BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

As readers already know, the BBC’s coverage of the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis has regularly included ‘contextualisation’ of the events in a style shown in the example below:

“The surge in violence began in September when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

However, BBC audiences have been provided with little, if any, information on the topic of the sources and history of those “rumours” or the mechanics of their dissemination – including by means of official Palestinian Authority and Fatah channels. That fact will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of one of the prime sources of conspiracy theory and incitement surrounding Temple Mount: the Northern Islamic Movement.

Two years ago the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell portrayed that organization as “conservative” but failed to inform audiences of its agenda and its links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whilst citing issues concerning Temple Mount as contributing to “tensions” which led to a wave of terror attacks against Israelis in October and November 2014, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences about the existence of organised groups purposely set up by the Northern Islamic Movement to cause unrest at that site. When, in September 2015, two of those organised groups were outlawed, the BBC described them as “Muslim groups” (rather than Islamist) and failed to provide audiences with information concerning their political and ideological affiliations.

On November 17th the Israeli government declared the Northern Islamic Movement an illegal organisation.

“For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun / Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount. This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.
Outlawing the organization is a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.

The northern branch, headed by Sheikh Raad Salah, is a sister movement of the Hamas terrorist organization. The two movements maintain a close and secretive cooperation. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is a separatist-racist organization that does not recognize the institutions of the State of Israel, denies its right to exist and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in its place. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement belongs to radical Islam and is part of the global ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ movement. The two movements share an extremist ideology and a common goal – the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Whilst there was no reporting of that news on the English language BBC News website, we can determine that the corporation is aware of it because the story did get coverage on BBC Arabic. In that report the Northern Islamic Movement is described as a group “which provides educational, religious services for the Palestinians inside Israel” and its Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood links are once again concealed.BBC Arabic Raed Salah

In June 2011 journalist John Ware wrote an article about the ban on entry into the UK of the Northern Islamic Movement’s leader, Raed Salah, in which he noted that:

“Although the Islamic Movement is not banned in Israel, it is closely aligned to Hamas, which is designated in the UK and mainland Europe as a terrorist organisation.[…]

Sheikh Salah’s Islamic Movement is reported to have mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden, calling him a “martyr” and his killers “Satanic”.[…]

Another consideration may have been an article that Sheikh Salah wrote three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, in which he said that unlike Muslim workers in the World Trade Center, Jewish workers had been absent on 9/11. […]

He [Salah] is also reported to have made a speech in February 2007 during a protest in East Jerusalem in which he accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread – allegations the sheikh strongly denies.”

That article appeared – and is still available – on the BBC News website. We can therefore conclude that the BBC knows full well that the Northern Islamic Movement is much more than a group engaged in the provision of “educational, religious services” and that of course raises the question of why the corporation continues to whitewash an Islamist group responsible for much of the incitement underpinning the current wave of terrorism against Israelis. 


BBC Hardtalk host fails to challenge Saeb Erekat’s claim on ’74 Palestinians killed’

Back in June, Hadar Sela reported on a Hardtalk interview with Saeb Erekat, in which host Zeinab Badawi failed to challenge the Palestinian chief negotiator as he recycled old statements, and reverted to talking points and anti-Israel agitprop in lieu of substantive responses.

A few days ago, Erekat again appeared on the BBC flagship programme – a show hosted this time by Stephen Sackur.

To his credit, Sackur asked some genuinely provocative questions, such as ‘Why are so many mostly young Palestinians intent on killing Israeli Jews?’, which, under different circumstances, may have elicited an interesting give and take.  However, Erekat largely succeeded in evading Sackur’s questions.                                                                                              

Further, the Hardtalk host allowed his Palestinian guest to misrepresent the facts regarding the Palestinian death toll since the latest wave of attacks began last month. Erekat claimed (at the 18:40 mark of the video) that 74 Palestinians were killed by Israelis.  

However, Sackur didn’t tell viewers that, of those 74 killed, the majority (48) were terrorists killed while involved in attacks or attempted attacks. 

Of course, BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality require such misleading or questionable claims by guests to be challenged.

