BBC News produces article about man held up for half an hour

An article about Easter celebrations in Jerusalem which first appeared on the BBC News website on April 19th under the title “Easter’s Holy Fire ceremony celebrated in Jerusalem” was later turned into a blatantly political piece when an amended version was republished under the title “UN envoy and Israel in Easter ritual access row“.Serry art

Readers can view the changes made to that report here.

The report’s latest version opens thus:

“The UN’s Middle East peace envoy has criticised Israeli authorities for allegedly preventing him from reaching an Easter ritual in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

According to the Oxford dictionary, the word prevent means to “keep (something) from happening” or to “stop (someone) from doing something” and so readers would reasonably assume that Robert Serry was unable to take part in the Easter ritual.

In fact, as the Washington Post informs us, Mr Serry’s arrival at the ceremony was delayed for thirty minutes due to necessary security measures of the type seen anywhere in the world when a large crowd arrives in one place at the same time – and all the more essential in a city which has been the target of numerous terror attacks over the years.

“Serry spokeswoman Elpida Rouka said that the envoy and his party were trapped for about 30 minutes but that eventually the police retreated and the group, along with “an anxious crowd of worshipers,” was able to enter.”

Contradicting its own earlier assertion that Serry was ‘prevented’ from reaching the ceremony, the BBC report also later uses the words ‘delay’ and ‘held up’:

“Robert Serry said the delay was “unacceptable behaviour” and called on all parties to “respect the right of religious freedom”.” […]

“Mr Serry said that he was held up at a checkpoint along with other diplomats and dozens of Palestinians trying to make their way to the ceremony.”

Of course the general public is not as a rule overly interested in stories about people inconveniently held up for half an hour and so in order to justify the appearance of this one – and its promotion of Serry’s bizarre claims – the circumstances had to be exaggerated and audiences drawn in by means of the inaccurate use of language.  


BBC News redesigns Jerusalem’s Old City

Over the Easter and Pessah holidays, the BBC News website’s Middle East page included in its ‘Features & Analysis’ section a written report about Jerusalem published on April 17th.Jerusalem written

What makes Jerusalem so holy?” – by Erica Chernofsky - laudably avoids some of the more common errors made by many a foreign journalist by correctly pointing out the 1949 ceasefire (or armistice) line and by accurately depicting the Western Wall.

“The Jewish Quarter is home to the Kotel, or the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Holy Temple once stood.

Inside the temple was the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism.

Jews believe that this was the location of the foundation stone from which the world was created, and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Today, the Western Wall is the closest place Jews can pray to the Holy of Holies.”

However, the article also states that:

“The Muslim Quarter is the largest of the four and contains the shrine of the Dome of Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on a plateau known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.”

Jerusalem written 2

The Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif – location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque – is of course a separate area and it is not located within the Muslim quarter any more than it is situated in the adjacent Jewish quarter, although both those quarters adjoin parts of its walls.   


One to listen out for on the BBC World Service

On Saturday April 19th the BBC World Service programme ‘The Documentary’ will broadcast an edition titled “Africans in the Holy Land” at 18:06 GMT. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:Africans in the Holy Land WS

“Paul Bakibinga travels to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to explore the lives and experiences of people from three different African communities. 

Mahmoud Salamat takes Paul around the narrow alleyways of the old city of Jerusalem to the hidden African quarter and introduces a small but close-knit community, who are descendants of Muslim pilgrims or soldiers who came to the Holy Land during the time of the British Mandate. 

Paul also explores the experiences of different Ethiopian Jews who have returned to their ancient homeland, including rising star musician Ester Rada. 

And he spends time in South Tel Aviv, where the bulk of African asylum-seekers live – stuck in a legal limbo amid growing hostility from politicians and local residents. The state cannot deport them – but neither will it grant them refugee status.”

Mahmoud Salamat previously appeared in another BBC feature back in March 2010 – titled “In pictures: Jerusalem’s African quarter” by Heather Sharp.

BBC African quarter 2010

The ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website currently features a filmed report about Israeli singer Ester Rada which also appears on the website’s Middle East page.

Ester Rada

With Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt of course being part of Africa, it will be interesting to see whether Paul Bakibinga also addresses the subject of the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who originate from those African countries and the reasons for their mass exodus from the countries of their birth.

