BBC misleads on Arab Jerusalemites’ citizenship status yet again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article also states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

He went on:

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

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

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

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

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

Connolly goes on:

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

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

Connolly closes:

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

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

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

Like the version of the programme broadcast earlier in the day (discussed here), the later edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ on November 18th devoted a significant amount of air-time to the subject of the terror attack which had taken place that morning in a synagogue in the Har Nof district of Jerusalem.Newshour 18 11 late

Presented by Tim Franks, that edition (available from 00:50 here) also opened with a version of the eye-witness account given earlier by paramedic Akiva Pollak who was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Tim Franks then moved on to interview the Israeli Justice Minister, Tsipi Livni but, despite repeated explanation from the minister, seemed to have difficulty grasping the fact that whilst some people – including MKs – advocate equal prayer rights for members of all religions on Temple Mount, the Israeli government does not intend to change the status quo. Franks’ questions to Livni also included the following:

“You mentioned the responsibility of the Palestinians to try to stop these acts of violence. Hamas – or a spokesman for Hamas – has welcomed today’s killings. The President of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen – Mahmoud Abbas – has condemned the killing and yet the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu equates the actions of Hamas and Mr Abbas. He says that they are both responsible for incitement. That’s not true, is it?”

As Minister Livni rightly pointed out, Abbas’ record of incitement began long before November 18th and it includes not only statements he made personally, but also material put out by the party which he heads – Fatah and content disseminated on official PA platforms. As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has not covered the issue of incitement from official Palestinian sources at all during the last month: had it done so, Tim Franks might perhaps have been well enough informed to refrain from asking such a redundant question.

However, the programme’s next interviewee was Husam Zomlot; described in the introduction as a “senior official” from Abbas’ party and Tim Franks soon got a dose of Fatah-style propaganda and incitement first hand.

Zomlot: “The Palestinian President condemned what happened in Jerusalem this morning in very clear terms and very clear language. And he condemned it on the basis of a very principled position all along through his career and throughout the last many, many years that we reject violence and we promote non-violence. On the other hand, there is sheer violence coming from Israeli-organised terror groups over the last so many weeks. That Israeli targeting Palestinian civilians including just an hour ago here in the west of Ramallah where a Palestinian young man was stabbed by Israeli settlers and including yesterday a Palestinian bus driver with two young sons was hanged in his own bus by again another most likely Israeli-organised terror groups and….”

Franks: “Sorry – sorry to interrupt you there. I mean there has been an autopsy report into that and it has come back as saying the bus driver hanged himself – it was a case of suicide.”

Zomlot: “We are really grown accustomed whenever there is a Palestinian person who commit violence they are assassinated immediately, mostly. Like the last week we had six of them assassinated and some of these cases they could have just arrested them. While when there is an Israeli act of violence, we always hear these allegations. Either Palestinians kill themself or the Israeli person who committed it like the one who burnt Mohammed Abu Khdeir, this young boy in Jerusalem, was mentally disturbed. I doubt the Israeli judicial system and I doubt their police investigations and regardless of what happened we need to hear Mr Netanyahu condemning the hanging; condemning what is happening.”

Franks: “But sorry – how can he condemn a suicide?”

Zomlot: “This is not about just that incident. There has been provocations…”

Franks: “I’m sorry to interrupt you. You do…for you to say that this man was not hanged, he was murdered is a very, very serious charge because it’s not just the case of murder, but what you are saying is that the authorities are colluding to cover up a murder.”

Zomlot:”We need to see real, meaningful transparent investigations in so many cases. And I don’t think the Israeli government – the current government – nor its establishment, is capable of producing a genuine real transparent investigations and this is our experience for years. Why don’t we call for international investigations for these incidents? And we will accept in full the founding [sic – findings] of international investigations.”

Franks: “You can raise doubts but you said in terms that this man had been murdered. My question to you is whether on a day like today when feelings are running very high, whether you should be careful not to incite feelings so that anger goes beyond and that it ends up as an incitement. You may say you don’t want it to be such but it is an incitement to violence: it’s an incitement to rage.”

