Acid attack on Israeli children not news for BBC, false Barghouti ‘arson’ claim left standing

On December 12th a terror attack took place at the al Khader junction on Route 60, north of Gush Etzion.

“A terrorist threw acid on seven Israelis in the West Bank on Friday, including a mother with her three young daughters and her niece. Two other pedestrians were wounded in the attack. The Palestinian suspect then chased another Israeli with a screwdriver and was shot by an armed passerby.”BBC News logo

Like other non-fatal attacks, the incident has not been reported by the BBC.

Also on December 12th, a shooting attack took place at the Israeli embassy in Athens with no reported injuries. The incident was not reported on the BBC News website.

On December 7th a man wounded in the terror attack which took place at the Shimon Hatsadik light rail station in Jerusalem on November 5th died of his injuries. Sixty year-old Abd al-Karim Nafith Hamid was a resident of Jerusalem and his death brings the number of people killed in that terror attack to three. The BBC has not reported Mr Hamid’s death.

On December 11th investigators from the Fire Department announced that the November 12th incident in which a mosque in the village of Mughayir was severely damaged by fire occurred as a result of an electrical fault and was not a case of arson as had been suggested by Fatah’s Husam Zomlot in an interview with BBC World Service radio and stated by Mustafa Barghouti in an interview with BBC News.

Zomlot: “The incitement is happening on the ground on a daily basis. When every other week we have a theft of our land, this is an incitement for violence. When every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques, this is an incitement every day. We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem.”

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

Both those interviews are still available on the BBC website. To date no footnote has been added to inform audiences that the claim that Israelis had burned the mosque in Mughayir is unfounded. 

Overview of BBC reporting on recent violence and terror in Israel

Since late October much of the BBC’s Israel-related subject matter has been focused on the surge in terror attacks and violence, with an integral part of that coverage being ‘explanations’ to BBC audiences of its supposed causes. As was noted in a previous post concerning BBC coverage of the November 18th terror attack in Har Nof, the factors promoted by the BBC as causes for that attack included (in reverse order of frequency) ‘discrimination’ against Arab Jerusalemites, a ‘cycle of violence’, supposed ‘attacks’ on or threats to Al Aqsa Mosque by Jews, the absence of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, the Gaza casualty toll of the summer conflict, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount and ‘settlements’.

The fact that so many and such varied factors were promoted as being the cause of “tensions” which, according to the BBC led to two Palestinians carrying out a brutal terror attack on early morning worshippers at a synagogue, of course indicates that the promotion of one factor or another in BBC reports depended very much upon the particular journalist.

In contrast, the subject of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian functionaries and official Palestinian sources was presented uniformly and exclusively in the form of second-hand quotes, with the BBC making no effort whatsoever to independently inform audiences of those factors and their role in the creation of “tensions”.

In this post we will take a broader look at BBC coverage of other incidents which took place between late October and late November and examine the narrative promoted in the reports below.Pigua Jerusalem

October 22nd: terror attack on light rail passengers, Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem.

BBC News website: Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby at rail station  (discussed here)

October 23rd:

BBC News website: Israel’s Netanyahu accuses Abbas over Jerusalem car attack (discussed here)

October 25th:

BBC News website: US urges probe after teenager shot dead in West Bank  (discussed here)

October 26th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian car attack claims second victim (discussed here)

October 29th: shooting of Yehuda Glick in central Jerusalem.Glick art main

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site closure ‘declaration of war’ – Abbas  (discussed here)

October 30th:

BBC News website & television news: Abbas: Mosque closure a ‘declaration of war’  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ (discussed here)

October 31st:

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site is reopened amid tension (discussed here)

November 5th: terror attack on light rail passengers & pedestrians, Shimon Hatsadik, Jerusalem.Pigua 5 11 report

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian van attack kills policeman  (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem  Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 1 (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 2 (discussed here)

November 6th:

BBC World Service ‘WHYS’ (discussed here)

November 7th:

BBC News website: Israel to destroy homes of Palestinian Jerusalem attackers  (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Outside Source’ (discussed here)

BBC News website: Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral  Yolande Knell (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site  Yolande Knell

November 8th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (discussed here)

November 10th: terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush EtzionTA terror attack bbc report

BBC News website: Israel: Palestinian held as Israeli soldier stabbed and Israeli woman and soldier killed in two knife attacks  (both discussed here)

November 13th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks (discussed here)

November 14th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access  (discussed here)

November 21st:

BBC News website: Israel: ‘Hamas plot to kill FM Lieberman foiled’  (discussed here)

November 28th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ (discussed here)

As was the case in BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack, any use of the word terror or its derivatives in the above reports came in the form of quotes from (mostly) Israeli or American officials and in inverted commas. On no occasion did the BBC independently identify the incidents as terror attacks or the perpetrators as terrorists.