The BBC World Service might care to correct the caption to the photograph illustrating this programme’s webpage which currently reads:

“Picture: A ‘Kessim’, a leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community”

The ending ‘im’ in Hebrew indicates the plural form of a masculine word: thus the two words “A Kessim” are incompatible. One religious leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community is a Kess - spelled קס or קייס in Hebrew and originating from Amharic – and the plural form of the word is Kessim קסים or קייסים.  




Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

Readers no doubt remember that in the summer of 2012 the BBC’s Sports department produced a profile of Israel on its dedicated Olympics webpage which claimed that Israel has no capital city whilst listing “East Jerusalem” as the capital of “Palestine”.BBC olympics

After much public outcry, changes were made to the webpage and Jerusalem was listed as Israel’s “seat of government“, with “East Jerusalem” becoming the “seat of intended government” for “Palestine” according to the BBC.

Complaints were also made regarding the amended version of the webpage and in March 2013 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published its January 2013 findings regarding appeals made (but not upheld) following those complaints (see page 34 onwards here).

A year later, in March 2014, the ESC published its January 2014 findings regarding yet another request for appeal on the same topic (see page 49 onwards here).

But the story does not end there. Via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem (who was recently featured – in one case without identification of her PSC ties as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines – in several BBC reports) writing at Electronic Intifada, we learn that two Hamas-linked anti-Israel lobbying groups are still pursuing the issue of Israel’s capital city.

“At the end of 2013, PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] and FoA [Friends of Al Aqsa] made a direct request to the BBC asking that it release these documents under a Freedom of Information request. The aim was to find out how and why the BBC Trust had made a decision that referencing Jerusalem as Israeli was not in breach of its editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, and what had influenced the Trust’s decision.PSC and Hamas

This request was rejected by the BBC, leading to last week’s appeal to the commissioner, which is the next stage in the Freedom of Information process.

In the appeal, both organizations set out the background to the request. PSC had challenged the BBC in 2012 and 2013 over reporting on its online pages and radio broadcasting, where Jerusalem was called an “Israeli city,” and no distinction was made between East Jerusalem — which is considered by the United Nations to be occupied Palestinian territory — and West Jerusalem.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign website also carries the story, claiming that:

“…East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied Palestinian territory by the UN and the international community, including the UK government. West Jerusalem is considered to be under de facto Israeli control only, but not under Israeli sovereignty.”Ismail Patel

The fact that this is a transparently political campaign being run by two Hamas-linked organisations which have no other raison d’etre than professional anti-Israel campaigning and have taken part in delegitimisation projects such as the 2010 flotilla and the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ (see here and here) is patently obvious – and predictable.

Whilst the BBC has so far not succumbed to this pressure to take a political stance from what Jeremy Bowen is unlikely to describe in future interviews to British papers as ‘full-time anti-Israeli lobbyists’, one particular section of the ESC’s two publications regarding the complaints is especially worthy of note.

In both of the above documents produced by the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee (page 39 here and page 51 here) it is stated that:

“The [BBC Trust's Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

Yes, you read that correctly: the highest BBC body charged with ensuring the corporation’s adherence to editorial standards (including those of accuracy and impartiality) claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – aka UN GA resolution 181– has some sort of relevance or validity and based upon that gross misinterpretation, presumes to dictate that a city in which there has been a Jewish majority since the nineteenth century “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.

Despite what the members of the BBC Trust’s ESC may choose to believe, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, 181 was non-binding and in fact it was no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known (although apparently not in the higher corridors of the BBC) the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan en masse and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant.

 “Resolution 181 has no legal ramifications – that is, Resolution 181 recognized the Jewish right to statehood, but its validity as a potentially legal and binding document was never consummated. Like the proposals that preceded it, Resolution 181′s validity hinged on acceptance by both parties of the General Assembly’s recommendation.

Cambridge Professor, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice, a renowned expert on international law, clarified that from a legal standpoint, the 1947 UN Partition Resolution had no legislative character to vest territorial rights in either Jews or Arabs. In a monograph relating to one of the most complex aspects of the territorial issue, the status of Jerusalem, Judge, Sir Lauterpacht wrote that any binding force the Partition Plan would have had to arise from the principle pacta sunt servanda, [In Latin: treaties must be honored - the first principle of international law] that is, from agreement of the parties at variance to the proposed plan.”