Zomlot: “I don’t like this term. I don’t like your allegations and accusations. We are religious about non-violence. We roamed the world for years upon years to try and provide our people with non-violent way of achieving their rights and the proof is for the last so many years we actually – the Palestinian Authority and the PLO – have been absolutely clear about our commitments to the security of Palestinians and even to the Israelis, not only by words but by deeds. When we merely state facts, this is not incitement. The incitement is happening on the ground on a daily basis. When every other week we have a theft of our land, this is an incitement for violence. When every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques, this is an incitement every day. We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem. All what I’m trying to say is let’s not only focus on the symptoms of the situations, but on the root causes of it. We absolutely regret this murder of civilians. We should take it as an opportunity to really, really look at the situation and stop Netanyahu from taking us all to the unknown: from sending this conflict from a national conflict that could be solved to a religious conflict that could not be solved.”

Whilst Tim Franks certainly did better than any of his BBC colleagues in challenging Zomlot’s inflammatory andZomlot Newshour tweet baseless allegations regarding the suicide of the bus driver, that was of course far from the only inaccuracy in Zomlot’s rant. The rest of the falsehoods and distortions by this Fatah senior official went unhindered and unchallenged, including the claim of “de-Arabisation of Jerusalem” and the claim of “assassination” of terrorists caught in the act and the claims of “every other week […] theft of our land” and “every other day […] provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques”.

The obvious question which must be asked is if Tim Franks was capable of recognising at least part of Zomlot’s incitement for what it was, why was this interview – which clearly contributes nothing to audience understanding of the facts behind the story being covered – broadcast to millions worldwide and further promoted by the BBC World Service on Twitter as a separate podcast?

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

As was noted in part one of this post, the final interview (available here from 16:14) in the long segment reporting on the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem earlier that day which appeared in the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ on November 18th, featured Rosemary Hollis – Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at City University, London.PM 18 11

As an academic, Professor Hollis’ contribution to the report was presumably intended to provide UK audiences with the type of context and analysis which would enable them to enhance their “awareness and understanding” of this particular “international issue”. However, basic inaccuracies and omissions in Hollis’ account in fact diminished the possibility of better audience comprehension.

The interview with Rosemary Hollis came directly after a previous one with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg who had been murdered in the terror attack just eight hours or so before the programme went on air. Presenter Eddie Mair opened his conversation with Hollis thus:

“We asked you in to talk about the status of Jerusalem. Just before we do that, we just heard the view of Israel and its place in the Middle East from a grieving relative. It’s a view that will be contentious.”

Hollis: “Yes; it was a beautiful tribute to Mr Goldberg and I think you would find that for many individual Palestinians, equally beautiful tributes could be paid for their awareness of the issues, for their innocence, for their devotion to family and to religious values and so on. One has to be careful here. If Mr Goldberg’s cousin is worried about a mind-set in the killers, that needs to be dealt with on a specific level in terms of where these young men were coming from, what their experience of life and occupation had been, and not to tarnish all Palestinians with some characteristics which may or may not be appropriate to apply to some individuals. It’s a classic problem in conflict and there is no justice in the killings that take place. To find it in the evilness of the perpetrator is a natural instinct but it’s not conducive to ending the kind of conflict that we’re in here.”

Yes, the BBC really did bring in an academic in order to promote to audiences a narrative of equivalence which, inter alia, suggests that hacking a man in his seventh decade to death with a meat cleaver for no other reason than his being a Jew should be seen in the context of the terrorist’s “experience of life and occupation” and where he was “coming from”. Hollis continued:

“Now, at the moment the tension in Jerusalem can be traced back to the beginning of the summer before the Gaza war. The tension started with the abduction and killing of Jewish students and then a revenge killing of a Palestinian.”