Likewise, all mentions of incitement propagated by Palestinian leaders in the above reports were presented to BBC audiences in the form of quotes from Israeli officials: no independent reporting on that issue was provided by the BBC.

In addition to the factors presented as causing “tensions” – and hence terrorism – appearing in the reports on the Har Nof attack, in the reports above a number of additional factors were to be found. On two occasions audiences were told that “tensions” had risen because Israeli security forces had killed Palestinians, on three occasions they were informed that “tensions” had risen because Israel had confiscated or demolished Palestinian homes (with no context provided) and on eleven occasions audiences were told that age restrictions and/or the closure of Temple Mount were the cause of “tensions”.

Once again the prime factor promoted by the BBC as context for the surge in violence and terror attacks was ‘settlements’. Taking the above articles together with the coverage of the Har Nof attack, we see that factor has been promoted by the BBC more than any other. Like the vast majority of the additional factors presented by the BBC, that one too would be perceived by audiences as Israeli action and thus the underlying message is that Palestinian violence and terrorism is attributable to rising “tensions” caused almost exclusively by Israeli actions.

Factors

Another interesting aspect of the framing seen in BBC reporting was that of the use of political labelling – or not. The people (according to the BBC’s narrative) driven to violent rioting and terror attacks on civilians because of “tensions” caused by a campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims at a site holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike – and those inciting them to such actions – were not afforded any kind of political label in any BBC report.

In contrast, the BBC did find it necessary to describe to its audiences on numerous occasions the assumed political affiliations/stances/opinions of the people visiting Temple Mount and/or the people campaigning for equal rights there for people of all faiths, as can be seen in the few examples below.

“Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Now some right-wing religious groups say Jews should be allowed to pray – a demand which causes anger and unease in the Muslim world.” (source)

“Fears that Israel is set to legislate to remove the ban have led to furious scenes as Palestinian Muslims try to block visits by parties of far-right, religious Jews escorted by Israeli police.

“We love it when it is calm to pray but the Israeli government is not helping the situation by sending right-wing extremists and ministers to visit,” says Omar Kiswani, director of al-Aqsa mosque.”

“On Thursday, a week after the attempted murder of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, there was a rally by his supporters.” (source)

“A Palestinian suspected of shooting and wounding a prominent right-wing activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, in Jerusalem at the end of last month was also shot dead in a gun battle with Israeli police.” (source)  

On other occasions, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount was inaccurately portrayed as an “Orthodox” issue.  

In earlier reports, audiences were sometimes provided with information about the links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist organisations – although of course they were not described as such. For example:

“Shaloudi was the nephew of a leading bomb-maker from Hamas, the Islamist militant group opposed to Israel, who was killed in the West Bank in 1988.” (source)

“Police say Hejazi belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group and served time in jail in Israel before being released in 2012.” (source)

“The driver of the van – named as Ibrahim al-Akari – was from Shuafat refugee camp in the east of the city, police said.

His Facebook page states that he is a member of Hamas, and the Twitter account for the group’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, described him as a member and a martyr.” (source)

As time went on, however, those links were downplayed in later reports by means of statements such as the ones below:

“…the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations.” (source)

“BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly says there has been no real pattern to the recent spate of attacks – the attackers appear to have acted suddenly, meaning there is no advance intelligence to forewarn the authorities.” (source)

BBC reporting on the surge of violence and terror during October and November 2014 was largely limited to fatal attacks, with dozens of other non-fatal incidents ignored. As we see, the reports adhered to a specific template which ‘explained’ events by attributing them to “rising tensions” caused almost inevitably by Israeli actions.

For over a month, audiences have been provided with a picture of Israeli action and Palestinian reaction: a narrative which includes no Palestinian responsibility or agency and is carefully framed to exclude one of the story’s most important elements – the crucial issue of the repeated incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders and official organisations, with no independent BBC reporting on that issue having appeared at all to date.

In short, the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” has once again been trumped by a political narrative.  

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A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

 

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

The BBC’s coverage of the terror attack in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on November 18th provides us with an opportunity to take a closer look at how the corporation framed this story across a variety of platforms.

