some for equal Jewish prayer rights on Temple Mount (for some reason uniformly portrayed by the BBC as a “Right-wing” issue), it is clear that the Israeli government has no intention of changing that aspect of the status quo. However, the many other components of that status quo which have changed – including damage to antiquities, unauthorized construction, restriction of access to non-Muslims and harassment of visitors – are consistently concealed from audiences in BBC portrayal of the topic. Kevin Connolly’s latest item is no exception. 

More BBC News website portrayal of run-over terror as traffic accident

Hours after the terror attack in Jerusalem on November 5th in which Border Police Officer Jidan Assad was killed and thirteen others injured, another attack took place at around 10 p.m. on Route 60.

“A Palestinian driving a large commercial vehicle rammed into three IDF soldiers standing near a pillbox by al-Arroub in the West Bank on Wednesday night.

The three soldiers were wounded in the attack near a Palestinian refugee camp close to the Gush Etzion Junction, one suffering moderate-to-severe injuries and the other two moderately wounded. […]

The vehicle escaped towards Hebron, and security forces were conducting searches of the area and placing barricades to catch the suspect. The vehicle was later found abandoned in al-Arroub with damage to its hood. 

The wounded soldiers were from a battalion deployed to Gush Etzion. The troops were securing Highway 60 that is adjacent to the al-Arroub refugee camp, where stones and Molotov cocktails are thrown at Israeli vehicles every day.”

The search for the perpetrator of the attack continues.

There was no stand-alone reporting of that incident on the BBC News website. A paragraph was inserted into the rolling BBC report currently going under the headline “Policeman killed in fresh Jerusalem car attack” which covered both the rioting by Palestinians on Temple Mount on the morning of November 5th and the later terror attack in Jerusalem. Once again, the incident was portrayed in a manner which gives visitors to the BBC News website the mistaken impression that they are reading about a road traffic accident.

“In a separate development later on Wednesday, a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the southern West Bank, injuring three of them. The incident happened near a Palestinian refugee camp, Israeli police said.”

The BBC’s Middle East bureau chief was however clearly aware that this was not an accident and was also capable of seeing the link between the two incidents.

Pigua 2 5 11 tweet colebourn

So why are visitors to the BBC News website not being told what the BBC obviously knows? 

BBC News website yet again fumbles report on Jerusalem terror attack

Any expectations that the BBC might have learned something from the public outcry over its previous miserable reporting of the terror attack in Jerusalem on October 22nd were proved premature on November 5th when another attack using the same modus operandi took place in the city.

Ibrahim al Akari ploughed the van he was driving into a group of people at the Shimon HaTsadik light rail stop. He then continued, driving the vehicle into an additional group of people before getting out of the vehicle and attacking passers-by with a metal crow-bar. One person was killed – Border Police Officer Jidan Assad from Beit Jann – and thirteen others injured – two of them seriously. Police shot and killed the Hamas-affiliated terrorist at the scene and Hamas later claimed responsibility for the attack.

So how did the BBC portray that incident? Yet again the BBC News website’s initial reports gave the impression of a road traffic accident.

Pigua 5 11 on HP

Pigua 5 11 report

Later on that report’s title was changed but with no improvement to the headline’s accuracy: “East Jerusalem pedestrians hit by driver”. Subsequent amendments to the report (see all changes here) saw its title rewritten yet again to read “Jerusalem attack: New ‘Palestinian’ car attack kills one” and later without the superfluous inverted commas: “Jerusalem attack: New Palestinian car attack kills one”.

Unnecessary and misleading punctuation did however still appear in the body of the obviously hastily composed version of the report:

“At least nine others were injured in the “suspected terror attack”, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.”

Similarly, a caption to one of the photographs used to illustrate the article states:

“The authorities have called it a “terrorist” attack”

The report described the location of the attack as follows:

“A driver has rammed a car into several pedestrians in East Jerusalem, killing one person, hours after clashes erupted at the city’s holiest site.” [emphasis added]

That inaccurate description of the location of the Shimon HaTsadik light rail station is misleading to audiences.

Pigua 5 11 map

The report also stated:

“Israeli media reports say the driver – named as Ibrahim al-Akari – was from Shuafat refugee camp in the east of the city and was a supporter of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. However, this has not been confirmed.”