The BBC has of course also used those events as part of a menu of factors it promotes as ‘explaining’ the latest surge in violence and terrorism. Notably, neither Hollis nor her host bothered to point out to audiences that, crucially, the kidnappings and murders of the three Jewish teenagers were carried out by a Hamas cell from Hebron or that the attack was financed by Hamas in Gaza: the same Hamas which is partner to the Palestinian unity government which had been sworn in ten days before the three teenagers disappeared. Likewise, no attempt was made to clarify to listeners that the “Gaza war” (apparently nothing happened in Israel during July and August 2014 which BBC audiences need to know about) was instigated by that same terrorist organisation.Whilst those inconvenient facts would of course spoil the narrative of equivalence, facts they are and BBC audiences should be made aware of their existence. 

Hollis then went on to inaccurately represent the topic of the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

“It’s also worth remembering that the status of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem is unique in the pattern of the conflict. The East Jerusalem areas captured by Israel in 1967 – captured from Jordan who controlled them between the date of the foundation of Israel in ’48 and 1967 – that area of Jerusalem was annexed to Israel.”

Listeners not familiar with Middle East history would of course be unlikely to appreciate from that account that the euphemistically termed Jordanian “control” of parts of Jerusalem for 19 years came about after Jordan attacked the fledgling Jewish state and belligerently occupied and later annexed the areas concerned in a move not recognised by the international community. Hollis continued:

“The Israelis say it is their eternal unified capital and their sovereignty is indisputable. Of course the Palestinians who live there do dispute that sovereignty and the East Jerusalem Palestinian population are not citizens of Israel like the Arab citizens of Israel that Mr Goldberg’s cousin was describing. They have what they call laissez-passer: they have an East Jerusalem ID. They’re supposed to be lucky in the scheme of things compared with other Palestinians because they are not subject to direct occupation. But they are subject to security control and over the last few months hundreds of them have been arrested on suspicion – not on trial.”

Rosemary Hollis’ portrayal is of course factually incorrect. Arab residents of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after the Six Day War are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship – and many have done so – which affords them the same rights as any other citizen of Israel of whatever religion or ethnicity. This was not the first occasion upon which this issue has been misrepresented to BBC audiences: the same inaccurate claim was made in a report by Yolande Knell on BBC World Service radio earlier in the month. Hollis also of course failed to point out to audiences that the vast majority of Palestinians  live under the administration of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A, B and the Gaza Strip and that the minority living in Area C where Israel still has civil and security control do so because their representatives agreed to that arrangement under the terms of the Oslo Accords and then subsequently sabotaged permanent status negotiations by instigating the second Intifada. Hollis’ reference to the arrest of “hundreds” of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem over the past few months of course erased from audience view the fact that there have been countless incidents of violent rioting and terror attacks during that period of time.  The conversation continued with presenter Eddie Mair saying:

“Can we step back even further than the summer to before any of us were alive? How did Jerusalem come to be a place that’s so important to people of different faiths?”

Hollis: “Well you can go back a couple of millennia if you like. [laughs] It is obviously of importance to Muslims, Christians and Jews. And I think I would say that there’s not a square inch of Jerusalem that isn’t contested and religious sites are as contested as others. And it’s a little bit confusing to start talking about freedom of worship because an aspiration since the beginning of the twentieth century – which saw the fall of the Ottoman Empire and originally the occupation of Jerusalem by the British and under the British mandate there – was to talk about what should be the future sovereign arrangement for Jerusalem. And there’s always been talk about it should be an international dispensation because of its importance in religious terms.”

This is of course also not the first time that we have seen the BBC promoting the idea of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum – see previous examples here and here. What Hollis of course did not tell listeners to Radio 4 is that the proposal was conditioned on the acceptance of the Partition Plan by the relevant parties and was rejected by the Arab side, and that in any case, the corpus separatum plan was conceived with a ten-year time limit, after which residents of the designated area were to vote in a referendum to determine its status. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how Hollis used the redundant argument for a corpus separatum to deflect attention from the progressive issue of equal prayer rights for all at Jerusalem’s holy places. 

No less inaccurate was Rosemary Hollis’ portrayal of what she terms “Jewish doctrine” (as though there were one approach alone) on the subject of Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount.