Below is a sample of BBC coverage: obviously it does not include all of the content broadcast across the range of BBC platforms on the two days upon which the story was run.Pigua Har Nof 2

November 18th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers    

Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)  (both above are discussed here)

British-born man named as Jerusalem synagogue victim

Jerusalem synagogue: Three victims were US rabbis

As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack  live page

Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension   Jeremy Bowen

Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’ (all of the above are discussed here)

Filmed: (the reports also appeared on BBC television News programmes)

Synagogue victim ‘concerned about radicalisation’  An interview with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg

Israel: ‘No justification for this wanton violence’  Mark Regev

‘Chaotic scenes’ after Jerusalem synagogue attack  Yolande Knell

Jerusalem synagogue attack: ‘We heard a flurry of shots’  Eye witnesses

Israeli Police: ‘Terrorists killed in gun battle’  Micky Rosenfeld

 John Kerry on Jerusalem attack: ‘An act of pure terror’

Hamas spokesperson: ‘Every day Jerusalem is boiling’  Ghazi Hamad (discussed here)

Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Occupation responsible for attack’  (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks  backgrounder  (discussed here)

Television:

Interview with Naftali Bennett (discussed here)

Jerusalem synagogue attack ‘followed months of tension’  Jeremy Bowen

Radio:

BBC Radio 4 – ‘PM’ (discussed here and here)

BBC World Service radio – ‘Newshour’  (edition 1 discussed here, edition 2 discussed here)

November 19th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem attack: Synagogue reopens for worshippers  (discussed here)

Regional media trade blame for Jerusalem attack

Filmed: (also on appeared on BBC television news programmes)

Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Eyewitness describes shootout

Palestinian intifada ‘dangerously close,’ warns former US envoy

Radio:

BBC World Service radio –’Newshour’ (discussed here)Pigua Har Nof 1

One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.

Another remarkable fact is that in seven of the above reports and despite the existence of a pathologist’s report, the BBC nevertheless amplified or allowed the amplification of baseless Palestinian claims that a bus driver who committed suicide the day before the terror attack took place had been murdered by Israelis and presented that as a background factor for the attack.

On the day of the attack itself the BBC saw fit to broadcast interviews with Palestinian officials from several factions – Ghazi Hamad from Hamas, Mustafa Barghouti from the PNI and Hussam Zomlot from Fatah – all of whom were given free rein to promote falsehoods and propaganda, including claims of “attacks” on the Al Aqsa Mosque by Israelis.

The terror attack was presented across the board as being the result of “rising tensions” between Israelis and Palestinians and those tensions were attributed by the BBC to a variety of factors, with more than one usually proffered in each report and some factors emphasized multiple times in a particular item.

Two of the reports suggested that tensions could be explained by “discrimination” against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the issue of their right to Israeli citizenship was inaccurately represented. In three reports audiences were told that rising tensions were the result of “a cycle of violence” which, according to the BBC, began with the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June (not stated by the BBC as having been carried out by a Hamas cell) and the later murder of a Palestinian teenager from Shuafat.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

On five occasions tensions were attributed to the fact that no peace negotiations are currently underway and six reports cited the Palestinian death toll in the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas as a contributing factor but with no information provided to audiences with regard to Hamas’ instigation of that conflict or its strategies – such as the use of human shields – which contributed to the civilian death toll.

The campaign by some Israelis for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount was cited on ten occasions as causing “tensions” but the BBC elected not to explore the topic of why that should be the case. On five occasions Temple Mount was described by the BBC as a “disputed site” and viewers of BBC television news were even told by Jeremy Bowen that Palestinians are “enraged” by “fears about the future of Aqsa Mosque”, with no attempt to put those “fears” in their correct and factual context.

But the factor most frequently promoted as a cause of “tensions” which purportedly led to the terror attack was what the BBC termed “settlements” or “settler homes”, with that factor being cited on eleven occasions and the district of Silwan once again being specifically named in two reports.

Clearly most of the factors presented were framed as Israeli actions. The overall impression received by audiences therefore was that the “tensions” which lead to Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis are Palestinian reaction to Israeli action.

Another interesting aspect of the BBC’s framing of this story relates to the issue of Palestinian incitement. That factor was mentioned directly in two reports (John Kerry’s statement to the press and the interview with Mark Regev), but not by BBC correspondents. In two additional reports the BBC quoted the Israeli prime minister on the issue of Palestinian incitement. Incitement coming directly from the president of the Palestinian Authority was downplayed and dismissed by Jeremy Bowen and Tim Franks. In the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ listeners heard Yolande Knell paraphrase a supposed Palestinian claim that “Israel is also inciting the violence”.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, BBC audiences have not been informed at all about incitement and glorification of terrorism on the part of PA and Fatah officials (see recent examples here, here and here) and official Palestinian Authority media and institutions (see recent examples here, here, here, here and here). The sole reference to the issue of incitement to appear on the BBC News website in recent months has been an article by BBC Trending titled “The Palestinians calling for the ‘car uprising’” which appeared on November 13th and related to a social media campaign rather than to incitement from official PA sources.