In fact, the Israeli media has described al Akari as being from Shuafat – but has not stated whether the intention is the refugee camp or the village of the same name. With Hamas having already produced a ‘martyrdom poster’ displaying its own logo, the BBC’s caution is clearly redundant.Pigua 5 11 poster

The BBC report once again downplayed recent Palestinian Authority incitement by informing readers that:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting Palestinians to carry out attacks in Jerusalem. Palestinian officials have rejected the charge, saying Mr Netanyahu is fuelling tensions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

No mention was made of the fact that just days before this latest incident the PA president sent a letter of condolence to the family of the terrorist who attempted to murder Rabbi Yehuda Glick which described him as a martyr who “rose to Heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places”. The BBC also failed to report incitement in the official PA newspaper and social media.

Viewers of BBC television news on the afternoon of November 5th saw a filmed report by Yolande Knell, the website version of which also misled BBC audiences with regard to the location and nature of the incident in both its title – “Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem” – and its original synopsis.

“A driver has rammed a car into several pedestrians in East Jerusalem, police say, hours after clashes erupted at the city’s holiest site.

At least three people were seriously wounded in the “suspected terror attack”, a police spokesman says.”Pigua 5 11 Knell filmed

In the original report at that URL (it has since been replaced by another one) Knell described the vehicle driven by Akari as a “car” rather than a van, wrongly informed viewers that only one person – “a baby girl” – was killed in the similar October 22nd terror attack when in fact there were two casualties and again inaccurately claimed that the Israeli media reported that Akari came from “the Shuafat refugee camp”.

Knell also reported on the rioting earlier in the morning on November 5th at Temple Mount, describing the rioters as “protesters” holding a “sit-in”.

“This was from early this morning. Israeli police had moved into the site to try to clear away a sit-in by Palestinian protesters. They had heard that there were some Jewish Right-wing activists who were planning to visit the site…ahm…and they were sitting there by the Al Aqsa Mosque trying to protect the area, as they saw it.”

The above BBC News website written report now about the terror attack was originally titled “Clashes briefly shut key Jerusalem holy site to visitors” and related to the morning’s rioting on Temple Mount. That article was promoted by the BBC on social media using the inaccurate term “worshippers” to describe rioters throwing rocks and fireworks. It failed to mention the Fatah incitement which preceded that incident.

Pigua 5 11 worshippers

BBC reporting of events in Jerusalem continues to compromise the corporation’s obligations to inform audiences accurately, impartially and fully of the incidents themselves and their background. Until the BBC abandons its own self-censorship on reporting the issue of Palestinian incitement it can only continue to fail to fulfil its public purposes.

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

On September 15th a big feature titled “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” by Yolande Knell and no fewer than eight additional contributors appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and on its Middle East page, with the item being heavily promoted on various BBC Twitter accounts.

Knell feature on ME HP

Knell feature on HP

Almost two months on – and long after clarification of the circumstances of the battles in Shuja’iya – the BBC continues to misrepresent the events as partially as it did at the time, promoting many of the same themes which were evident in its initial reporting from the district.Knell Shuja'iya pt 1

The feature – which includes text, video and photographs – opens:

“More than 400,000 of Gaza’s residents were displaced by Israel’s recent 50-day military operation. Some 18,000 homes were also destroyed and many more were damaged. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.”

Note how this conflict has been turned into “Israel’s recent 50-day military operation” with all mention of the missile attacks on the civilian population of Israel – which not only sparked the conflict but persisted until its final minutes – erased from the picture presented to BBC audiences. Notably, another article appearing on the BBC News website the previous day similarly referred to “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in July” – suggesting that such framing is not coincidental.

As has been the case in all of its reporting from the Gaza Strip since July 8th, the BBC continues in this item to conceal from audience view the issue of buildings deliberately booby-trapped by Hamas and other terrorist organisations or those hit by missiles misfired by terrorists or destroyed as a result of their being used to store explosives. BBC audiences are hence led towards the mistaken belief that every single structure damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of conflict was the result of Israeli actions.