In any case, the corpus separatum proposal had a sell-by date: the proposal was only intended to last for ten years, after which a referendum of the city’s residents was to be held to determine its status. As Sir Elihu Lauterpacht pointed out in the monograph mentioned above: [emphasis added]

“The role of the U.N. in relation to the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places is limited. In particular, the General Assembly has no power of disposition over Jerusalem and no right to lay down regulations for the Holy Places. The Security Council, of course, retains its powers under Chapter VII of the Charter in relation to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression, but these powers do not extend to the adoption of any general position regarding the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.”

Further, as Dr Dore Gold points out in his book “The Fight for Jerusalem” (p. 134): [emphasis added]

“The UN took upon itself certain commitments with respect to Jerusalem as a result of the passage of Resolution 181. It pledged “to ensure that peace and order reign in Jerusalem” and that it would “promote the security, well-being and any constructive measures of development for the residents.” It empowered the newly created UN Trusteeship Council to draft and approve a detailed statute for UN administration of the Holy City. This was a necessary legal step for the UN to assume the responsibilities of the British Mandate after its termination.

But no Jerusalem statute was adopted. On May 14, 1948, the UN General Assembly convened in a special session to determine whether to assume formal responsibility for Jerusalem as the Partition Plan had proposed. The UN determined that it would have to take action before the Mandate expired on May 15. But the UN failed to adopt any proposal giving it legal responsibility for Jerusalem that would enable it to become the effective successor to the British Mandate as the General Assembly had envisioned.”

The issue of the BBC’s stubborn refusal to list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city is one which comes up with tedious regularity on these pages and others. At least now we have gained some insight into the type of historic illiteracy which lies behind that misconstrued thinking. Perhaps fewer cosy chats between “senior BBC executives” and members of the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel lobby in the UK would help the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee to get a better grip of the historical and geographical facts.  

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Security incidents of one sort or another made up the subject matter of quite a substantial proportion of the BBC News website’s coverage of Israel throughout the month of March and so it is interesting to look at what was deemed newsworthy and what was not, as well as at the quality of those reports. 

Beginning in the north, as we noted here on March 13th, by that stage of the month the BBC had already ignored the discovery of two Katyusha rockets near Majdal Shams on March 1st and an attempt to plant an improvised explosive device on the Syrian-Israeli border on the night of March 4th/5th

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya


On March 14th another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol in the HarDov area on the Israel-Lebanon border. That incident was not reported by the BBC until four days later when a brief mention of that attack and the one of March 4th/5th appeared in a report relating to a separate incident. Hizballah has since claimed responsibility for that attack, but that news has not been reported by the BBC to date.

On March 18th, on the Israel-Syria border, another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol. The BBC published a report titled “Israeli soldiers wounded by bomb blast in Golan Heights” which was later replaced by another eventually titled “Israeli air strikes in Golan ‘kill Syrian soldier’” after Israel responded to the attack.

On March 28th an attempted infiltration of the border between Israel and Syria took place near Kibbutz Ein Zivan, with the two armed men reportedly killed. That incident was not reported by the BBC. 

During the month of March the BBC elected to report on two incidents occurring in the central region: the March 10th incident at the Allenby Bridge border crossing (which is still under investigation) and the March 22nd incident in Jenin in which Israeli forces trying to arrest a wanted terrorism suspect were attacked and three terrorists killed in the resulting gun-battle.

Among the many other incidents in the same region which the BBC elected not to report were a stabbing attack carried out by a member of the PFLP near Petah Tikva on March 2nd, the arrest in Hebron of a Hamas operative wanted since 1998 and the arrest of a resident of Jabel Mukaber with ties to Hamas on charges of sabotaging gas pipelines in the capital with the intention of causing explosions. The man also admitted carrying out a terror attack with an axe in 2012.

Incidents in which rocks and firebombs were thrown at Israeli vehicles included that of March 20th when a bus carrying schoolchildren was attacked with a firebomb near Nablus. On March 23rd an Israeli soldier was seriously injured at Rachel’s Tomb when a concrete block was thrown at him. In all, 107 incidents were recorded in Judea & Samaria and three in Jerusalem during March, with the majority (95) involving firebombs. All of those incidents were ignored by the BBC, as is habitually the case. In fact, throughout the last nine months since the current round of talks between Israel and the PLO commenced, according to ISA statistics, 916 firebomb attacks have taken place in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Only one of those attacks (in November 2013) has been reported by the BBC.