Here’s the entire interview:

New BBC WS culture show misleads on cause of terror wave in Israel in seven words

In recent weeks inaccurate and misleading information concerning Temple Mount has been promoted on a variety of BBC platforms. On domestic and worldwide radio, as well as on television and the BBC News website, audiences have been led to believe that the entire Temple Mount is ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ and that the site (which has religious significance to all three Abrahamic religions) is exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”.

The latest example of promotion of inaccurate information relating to that topic came in a new BBC World Service radio programme called ‘The Cultural Frontline’ which, listeners are told, is “the line where arts and news collide”.The Cultural Frontline

The first item in the first episode of that new show was devoted to a monologue by BBC regular Raja Shehadeh on the topic of “the first Palestinian National Museum”. That item (available from 00:55 here) was introduced by presenter Tina Daheley as follows:

“Our first stop is a place that’s been fought over for decades. We’re heading to the Middle East where tensions over control of a Jerusalem mosque have triggered serious violence in recent weeks.” [emphasis added]

Obviously, for there to be “tensions over control of a Jerusalem mosque”, more than one party must be seeking to control that mosque and that, of course, is not an accurate representation of the situation. Not only does Israel have no interest in seeking “control” of al Aqsa Mosque, but it has repeatedly stated that it will continue to uphold the status quo whereby that building and the wider area of Temple Mount is under the administrative control of the Jordanian Waqf.

But not only does Daheley’s claim materially mislead listeners by providing them with an inaccurate explanation for the surge in violent rioting and terrorism; it also conceals their real cause – and agenda – by diverting listeners from the incitement based on conspiracy theories concerning al Aqsa Mosque which really does underpin that “serious violence”. 

Let’s hope that future programmes in this series will pay more attention to the importance of accurate terminology.


BBC explains why it can’t always report history accurately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No BBC News follow up on Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story

On October 24th BBC News told visitors to its website’s Middle East page that “Israel and Jordan strike deal on Jerusalem holy site“.Jordan TM report

“Israel and Jordan have agreed on moves aimed at reducing tensions surrounding a prominent holy site in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.

Issues relating to the complex have been at the centre of fresh violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Kerry was speaking after talks in Jordan, the formal custodian of what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

He said Israel had renewed a pledge to maintain existing rules there. […]

The steps he announced include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex.”

Given that the BBC has over the past few weeks devoted considerable air time and column space to amplification of the assorted libels and conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – described in this article as “issues” – it is noticeable that there was no follow-up reporting from the corporation concerning Palestinian reactions to the agreements described by John Kerry.

““This is a despicable attempt by Netanyahu, with American collusion, to entrench the Zionist control of Al-Aqsa Mosque by granting the occupation the right to authorize and prohibit Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque,” read a Hamas statement issued on Saturday.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Kerry’s statement was merely a “pathetic” attempt to “beautify the Zionist Judaizing project and rescue Netanyahu from the crisis he is in as a result of his racist, extremist policy.””

The Palestinian Authority did not waste much time either in informing the public of its view of the initiative to reduce tensions.

“Less than 24 hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the idea of placing round-the-clock surveillance cameras on Temple Mount as a means of ensuring calm at the holy site, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Sunday called the idea “a trap.”

Speaking to Palestinian radio on Sunday, Maliki warned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurances Saturday that Muslims would be allowed to pray on Temple Mount while non-Muslims would only be allowed to visit the site were not credible.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Malki’s office said Kerry had previously fallen victim to what it called Netanyahu’s “lies and deception”.
“Netanyahu is seeking to change the status quo at al-Aksa Mosque, which has been in effect since 1967,” a statement from the office said.
It also criticized the Jordan-Israel deal for excluding any role for the Palestinians at the Temple Mount. “The Palestinians and their leadership must be a major part in any arrangements to ensure and defend the historic status of al-Aksa Mosque,” the statement said.”

Malki’s remarks drew criticism from several Jordanian sources.

The Jerusalem Post also reports that:

“The Jordanian controlled Wakf Department in Jerusalem held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the latest tensions at the Temple Mount. At the end of the meeting, the department issued a statement in which it emphasized that the Aksa Mosque and its entire compound, including the “Al-Buraq Wall” (Western Wall), belong only to Muslims. It also rejected Israeli ‘attempts” to apply Israeli sovereignty and laws to the holy site.”