So, whilst BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the “rising tensions” which supposedly led to the terror attack in Har Nof can be attributed to a variety of factors which are mostly – according to the BBC’s portrayal – attributable to Israeli actions, they remained completely ignorant on the issue of the crucial factor of the atmosphere being engineered by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

That glaring and continuing omission in BBC coverage can only be attributed to a politically motivated narrative being allowed to trump the corporation’s public purpose remit. 

 

 

 

Religion, political narrative and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’

On November 23rd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ – which claims to address “the religious and ethical news of the week” – included an item (available from 36:45 here) presented in its synopsis as follows:Sunday 23 11

“In the aftermath of the attack on a synagogue in West Jerusalem, some politicians have warned against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict developing into a ‘religious war’. This week’s presenter William Crawley examines the latest wave of violence in the region. We also hear from Cardinal Vincent Nichols who has spent the last week on pilgrimage in the Holy Land.”

William Crawley introduced the item thus:

“On Tuesday two young Palestinian men armed with a gun, knives and meat cleavers went on a killing spree in a Jerusalem synagogue, leaving four rabbis and a police officer dead in their wake. Murder and brutality are tragically commonplace in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and atrocities have been committed by both sides. But the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn about Tuesday’s attack, in the judgment of the Israeli Justice Minister, is that this conflict over land rights and political identity is now poised to become a full-blown religious war. We’ll explore that claim in a moment.”

After a conversation with Cardinal Vincent Nichols in which the professed subject matter was not ‘explored’, Crawley (at 40:34) moves on to his next guest.

“The Cambridge University historian Dr Wendy Pullan is the author of ‘The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places’. Wendy – good morning to you.”

Dr Pullan’s title could have more accurately been presented to listeners as “Senior Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Architecture“. Significantly, she is also the “principal investigator” at “Conflict in Cities and the Contested State” (a body funded by the ESRC) which, despite its broad title, focuses its attentions mainly upon two cities: Jerusalem and Belfast. Past readers of the Guardian may be familiar with the Israel-related political opinions of Wendy Pullan’s “Conflict in Cities” colleague Mick Dumper and Dr Pullan is apparently also not averse to co-opting the halo of ‘impartial’ academia in order to promote a political narrative, as can be seen in her signed support for the BDS campaign at her university and, for example, her erroneous claim in an article published at ‘Open Democracy’ in 2013 that Israeli construction in the area known as E1 near Ma’ale Adumim “would cut the West Bank in two”. That inaccurate claim was also repeated in a paper presented by Pullan in Ankara in May 2014 within the framework of the UN’s “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”, in which the anti-terrorist fence constructed to curb suicide bombings and thus save Israeli lives was described by Pullan in the following words:

“In recent years the world has been transfixed by the extent and audacity of the separation barrier (wall). While not to diminish the extent of the human misery the wall has caused the Palestinians, it is worth noting that this structure is only part of a much larger system that keeps the occupation in place, resulting from harsh closure policies that have cut off Palestinian Jerusalem from its natural hinterland in the West Bank. Effectively, the wall is a very visible ‘tip of the ice-berg’. Although the introduction of an eight-metre high wall that separates mostly Palestinians from Palestinians is a shocking spectacle repeatedly used in the media, we know from Berlin that walls can come down.” [emphasis added]

The conversation which took place in the Radio 4 programme is therefore best taken in the context of Wendy Pullan’s obvious political motivations. They, however, were not revealed to the programme’s listeners – in breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality.

Crawley: “Let’s go to this claim of a developing religious war; to what extent to you buy into that analysis?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I don’t buy into it in the way it’s being portrayed by the various political leaders and then picked up by the press. I think that religion has played a role in this conflict for many decades but its role is not particularly new at this point.”

Crawley: How do we separate out a conflict with religious dimensions from a religious war? What’s the definition of that?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I think that the many different aspects to this conflict that have a lot to do with national identity and a very prolonged occupation and that these will always figure in the conflict itself. It’s over land, it’s over rights, it’s over identity. Now religion obviously has a role in all of that but I don’t think it’s the only role. Whereas a religious war will normally be fighting only in the name of religion; where all of the other aspects just fall by the wayside.”