Attacks July 13 to March 14 incl

In the southern region the BBC used a report on an incident on March 1st in which a woman was shot near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip to once again promote a flawed report by Amnesty International. On March 4th a strike against two terrorists who were in the process of firing missiles at Israeli civilian communities was the subject of a problematic BBC report. Incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip on the night of March 6th did not receive any BBC coverage.

On March 11th a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell fired a mortar at an Israeli army patrol on the Gaza Strip – Israel border and the IDF responded. Later that evening a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Sderot. Neither of those incidents received coverage until the evening of the next day when the BBC produced the first of four reports (see also here and here)  concerning the subsequent heavy barrage of missiles from the Gaza Strip was fired at civilian communities in Israel over a period of two days. All those BBC reports were hallmarked by their amplification of PIJ propaganda, their absolving of Hamas of any responsibility for the attacks and the fact that they failed to clarify that some of the attacks were carried out by additional terrorist factions including Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Despite having sent a correspondent to Sderot, the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the point of view of Israeli civilians under attack. 

Gaza from Zikkim beach

Gaza City from Zikkim beach


Subsequent incidents on March 17th and 18th and the discovery of two improvised explosive devices on the border on March 25th were not reported. The discovery on March 21st of another cross-border tunnel prompted a BBC report which amplified Hamas propaganda.

BBC coverage of the March 5th seizure of a ship transporting weapons destined for terrorists in the Gaza Strip from Iran via Sudan included a blatant ‘smoke and mirrors’ report, the use of inaccurate maps, amplification of Iranian propaganda and the failure to inform audiences of evidence of Iranian involvement in the shipment.

Clearly a considerable proportion of security events – especially those not resulting in casualties – continue to be ignored by the BBC. Throughout March that was once again particularly notable in the central regions of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem with the number of incidents reported by the BBC confined to two, whilst a total of 110 violent attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel actually took place. Clearly too, BBC audiences are not able to form fact-based opinions if such a large proportion of information is consistently withheld.

Related Articles:

90% of missile attacks from Gaza Strip in February ignored by the BBC

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

One hundred and sixteen stories the BBC chose not to tell







BBC’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ does fashionable post-colonial guilt

With the BBC’s commemoration of the World War One centenary well underway, it was not surprising to see that the March 6th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on BBC Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – included an item described in the Radio 4 version’s programme synopsis as follows:

“James Rodgers visits a World War 1 cemetery near Jerusalem and ponders how events there 100 years ago influenced the region and still do.” 

The item – which can be listened to here or as a podcast here from about 18:00 – was also featured in the World Service edition of the same programme on March 11th and can be heard here from around 04:43. In that abridged version it was presented under the title “Bearing Witness on the Middle East” and the synopsis reads: FOOC WS 11 3

“Near Jerusalem, James Rodgers has been researching the area’s war graves. As the world gears up to commemorate World War One in Europe, he argues that perhaps we would do better to cast our minds eastwards, and consider how that conflict continues to shape the Middle East.”

The Radio 4 version is introduced by Kate Adie.

“The Great War of 1914-18 may have been largely concentrated in France and Belgium and that’s the focus of most of the commemorations this year. But the largest theatre of war in terms of territory was in fact in the Middle East. It pitted the British and Russians among others against the forces of the Ottoman Empire, supported by the Central Powers – in other words the likes of Germany and Austria. But it also involved all sorts of others, including Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, Berbers, Arabs and Jews. James Rodgers, who’s been writing a book on the region, has been exploring some of the consequences of the fighting.”

The World Service version is introduced by Pascale Harter.

“Coming up: the graveyards in Jerusalem which bear witness to the way World War One shaped the Middle East.”


“Across the Middle East, James Rodgers has been researching the First World War. It’s coming up to one hundred years since the outbreak of what was known then as the Great War. As people prepare for the centenary commemorations by focusing on the devastation it caused for Europe, James takes a walk through a part of the world where it’s still affecting events today.”

Listeners may therefore have quite reasonably concluded that the four minutes or so of former BBC journalist James Rodgers’ item would inform them about the British campaign in the Middle East nearly a hundred years ago. British cemetery Jerusalem

That, however, is not quite the case.

Yes – Rodgers begins with a description of the British war cemetery in Jerusalem and recounts his search for the graves of soldiers commemorated in his local church in London, but he soon goes off on a tangent and a sizeable proportion of his report is devoted to an event which took place twenty-eight years after the end of the First World War.