“What we’ve had in the Israeli context is an interpretation of Judaism on the part of religious nationalists – the bedrock of the settler movement – err…who are effectively contesting some positions traditionally adopted in Jewish doctrine which says that one should not wish to pray on the Temple Mount because that area is not to be treated as an area of worship until the coming of the Messiah. But the Religious Nationalists are talking about land which they consider both the national birth right of Jewish people and of religious importance. And that combination leads them to challenge most directly latterly the Palestinian and Palestinian Muslim position on some of these sites.”

Hollis’ misrepresentation of the topic of “traditionally adopted […] Jewish doctrine” of course not only confused the issue of differing approaches to equal prayer rights on Temple Mount with the separate subject of some strains of thought according to which the building of the third Temple is conditioned upon the appearance of the Messiah, but also erased the fact that different schools of thought on the topic of Jewish entry to and prayer at Temple Mount existed even before the appearance of the “settler movement” she clearly sought to portray as the root cause of the current tensions.

Once again, rather than providing listeners with accurate factual background intended to aid their understanding of the context of that morning’s murders of five Israelis in a terror attack not described as such by the BBC, this programme busied itself more with promoting a view of the issue framed by specific political motivations. And yet again, the issue of Palestinian incitement remained outside of that BBC framing. 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mustafa Barghouti is an influential Palestinian politician.”

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

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

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

Selective BBC reporting on security issues

On November 21st the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel: ‘Hamas plot to kill FM Lieberman foiled’“. The article opened by erasing Hamas’ terror designation: obviously a relevant factor in a story about a Hamas plot to carry out a lethal terror attack.Lieberman plot

“Four Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli security forces over an alleged plot to kill Israel’s foreign minister with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the group planned to assassinate Avigdor Lieberman during the Israel-Gaza conflict of July and August.

It said the men belonged to Hamas, the group which runs Gaza. Hamas said it had “no information about this issue”.”

However, BBC audiences were not told what else Hamas’ spokesman said:

“Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip although it is formally under Abbas’ rule, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.

“We have no information about this issue. However, we stress that leaders of the Occupation (Israel) who are responsible for the killing of children and women and for defiling the sacred sites are legitimate targets for the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.”

The article closes thus:

“The release of the information about the alleged plot comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians.

Palestinian militants killed five Israelis in an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem on Tuesday – the latest in a spate of deadly attacks in the city by members of militant groups, including Hamas.

Tensions have also soared over a disputed major holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and incidents including the killing by Israeli forces of an Israeli-Arab and a Palestinian in Hebron.”

Readers were not informed of the all-important context of the violent circumstances which led to the shooting of the two men and as we see, the BBC continues to promote the inaccurate notion of Temple Mount as a “disputed” site despite repeated announcements by the Israeli government that the status quo at the site will not be changed.

Notably, another announcement from the Israeli Security Agency made the previous day did not receive coverage from the BBC.

“The hit-and-run incident that wounded three soldiers in the West Bank two weeks ago was a deliberate attack rather than an accident, and the suspect — who has confessed — will be indicted in a few days, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday.

“Masalma initially tried to disguise the attack as a traffic accident, but under interrogation he admitted that it was a terror attack,” the agency said in a statement. “He also admitted that he had decided some time ago to commit an attack on soldiers.””

As readers may recall, at the time the BBC reported the incident in language which suggested a road traffic accident.

Likewise, the BBC has to date not reported the seizure of a shipment of weapons bound for Jerusalem.

“A massive amount of fireworks, knives and Tasers police believe were meant in part to be used by rioters clashing with police were seized last week by Jerusalem District detectives and officers from the Tax Authority and the Ashdod Port Customs, police announced on Thursday.

Police said the seizure came after Jerusalem detectives ran an undercover investigation along with the tax and customs officials, during which they were able to track and seize two shipping containers which came to Ashdod by way of China. The fireworks were hidden among Christmas decorations inside the containers, which were intended for Arab residents of the largely Christian east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.” 

The BBC policy of downplaying terrorism and its portrayal of Palestinians as victims lacking agency continues, including by omission. 

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

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

  1. ‘Settlements’

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

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

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

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

  1. A supposed “dispute” over Temple Mount.

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

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

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

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

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

Pigua HAr Nof follow up art graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presenter: “Do you have evidence for that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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