Like the recent failed PA initiated attempt to have UNESCO declare the Western Wall part of the al Aqsa Mosque, the subsequent UNESCO resolution declaring Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to be ‘Muslim sites’ and  the remarks negating Jewish history made by the PA-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,  that Waqf statement has not received any BBC coverage.

Obviously the BBC does not consider such initiatives and statements relevant to audience understanding of “tensions” relating to holy sites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

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

He later told listeners that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BBC backgrounder manipulates audience perceptions of wave of terror in Israel

Those visiting the BBC News website’s Middle East page may have come across an article currently going under the title “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which was actually first published on October 13th and has undergone numerous changes since then.backgrounder

The article, which purports to function as a backgrounder on the topic of the current wave of terror in Israel and has hence been promoted via links in several other reports, currently opens as follows:

“Violence between Israel and the Palestinians is once again spiralling, with casualties mounting by the day.

Here are some key questions and answers about what is going on.”

The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

“While there is no clear evidence that the attacks have been centrally organised, some Palestinians have taken to social media to champion them.

Posts praising and encouraging attacks on Israelis have emerged on YouTube and Facebook, while Twitter hashtags including “Jerusalem Intifada” or “Intifada of the Knives” are gaining traction among Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin has described the inflammatory use of social media as “Osama Bin Laden meets [Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg”.

A staged online video in the name of Hamas, the militant group which dominates Gaza, which portrayed an Arab bystander stabbing two “Jews” for bullying Arab children and called for a new intifada, was removed from Hamas’ YouTube channel after Israel’s foreign ministry complained that it glorified violence.

Many of the attacks and aftermath have been filmed on mobile phones and CCTV, getting quickly uploaded and shared. Israeli officials have expressed fear that images of assailants being shot could fuel anger and inspire further attacks.

Experts have also noticed a marked increase in anti-Arab rhetoric on Israeli social media sites, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. It says the use of inciteful language among Israelis on the internet soared in the wake of the first stabbing attacks.”

The article purports to inform readers on the subject of “What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?” and a photograph appearing under that sub-heading – which shows one of the fatalities from the October 13th terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem being removed from the scene – promotes a theme seen in much other BBC content:

“Israelis have been targeted in a growing number of apparent lone-wolf attacks”

Notably, one of the terrorists who carried out that attack was lauded by Hamas on social media.

The BBC’s account of “what is happening” of course does not include the use of the word terror.

“There has been a wave of stabbings and some gun attacks on Israelis by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli.

The attacks, some of which have been fatal, have struck in Jerusalem, across Israel and in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has tightened security and clashed with rioting Palestinians, leading to deaths on the Palestinian side.

There has also been associated violence in the border area inside the neighbouring Gaza Strip.”

Embedded under the sub-heading “What’s behind the latest unrest?” is the previously published problematic backgrounder on Temple Mount by Yolande Knell. Readers are told that:

“Violence between the two communities has spiralled since clashes erupted at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site in mid-September.

It was fuelled by rumours among Palestinians that Israel was attempting to alter in favour of Jews a delicate long-standing religious arrangement governing the site. Israel repeatedly dismissed the rumours as incitement.”

No mention is made of the fact that the intention of the violent rioting on Temple Mount “in mid-September” was to prevent Jews from visiting during a holiday – as was similarly the case previously on Tisha B’Av and later at Succot. The article then goes on to mislead readers by stating that stabbing attacks against Israelis “began” on October 3rd when in fact sixteen such attacks had already taken place in the first eight months of 2015.  

“Soon afterwards, two Israelis travelling with their four children were shot dead by Palestinians in the West Bank. Two days later the stabbing attacks began.

Both Israel and the Palestinian authorities have accused one another of doing nothing to protect each other’s communities.

Israel says the Palestinian leadership is inciting attacks, and that the attackers are driven not by political frustration but by a radical religious ideology which opposes Israel’s very existence.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has blamed “acts of aggression” by the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers for the latest violence.”

As has been the case in all BBC coverage of this wave of terror, this backgrounder fails to tell readers in its own words that there is no basis to the conspiracy theories concerning a change in the status quo on Temple Mount and also neglects to inform them on the issue of Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement promoting that theme.