“I was pointed in the direction of the graves of some of the men from my local parish. They had been killed a few days before Christmas 1917 as British forces sought to consolidate their hold on Jerusalem. Their occupation of the Holy Land then was part of the process – the defeat and dismantling of the Ottoman Empire – which would see the Middle East divided by borders we largely recognize today.

British forces stayed in Jerusalem until 1948. Their commanders came to use the King David hotel – opened in the early 1930s – as their headquarters. This made the building a target for Jewish fighters seeking to drive them out of Palestine. In July 1946 bombers disguised as milkmen blew up the southern wing of the hotel, killing 91 people. Today the king David hosts presidents and prime ministers. Guests sitting in the lobby on my recent visit seemed casually dressed, but snatches of conversations and ubiquitous smartphones and tablet computers suggested they were doing big business.

I had come to learn more about the experience of my journalist counterparts in the late 1940s. Some of them had narrow escapes from the explosion. It was here, explained Maya Morav – the hotel’s PR manager – flicking on the lights to a basement room. Now it’s a hall for conferences and meetings. Then it had been a subterranean kitchen – the place where the bombers left the milk-churns they had packed with explosives. Less than two years later the British Mandate came to an end. British involvement in the Middle East, of course, did not.

When you are covering the Israel-Palestine conflict as a correspondent you need to have history at your fingertips – often more than one version of it. One of my earliest experiences in Gaza was being welcomed and then chastised by an elderly Palestinian refugee. Because I was British he saw me as bearing some of the blame for events of the previous century which had left his family in a shanty town in one of the most crowded parts of the world. Perhaps he had a point.

As events remembering the First World War gather pace in Europe, perhaps the real focus should be on the Middle East where decisions taken then helped to shape Jerusalem, Gaza, Israel, Syria and Iraq as they are today.”

What Rodgers hopes to achieve by urging BBC audiences to focus on geo-political events in the Middle East a century ago is not stated clearly in this report. What is apparent is some degree of fashionable ‘post-colonial guilt’ and an utter disregard for the all-important subject of context – as shown for example in Rodgers’ failure to note that his “elderly Palestinian refugee” actually came by that status as a result of the decision by Arab countries to invade the new Israeli state or his failure to mention the British policies which kept untold numbers of Jews from reaching safety in Palestine before, during and after the Second World War.

Some might consider that Rodgers’ suggestion that those commemorating World War One turn their attentions to the Middle East becomes a little less opaque when one notes that he is not averse to collaborating with the Hamas-supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign and that the latter organization – in addition to producing its own highly inaccurate propaganda concerning Britain’s record in the region – also promotes and supports the ongoing campaign by the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (and others) to get Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration.

A dollop of selective post-colonial guilt will surely oil the wheels of that politically motivated campaign. 




BBC omits vital background information in Temple Mount rioting story

The photograph chosen to open an article headlined “Israeli police and Palestinians clash on Temple Mount” which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on February 25th is captioned as follows: Temple Mount art

“Palestinians scuffled with Israeli police officers when denied entry to the site after the morning’s unrest”

In the absence of any clarification regarding “the morning’s unrest”, reasonable readers might well mistakenly conclude that the “clash” mentioned in the headline was brought about as a result of Palestinians being “denied entry to the site”.

The opening lines of the report which appears underneath the photograph do little to dispel that mistaken impression.

“Israeli police have clashed with Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

A police spokesman said about 20 youths threw stones and fireworks at officers from the holy site, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police then entered the compound and arrested three people, he added.”

In fact, readers have to continue right down to the eleventh and twelfth paragraphs (out of a total of sixteen) in order to understand the sequence of events.

“When Israeli police arrived to open the Moughrabi, or Moors’, Gate just after 07:30 (05:30 GMT), they were attacked by the protesters, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The officers responded by storming the compound and firing stun grenades and tear gas.”

From Ha’aretz we learn that, as is not uncommon, the rioters had spent the night on Temple Mount – presumably with the knowledge of the Waqf.

“Some 50 protesters camped out overnight at the compound after rumors that ultra-Orthodox Jews planned to hoist the Israeli flag on the platform.

When Israeli police arrived in the morning to open a gate for tourists, they were confronted by the Palestinian protesters, who threw rocks and firecrackers, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.”