Crawley: “So you’re calming down the rhetoric but let’s come to Jerusalem – a city you know very well; you lived there yourself for thirteen years. That city is so key to the peace process at this point. Why is it always such a sticking point?”

Pullan: “Well it’s a sticking point because it’s coveted by many different groups of people. And the…in a lot of ways the occupation comes to a head there. Jerusalem is highly symbolic. I mean when I say this isn’t a religious war, it doesn’t mean that religion is unimportant. It is the centre for three major monotheistic faiths. So it’s the natural place to play out the conflict. On the other hand, it’s coveted as a capital for both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Crawley: “And the fact that it has so many sacred sites is significant because sacred sites don’t cease to be sacred for future generations.”

Pullan: “No, the sacred sites…once a sacred site is numinous it usually continues to be numinous and certainly the area that the Jews know as Temple Mount and the Muslims know as Haram al Sharif is an area that’s gone back and forth in different hands and so on. But it’s remained holy, although this has been manifested in different sorts of ways.”

Crawley: “Very briefly, Wendy, what do you think it would take to calm down some of these tensions at the minute?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I think it needs political savvy and sensitivity. I mean one of the things that we find over the years in Jerusalem is that political expression for a long time was not tolerated. Religious expression was.”

The conversation ends there, but obviously the take away message for audiences is that there is no need to worry about a religious war in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That clearly erroneous conclusion ignores both history and current events, as Dr Jonathan Spyer noted in a recent article well worth reading in full.SONY DSC

“An oft-repeated sentiment currently doing the rounds in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it is imperative that the conflict not become a “religious” one. This sentiment, guaranteed to set heads nodding in polite, liberal company, stands out even within the very crowded and competitive field of ridiculous expressions of historical ignorance found in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

This sentiment is connected to the recent wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, which are the result of Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to alter the “status quo” at the Temple Mount. As this theory goes, up until now this conflict had mainly been about competing claims of land ownership and sovereignty, but it is now in danger of becoming about “religion,” and hence turning even more intractable. So this must be prevented.
In objective reality, the conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims over the land area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been, from its very outset, inseparable from “religion”.”

So why did a religious affairs programme on BBC Radio 4 seek to brush aside the veteran religious component in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Well, clearly one answer to that may be that the promotion of a ‘black and white’ political narrative of the kind advanced by Dr Pullan and her colleagues becomes significantly more complicated if Western audiences are informed of the conflict’s religious dimensions. 

One to watch on BBC Two: ‘Haifa to the Negev’

h/t MC

On Wednesday December 3rd at 21:00 GMT, BBC Two will air an edition of the documentary travel series ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ – presented by Michael Portillo – titled ‘Haifa to the Negev’.

Portillo prog

Already in the programme’s synopsis audiences are inaccurately informed that the Western Wall is “the holiest of all monuments for Jews” as well as that Portillo will be seen visiting “the Haram ash Sharif”, to which one of course doubts he gained access “in the Muslim quarter” as stated because entry to non-Muslims is via the Mughrabi Gate, located near the Western Wall. 

“Following his 1913 Bradshaw’s guide, Michael ventures beyond Europe to the Holy Land. His journey begins in Haifa in modern-day Israel. Struck by the spectacular shrine of the Baha’i and its beautiful gardens on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Michael learns about the faith and how, at the time of his guide, it spread to Britain.

Michael is shown how to cook a takeaway, middle-eastern style, before heading to Haifa’s original station to find out about its branch line to the famous Hejaz Railway.

In Tel Aviv, Michael marvels at the city’s futuristic skyscrapers and railway lines, threaded along the centre of modern highways. He hears the story of its birth, which was just before his guidebook was published, discovers how its population was swelled by refugees from Europe and learns the roots of the modern-day conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

On his way to Jerusalem, Michael hears how the Jaffa to Jerusalem railway was the first line to be built in the Holy Land. Constructed for pilgrims to journey to the holy places, it encouraged more modern tourists to explore these exotic destinations.

In Jerusalem’s Christian quarter, Michael meets British tourists at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and finds out about a surprising Holy Land tradition, subscribed to by the most illustrious visitors, among them British royalty. In the Jewish quarter, he visits the holiest of all monuments for Jews – the Western Wall. In the Muslim quarter, admission to the Haram ash Sharif, to see the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, hangs in the balance. In 1913, as now, application must be made to the authorities.

Crossing the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank in the company of his Palestinian guide, Michael heads for Bethlehem where he meets the embroiderers of the Arab Women’s Union and finds out about their handiwork.

Heading south, Michael arrives at the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea, where he takes to the buoyant waters.