Once again, the BBC fails to adequately inform audiences of the true scale of Hamas operations in Shuja’iya, opting instead for its usual “Israel says” formulation. The fact is of course that the only reason fighting – and the resulting damage – occurred in Shuja’iya was because Hamas had turned it into a neighbourhood replete with military targets, including entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels, ammunition and weapons stores, missile launching sites and command and control centres.

Shujaiya comparative map

Knell’s feature continues:

“The crowded eastern district of Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip saw one of the bloodiest days of the recent conflict. Israel told the 80,000 residents to leave before it targeted the area. However, many did not believe the assault would be so serious and remained in their homes.”

Indeed, Israel did advise the residents of Shuja’iya to leave their homes four days before the operation there commenced and even delayed it in order to give people additional opportunity to relocate. This BBC report, however, deliberately misrepresents the reason why some residents failed to heed that advice, claiming that “many did not believe the assault would be so serious” and thereby concealing from BBC audiences the fact that Hamas ordered civilians to stay put. This deliberate distortion of the facts dovetails with the BBC’s policy – evident throughout coverage of the conflict – of downplaying and even denying Hamas’ use of human shields.

The feature goes on:

“On the night of Saturday 19 July, Shejaiya was pounded with heavy artillery, mortars and air strikes sending up columns of thick, black smoke. Within 24 hours, dozens of Palestinians and at least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.

From early on Sunday morning there were chaotic scenes as thousands of local people tried to flee. They headed to Gaza City, searching for shelter at United Nations’ schools and at the main Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with casualties.

Battles erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in the streets. Israel’s officials say the residential neighbourhood contained a fortified network of tunnels used for attacks and to produce and store rockets. The Palestinian government has described the killing of civilians as a “heinous massacre”.”

Details of the events in Shuja’iya on the night of July 19th and the day of July 20th have been in the public domain for many weeks now and so there is no excuse whatsoever for the BBC’s above incoherent account which misrepresents the sequence of events, downplays Hamas’ actions and yet again misleadingly presents the crucial issue of Hamas’ deliberate location of military assets in the Shuja’iya district in terms of “Israel says”.

Knell’s report goes on to show a graphic illustrating the locations of the houses of the four people later interviewed.

Knell Shuja'iya graphic

What that graphic of course does not show is the context of Hamas activity such as missile launching or the locations of the entrances to any of the cross-border tunnels found in the same area. Of the four houses showcased on that graphic, one is described as belonging to a “Grandmother” who, readers are later told, “lost one of her sons, Ismail, in the latest conflict”.

The photographs accompanying the section on the Grandmother include one of what the BBC describes as “a poster in his memory”. As sharp-eyed readers will be able to see, that poster includes the logo of Hamas’ Izz a Din Al Qassam Brigades, which could go a long way towards explaining what Ismail was doing “on the top floor of their four-storey building” and why “it came under heavy bombardment”, although Yolande Knell does not trouble her readers with such inconvenient details which would distract them from her story.

Knell art martyrdom poster

Readers are also told:

“Now the battered district stands as a reminder of the ferocity of the latest fighting and Gaza’s unsolved political problems. Locals, like the four featured below, long to rebuild their homes but are unable to do so while tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt remain in place. Israel says these are for security reasons. It is worried militants will use construction supplies to rebuild tunnels and it currently allows very limited imports for international projects.”

As was noted here only recently:

“If there is one thing which should have become perfectly clear to foreign journalists since the beginning of July it is that the entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip – which was increased in recent years due to intense pressure from assorted international bodies and aid agencies – was abused by Hamas to construct cross-border attack tunnels rather than for the advancement of projects which would have improved the lives of the people of Gaza.

However, not only has the BBC shown no interest whatsoever in discussing Hamas’ misappropriation of those building supplies or the very serious subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were destined; it continues to present the issue in terms of “Israel says”.”

Rather than investing the work of the nine BBC staff members it took to produce this feature in an in-depth investigation of how considerable sums of European tax-payers’ money has been misappropriated by Hamas over the years, the BBC has instead produced a feature designed solely to feed BBC audiences with yet more out of context images of rubble and damage in the Gaza Strip and to continue the campaign being promoted by the BBC in general – and Yolande Knell in particular - with regard to the border restrictions made necessary by the very terrorism which also brought about those images. 

Related Articles:

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?