In other words, the neutral-sounding “clash” – as it is presented by the BBC – was the result of a pre-planned attack by rioters on security personnel engaged in routine activity at the region’s most volatile site and the photograph and its caption actually relate to later incidents at a different location which are not covered in the report.  

Such pre-planned violence is unfortunately not rare (see, for example, reports of other recent incidents here and here) but it is only intermittently reported by the BBC. This isolated article does nothing to inform audiences of the organized nature of such events and the elements which lie behind that planning.

“One of the most active groups on the Temple Mount in recent months is known as Al-Shabab Al-Aqsa. This group of young men is most often recruited by members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement (lead by Sheikh Raed Salah) in order to “protect Al-Aqsa.” This means physically preventing Jews from attempting to pray on the Temple Mount or to cause damage to the site. These activists are Arabs from Israel and East Jerusalem who are paid for each “shift” that they work.

Alongside them is the “Women’s Corps,” with the same assignment. These women are generally poor, divorced or widows and are recruited by the Islamic Movement, which pays their salaries and organizes their transportation to the mount. These provocateurs occasionally shout insults and “Allah Akhbar” at non-Muslim visitors, but usually just stand guard.

Activists affiliated with Hamas can often be found on the mount as well. After the June 2013 coup in Egypt, Hamas supporters hung posters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi on the Temple Mount, drawing harsh criticism for using the Al-Aqsa Mosque for political purposes — despite the fact that every known Palestinian movement uses Haram a-Sharif for political gain.”

The article does, however, inform readers that:

“The unrest came as the Israeli parliament prepared to debate a motion calling on Israel to “realise its sovereignty over the Temple Mount”.

Moshe Feiglin, a right-wing member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who tabled the motion, wants restrictions on Jewish visitors to be lifted. They are currently barred from praying or engaging in other religious activities there.”


“The Palestinian protesters were said to have gathered at the site on Tuesday morning because of rumours that Jewish extremists were planning to raise the Israeli flag there.”

The presentation of the latest in a long series of pre-planned violent incidents as though it were the spontaneous reaction of “protesters” to “rumours” of unknown origin, together with the omission of crucial background information regarding the parties behind the organization of this riot and others, is clearly not an adequate representation of the entire picture. The BBC cannot claim to meet its purpose to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” if it satisfies itself with telling only particular selected portions of a story.

Why was the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem disappeared from a BBC website article?

Last week we noted that a BBC report from February 5th titled “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes” failed to inform audiences of the fact that some residents of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods which the BBC chooses to define as “Jewish settlements” are Arabs – either with or without Israeli citizenship, according to their own personal choice  – and that even so, the advice given to journalists in the BBC style guide stipulates:

“It is normally best to talk about “Jewish settlers” rather than “Israeli settlers”…”

Clearly the BBC is not keen on the idea of audiences losing focus on the message it goes to great lengths to communicate and so it simply disappears away the thousands of Arabs living in neighbourhoods such as Gilo and French Hill. 

But that was not the only thing disappeared from that article, which underwent two revisions until it reached the final version as stands on the website today. In the report’s first two versions it was stated:

“Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, and formally annexed the area in 1980.”

Some five hours after the article’s initial publication, that sentence was removed.

The Basic Law pertaining to Jerusalem – passed on July 30th 1980 – does not include the terms ‘annexation’ or ‘sovereignty’.

Basic Law Jerusalem

So was that sentence removed because of the inaccurate use of the word “annexed”? Apparently not, because the same claim appeared earlier on in the article’s first two versions and the third and final version still makes the same assertion:

“The units are to be erected on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed, a move not recognised internationally.”

What has been removed from the final version of the report is the brief reference to Jordan’s occupation of parts of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967. Of course accurate and impartial portrayal of that historic event would have had to include information on the fact that Jordan did annex parts of Jerusalem in 1950 and that the move was not recognised by the international community, with the exception of Pakistan. The fact that Jordanian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem was not internationally recognized of course means that the implications of the sentence “Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war” are not as they first appear to readers and it would then be necessary to explain what the legal status of the region was before the Jordanian invasion and occupation. Mandate for the Jewish National Home

That, of course would mean having to provide BBC audiences with information on the subject of the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish National Home in 1922 – which included Jerusalem. 