On the train south to Beersheba, Michael learns about the work of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund at the turn of the 20th century. In the Negev Desert, he learns about a celebrated British military hero with railways in his sights.”

One can only hope that more attention is paid to accuracy in the programme itself.

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Kevin Connolly’s cameo of a ‘popular’, ‘forgiving’ terrorist on BBC Radio 4

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly continued his role as the corporation’s ‘chief Jerusalem explainer’ (see some previous instalments here, here, here, here and here) on November 28th with a report broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – available for a limited period of time from 02:39:22 here.Today 28 11 14

Presenter John Humphrys introduced the item as follows:

“If you’re a Muslim you will know it as al Haram al Sharif. If you’re Jewish you’ll call it Temple Mount. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, this holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem is the focus of rising tensions between the two communities: tensions that some see as indicative perhaps of a kind of third Infitad…Intifada uprising. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly with this report.”

Kevin Connolly: “One by one, second by second, the mosques of East Jerusalem raise a call to prayer that hangs over the white stone skyline of this anxious, divided city. Somewhere in that plangent chorus is the call from the Al Aqsa Mosque which stands on ground sacred in Judaism and Islam alike, where Muslims have a monopoly of worship. Palestinians see a campaign by religious Jews for the right of worship to be extended to them in the context of a history of dispossession and defeat.”

Connolly fails to inform listeners that the Israeli authorities have stated on numerous occasions – including in interviews given to the BBC – that Israel has no intention of making any changes to that status quo. Audiences then hear interviewee Amir Heshin say:

“Today it’s a nuclear bomb. You just have to push the button and the whole Middle East will blow up.”

Connolly: “Amir Heshin is a former advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem. He says frustration has fuelled Palestinian fear and anger.”

Heshin: “On one side you have all these measures which are against and on the other side of the scale you have nothing. We are in the middle of the Intifada: Intifada which is based upon disappointment. They are sick of the Israeli attitude and they would like to change it.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to place Heshin’s words in their appropriate context had Connolly informed them that, in addition to indeed having been an advisor to former mayors of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, Heshin is also linked to an NGO called the Jerusalem Conflict Academic Centre which promotes a specific political approach to the issue of Jerusalem, including its division and the declaration of Temple Mount as an area of no sovereignty. Connolly continues:

“Not everyone is calling this a third Intifada but there are plenty of depressing straws in the wind. [sound of a detonation] That was the Israeli army blowing up the house of one of the Palestinians who’ve run over and killed hitch-hikers, tram passengers and pedestrians in recent months. It’s a form of punishment the state has revived in Jerusalem in recent weeks. But punishment is easier than prevention. [sound of a radio broadcast in Hebrew] Take this crime. At a railway station a young Palestinian stabs an equally young Israeli soldier.”

The incident Connolly describes occurred on November 10th and the terrorist did not just ‘stab’ his random victim Almog Shiloni – who, notably, remains unnamed in Connolly’s account – but killed him. Connolly continues:

“Suddenly the weapons are cars or knives – not guns or bombs – and the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations. Israel’s intelligence services are struggling.”

Not for the first time we see the BBC erasing from audience view the fact that among the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in recent weeks have been several members of known terrorist organisations, some of which have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Listeners then hear Connolly say:

“That young Palestinian was Nur Abu Hashem, a jobbing painter and decorator who often came from his home at Nablus in the occupied West Bank to work without papers in Israel.”

The terrorist is actually called Nur al-Din Abu Hashaya and his entry into Israel was illegal: a fact which Connolly’s euphemistic presentation does not make adequately clear. Neither does Connolly bother to inform listeners that Nablus (Schem) has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for almost two decades – since December 12th 1995 – under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Listeners then hear a recording of the terrorist’s mother speaking in Arabic, with Connolly saying:

“Nur Abu Hashem’s mother, Salsan [phonetic] waits with resignation for the inevitable demolition of her home. But worse for her than that are the nagging questions about how her popular son – a forgiving boy, she says – could have done what he’s accused of.”

So, whilst the victim of a vicious terror attack remains unnamed and impersonalised, Connolly did find it editorially justifiable to present a humanizing cameo of the murderer and his family, at the same time erasing Hashaya’s Hamas affiliations from audience view.

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Connolly goes on:

“History focuses in Jerusalem like rays of sunlight concentrated through glass. This is the City of David archaeological site which lies between the Al Aqsa compound and the Arab suburb of Silwan; occupied by Israel in the war of 1967 and reserved in the eyes of the world for a future Palestinian state.”