The article’s next sub-heading asks the rhetorical question “But isn’t there more to it than that?” and that section is illustrated using a photograph captioned:

“The war which followed Israel’s creation left generations of Palestinian refugees”.

Naturally, no effort is made to explain exactly why “generations” of Palestinian refugees inherit that title even whilst living under PA or Hamas rule or why those in Arab countries have been deliberately kept in that status. As usual, Jewish refugees from Arab lands do not get a mention in this article.

Readers are then told that the answer to the subheading’s question lies in “narratives” – with the BBC’s portrayal of the Palestinian narrative erasing the religious themes seen in the incitement fueling the current wave of terror from audience view and its paraphrasing of Israel’s position failing to inform readers of the legal basis for Israel’s existence. 

“Yes. Much more. The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.

There are rival and seemingly incompatible historical narratives. The Palestinian position is that Israel was created on their land in 1948, turning many into refugees, and further occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Middle East war. They say any hoped-for future Palestinian state is being undermined by Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories. The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Added to this is Israel’s expansion in East Jerusalem, where the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents, and where Palestinian districts suffer from poor infrastructure and services.

Israel’s counter-position is that its right to exist is incontestable and that the Palestinian refugee problem is the result of wars forced on it by Arab neighbours. It says the Palestinian leadership – despite officially recognising Israel – have not proven they are willing to accept its permanence nor give up violence to achieve their aims.

Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel have repeatedly collapsed over the years and many on both sides have lost faith in the process.”

One paragraph in that account is particularly notable. Readers are told that “in East Jerusalem […] the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents”.

Quite how the BBC compares a “proportion” of Jews to a “number” of Palestinians is unclear but notably, no mention is made of the fact that all Jews living in what the corporation defines as “East Jerusalem” – which as we know, includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City – were forcibly displaced by the Jordanian invasion in 1948. Hence, if even one Jew went to live in “East Jerusalem” after the Six Day War, the proportion of Jews living there would have risen.

But do the available statistics actually back up the BBC’s implication that there are more Jews than Palestinians in “East Jerusalem” either proportionally or in terms of actual numbers and that their proportion of the population in that area is ‘swelling’?

According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, in 2003 a total of 403,263 Jerusalemites lived in areas the BBC defines as “East Jerusalem” including 173,500 Jews (some in neighbourhoods which did not exist before 1967, some in those which existed before 1948 such as Neve Ya’akov and the Jewish Quarter)  and 224,028 Muslim and Christian Arabs.  In other words, in 2003 Jews made up 43.02% of those living in “East Jerusalem”.

Ten years later, in 2013, the number of Jerusalemites living in the areas the BBC defines as “East Jerusalem” had risen to 509,440 and included 197,250 Jews (a rise of 23,750) and 305,470 Muslim and Christian Arabs (a rise of 81,442). In other words, Jews made up 38.7% of those living in “East Jerusalem” in 2013.

So in fact, contrary to the BBC’s claim that “in East Jerusalem […] the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents”, the actual number of Arab residents in those parts of the city rose more than the number of Jews and the percentage of Jews making up the total population of “East Jerusalem” fell during the decade 2003 – 2013.

Had the BBC confined itself to stating that the number of Jews living in what it terms “East Jerusalem” has risen since 1967, that claim would of course have been accurate – although sadly lacking in historic context. The claim as it stands, however, is inaccurate and misleading.

This backgrounder falls short of meeting its declared aim of providing “answers about what is going on” because it adheres to the selective framing of the story adopted by the BBC from the beginning of its coverage of the current wave of terror.

Any backgrounder genuinely seeking to provide information which would help audiences understand this topic could not ignore the issue of Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terrorism, would not obscure the religiously themed – and frequently racist – nature of that incitement and would not herd readers towards a view which obscures those uncomfortable issues by means of ‘contextualisation’ of the current wave of terrorism as “a fight over land and national rights”.

An article intended to mould readers’ perception of the story and advance a wider political narrative would, however, do exactly that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

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

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


BBC Radio 4 – contact details

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

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

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

Paranoia Connolly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connolly tells readers that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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