Of course by now, things are getting complicated and it is much more difficult to promote the political narrative selected by the BBC if one has to take into account that the only relevant legal document in existence with regard to that territory is the one which came out of the San Remo conference.

So instead the BBC elects to begin history in 1967, ignoring what went before just as it ignores those ‘inconvenient’ Arab residents of specific Jerusalem neighbourhoods, so as not to complicate the selected narrative and distract audiences from the chosen focus for their attentions.

Yet again, this practice of pretending that nothing relevant to the subject of Jerusalem happened before June 1967 flies in the face of the BBC’s commitment – as defined in its charter -to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

Related Articles:

EAST JERUSALEM: Setting the Record Straight  (CAMERA)

What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

On the evening of February 5th an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes“.

building Jlem 5 2 main

Readers have to wade down to the tenth paragraph (out of a total of thirteen) to discover that:

“A city council spokeswoman said the plans for the apartments were approved “years ago” and that new building in Arab areas of Jerusalem was also approved on Wednesday.”

The BBC, however, is only interested in building permits in neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it defines as “Jewish settlements”.

“Israeli officials have given final approval for 558 new apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”map Jlem HH PZ NY

That politically motivated and inaccurate choice of terminology deliberately misleads BBC audiences by creating the mistaken impression that such neighbourhoods are populated exclusively by Jews. That, of course, is not the case: thousands of Arab residents of Jerusalem – among them some who have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship – live in a variety of Jerusalem neighbourhoods, including those which the BBC elects to define as “Jewish settlements”.  

So why does the BBC – the organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues” – deliberately mislead its audiences in this manner? One clue to that puzzle may come from another statement included in this article:

“An estimated 200,000 settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, alongside 370,000 Palestinians.”

If the BBC were to inform audiences of the fact that Arabs – and not just Palestinians by the way, but also Israeli Arab residents of Jerusalem – live in certain areas added or returned to the city after 1967, then the labelling of residents of neighbourhoods such as Gilo, French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev as “settlers” would become very complicated. 

Like the Guardian – which advises its employees only to use the term “settler” for Israeli Jews –  the BBC has adopted the position that “settlers” can only be of one religion/ethnicity, with its style guide including the following curious advice to BBC journalists:

“It is normally best to talk about “Jewish settlers” rather than “Israeli settlers” – some settlers are not Israeli citizens.”

In other words, as far as the BBC is concerned, two families – one Arab and one Jewish – living next door to each other in the same apartment block in Gilo would be defined as “settlers” – or not – purely on the basis of their religion/ethnicity. 

Such categorization on the basis of religion/ethnicity is obviously both offensive and problematic. Hence, the BBC seems to have decided to circumvent the issue by pretending that all residents of the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it – for political reasons – chooses to define as “settlements” are Jewish and by concealing the fact that this is not the case at all from BBC audiences.

That undoubtedly makes life a lot easier for BBC journalists, allowing them to present a ‘black and white’, ‘right and wrong’ picture in which Jewish Jerusalemites who buy or rent an apartment in Pisgat Ze’ev are “settlers” who are in breach of the BBC approved version of “international law”, but Arab Jerusalemites who do the same do not exist. Likewise Palestinians, as the BBC defines them, who take up residence in areas west of the 1949 Armistice lines are not deemed worthy of note by the BBC and are certainly not defined as “settlers”. Neve Yaakov

This policy also allows BBC journalists to promote statements from Palestinian officials, such as the one by Hanan Ashrawi included in this particular report, whereby the construction of homes in specific parts of the city is described as detrimental to the current talks between Israel and the PLO, but construction approved by the same planning committee in other neighbourhoods over the 1949 Armistice line is not. 

Whilst this approach may well simplify matters for BBC journalists – and lay the groundwork for future BBC claims of a breakdown of the peace process due to “settlements” – it actively prevents BBC audiences from reaching informed opinions on the subject. In 2011 the combined population of the three Jerusalem neighbourhoods in which the particular building tenders noted in this report are located (Har Homa, Neve Ya’akov and Pisgat Ze’ev) was some 37,000. No realistic appraisal of any potential agreement between Israel and the PLO would see these neighbourhoods become part of a Palestinian state, but BBC audiences remain ignorant of that fact.