Yet again we see BBC presentation of Silwan – Kfar Shiloach – without any mention of its Jewish history. Like the rest of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after Jordan – despite an explicit warning from the Israeli prime minister – decided to attack Israel in the Six Day War, the status of Silwan is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of existing agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Kevin Connolly, however, clearly has no time for such negotiations: he is already promoting the notion of a worldwide consensus opinion on the issue and in doing so, obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Connolly then goes on to promote a theme which has been popular with BBC correspondents in recent weeks: the notion that the legal purchase of existing property in certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem turns people of a specific religion/ethnicity into “settlers” – and that despite the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ being “residential areas built by the Israeli government”.

“Daniel Luria works for an organization that helps Jews to find property in the area. He calls them residents – not settlers – and says proximity to Temple Mount – as Jews call the Al Aqsa compound – is a selling point.”

After a brief contribution from Daniel Luria, Connolly closes:

“The recent upsurge in violence here has been sporadic, unpredictable. But this jaunty cartoon video circulating on Arabic social media sites warns Israelis, in Hebrew, to expect more. No-one knows what today or tomorrow might bring but non-one thinks this is over.”

So what did listeners to Radio 4 learn about the factors causing the latest surge in violence and terror in Israel from this item by Kevin Connolly? The campaign for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount and the purchase of houses in Silwan by Jews are subjects which we have also seen previously promoted by the BBC in that context. Connolly’s narrative also includes portrayal of “frustration” and “disappointment” felt by Palestinians but the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and the role of terrorist organisations in turning those feelings into violent acts of terror were once again concealed from BBC audiences.  

BBC WS promotes Hamas claim of “normal right” to carry out terror attacks

As readers may have heard, the Israeli Security Agency announced on November 27th that it had arrested some 30 Hamas operatives, including some foreign nationals, located throughout Judea & Samaria. The Hebrew announcement is available here and it notes the role of the Turkey-based Hamas official Saleh al Arouri in organizing and financing this latest terror network to be uncovered.

“As with the previous network, the man behind the terrorist grouping was Saleh al-Arouri, a Hamas leader who was deported from the West Bank to Turkey in 2010, the sources said.

Arouri, they said, built up and funded the network, and has effectively established a Hamas command post in Turkey which is leading terror efforts in the West Bank. Arouri is reportedly aided by dozens of operatives, some of whom were deported by Israel in the wake of the Gilad Shalit prisoner deal in 2011.”

As was the case when a previous network was discovered in August of this year (see here and here), BBC coverage of this story fails to adequately inform audiences of the fact that Hamas’ operations in territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority are being run from a NATO member country.

The BBC News website’s Middle East page covered the story on November 27th with an article going under the interestingly punctuated title of “Israel ‘foils Hamas cell planning Jerusalem attacks’“. Apparently the BBC is not totally convinced either that a Hamas plot was foiled or that the cell was planning attacks.Hamas cell written

Notably, in a story about a Hamas terror cell, BBC audiences were not informed of the highly relevant subject of Hamas’ terror designation, with the organization being portrayed in the following terms:

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza and backs the Palestinian Authority’s national unity government in place since June, has so far not commented.”

The operatives themselves were described throughout the article exclusively as “militants”.

“Shin Bet said it had arrested more than 30 militants who were trained abroad, and recovered weapons and explosives.”

“Shin Bet said the militants whose arrests were revealed on Thursday had plotted to attack Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium and a tram, as well as carry out car bombings and kidnap Israelis in the West Bank and oversees.”

Whilst the BBC is obviously aware of the cell’s connections to Hamas’ Saleh al Arouri in Turkey, the article failed to expand on that issue and to provide audiences with the necessary background and context.  

“The suspects – who include a number of Palestinians from the West Bank, two Jordanians and a Kuwaiti – had received orders from Hamas officials based in Turkey, it added.”

The report did, however, include the following paragraph in which Israelis – mostly civilians – murdered in terror attacks and the terrorists who carried them out – several of whom were members of assorted terror organisations – were presented side by side. 

“Over the past month, 11 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, including four rabbis and a policeman who were stabbed and shot at a synagogue in Jerusalem last week. Twelve Palestinians have also been killed, including several of those who carried out the attacks.”