Instead, whilst continuing to completely ignore issues such as PA sanctioned incitement and glorification of terrorism and the rise of terrorist incidents in Judea & Samaria since the latest round of talks began, the BBC keeps audience attention focused on the chimera of building and “settlements” as an “obstacle to peace” – in a manner and language remarkably similar to the tactics adopted by the Palestinian Authority.

BBC audiences need accurate and in-depth information about Jerusalem if they are to be able to participate in the debate regarding any future agreements between Israel and the PLO. Not only are they currently not getting that information from the BBC, but the information they are being given actively prevents them from forming a realistic, fact-based picture of the city, its residents and the issues under discussion.

Related Articles:

 Don’t Divide Jerusalem: The Curious Case of Beit Safafa  (Yaacov Lozowick)

BBC continues to mislead audiences on significance of building tenders

On January 10th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured a report titled “Israel announces plans for 1,400 new settlement homes” which remained on that page for a total of five consecutive days. 

Building art 10 1

The article includes the usual BBC mantras which fail to adequately inform readers of the fact that there are many differing (and by no means exclusively Israeli) opinions on the issue of the legal status of communities and neighbourhoods situated beyond the 1949 armistice line, including the one recently expressed by the Australian foreign minister.

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

It also misleads audiences by inaccurately suggesting that residents of those neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which the BBC chooses to define as “Jewish settlements” are exclusively Jews. 

The article also once again misleads readers with regard to the reasons for the breakdown in previous negotiations.

“A dispute over settlement construction led to the collapse of the last talks.”

In fact, that “collapse” of talks in September 2010 came as a result of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to continue direct negotiations when a ten-month freeze on construction implemented by Israel as a ‘goodwill gesture’ – and ignored by the PA for 90% of its duration – came to an end.

The report states that:

“On Friday, Israel’s housing ministry issued tenders for the construction of 801 housing units in West Bank settlements, including Efrat, Elkana and Emanuel, and 600 in Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem.

The ministry also re-issued tenders for a further 532 homes in East Jerusalem that had previously failed to attract bids from contractors.”

The re-issued tenders are situated in Pisgat Ze’ev (182 units), Ramot (294 units) and Neve Ya’akov (56 units) all of which – like Ramat Shlomo (600 units) – are neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. The additional tenders are for Efrat (227 units), Alfei Menashe (78 units), Karnei Shomron (86 units), Ariel (40 units), Beitar Illit (24 units), Emanuel (also spelt Immanuel -102 units) and Elkana (169 units).  

In other words, the BBC’s definition of “settlements” in “East Jerusalem” includes a neighbourhood established by Jews on land they purchased in 1924 – Neve Ya’akov – which had to be abandoned in 1948 when the area was conquered and occupied by the British financed and led Jordanian Arab Legion. 

Were the BBC to report impartially on this subject, it would have to make it clear to readers that all of those locations above lie in districts which, according to any reasonable assessment of a possible future agreement between Israel and the PLO, would remain under Israeli control. However, that fact is not clarified to BBC audiences. 

Olmert proposal

Map Jerusalem

Instead, the report adopts and amplifies the PA narrative through the use of various quotes.

“Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it showed “Israel’s clear commitment to the destruction of peace efforts”.” […]

“The settlement watchdog, Peace Now, said that since the direct peace talks resumed, Israel had announced plans for 5,439 settlement homes.

“These latest tenders could cause negotiations to break down and destroy Kerry’s efforts,” said Peace Now’s general secretary, Yariv Oppenheimer.”

“Mr Erekat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee and its chief negotiator at the peace talks, said the Israeli government was “openly displaying its true agenda”.

“The announcement of yet more settlement units at this particular moment is a test for the US administration’s ability to hold Israel accountable for actively sabotaging their efforts for peace,” he added.”

So, rather than providing BBC audiences with a realistic view of the lack of any real significance of these building tenders on the possibility of the creation of a future Palestinian state, the BBC elects to adopt and amplify the unrealistic narrative whereby any proposed building whatsoever – including in areas which even the PA knows will undoubtedly remain under Israeli control – is presented as an event with ‘life-threatening’ effects on negotiations.

Whilst that approach is undoubtedly useful for the purpose of advancing the supporting narrative to a specific political agenda, it does nothing to help fulfill the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” and “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to promote Israeli building as sole impediment to peace talks

BBC report on building tenders presented in one-sided political terminology

BBC’s ‘Israeli building threatens peace talks’ meme in numbers

BBC coverage of building tenders reaches hysterical highs