The same story was also covered on November 27th by BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (available from 34:10 here). In that item the role played by Hamas operatives based in Turkey in planning, financing and purchase of weapons for this latest plot was again downplayed and Hamas’ terror designation was similarly ignored. Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item by presenting the ISA’s announcement in words (such as “militant organization” and “Israeli-occupied West Bank”) which were obviously not included in the original statement.Hamas cell WS radio Newshour

Coomarasamy: “Now, the Israeli security forces say they’ve made more than 30 arrests to disrupt what they describe as a plan by the militant organization Hamas to attack targets in Jerusalem and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Our correspondent in Jerusalem is Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel’s intelligence agency – the Shin Bet – says the plot which it uncovered in September had something of an international character. The plans described were orchestrated in Turkey by officials of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Several of the militants were recruited in Jordan and some military training had been conducted in Syria and in Gaza. The Shin Bet statement says the group planted two bombs during the summer which exploded on the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank without causing injury and that further, more ambitious, operations were planned.”

In fact the two incidents Connolly described took place in Area C at the Rehalim junction and the Jit junction.

“In the first attack, an explosion was reported at the Rehalim junction, near the Tapuah junction, in an area used by Israeli hitchhikers.

Shortly afterward, two pipe bombs were hurled at the nearby Jit junction. The bombs were thrown at a main road used by hitchhikers.”

As ever, we see the BBC portraying an area which is under Israeli control according to the terms of the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people and which has yet to have its status determined in final status negotiations as “occupied Palestinian territory”, despite the fact that the BBC style guide states:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Connolly continued:

“These were to include shooting attacks and attempted kidnappings at Jewish settlements on the West Bank. The main football stadium in Jerusalem and the city’s light railway system are also said to have been targets. It’s not clear how close those plans were to being realized but the scale of operations is certainly substantial.”

Connolly’s account lasted 51 seconds. Following that, the ‘Newshour’ editorial team found it appropriate to devote well over double that amount of time to the amplification of unadulterated propaganda from a member of the terrorist organization concerned.

Coomarasamy: “Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem. So what does Hamas have to say about these allegations? Osama Hamdan is a senior member of Hamas based in Lebanon.”

Hamdan: “As everyone knows, the military wing of Hamas always announces the attacks they carry out against Israelis. Without the announcement we cannot trust the Israeli story. Israelis have their own stories. They fake and create all the time just to say that the Palestinians are to be blamed. We cannot also say if they are members of the military wing of Hamas without a declaration of Al Qassam brigades.”

Coomarasamy: “So…so you’re not saying it is impossible that this was being planned; you’re just saying you personally don’t know?”

Hamdan: “What we are saying clearly is that the resistance against occupation is a normal right for Palestinians and any nation under occupation. Israelis are trying to say that they are now under terrorist attacks, which is not the actual fact. So maybe there are some Palestinians who are trying to protect their people and Israelis are trying to create a story around it.”

Coomarasamy: “So you are arguing with the interpretation of what these people might have been planning rather than the fact that they might have been planning something?”

Hamdan: “No-one knows what they were planning to do. The fact here to be concentrated on is that we have an occupation and resisting to occupation is a normal right according to international law. If they were planning to resist the occupation, then they have the right to do so.”

Coomarasamy: “So you are saying that they have the right to attack football stadiums, light rail systems, which is what the Israelis are saying was being planned. You believe that is legitimate?”

Hamdan: “Well no-one trusts the Israeli story. So they have the right to resist the occupation and this is the fact which we believe in.”

Coomarasamy: “What about the Israeli claim that they were being trained in Turkey and Jordan?”

Hamdan: “Well, Israelis know better than anyone else that this is a lie. But I think they want to use that for their own purpose. No-one can say there’s training under the supervision of Jordanians or Turks. Everyone knows that this is not happening. I think by creating false links between Hamas and some countries, they’re trying to provoke some international reaction against those countries.”

Coomarasamy: “Osama Hamdan from Hamas, there.”

Of course there has been no claim made that either Jordan or Turkey as countries were involved in training the terrorist cell, but that training by Hamas terrorists took place in Jordan, Turkey, Syria and the Gaza Strip. But as is the case with the rest of Hamdan’s falsehoods, that one too went unchallenged, meaning that BBC audiences worldwide were misled on that issue as well as by the claim that there is no terror in Israel and that terrorism is a “normal right” under “international law”.

Notably, recent BBC reports on terror-related arrests in the UK have not included promotion of the notion of a “normal right” to murder British citizens. BBC audiences and politicians would of course be unlikely to accept that sort of framing of domestic terror stories but – as we have noted here on numerous occasions – a double standard continues to be employed by the BBC when it comes to reporting terrorism in Israel. 

 

BBC misleads on Arab Jerusalemites’ citizenship status yet again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article also states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

He went on:

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

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

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

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

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

Connolly goes on:

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

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

Connolly closes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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