BBC reporting on Abu Ein incident: the numbers and the narrative

In addition to the grossly inaccurate account of the circumstances preceding the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein presented in the afternoon version of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 10th, the programme’s evening version, presented by Tim Franks, included a report on the same topic by Kevin Connolly (available from 00:39:00 here).Newshour 10 12 Franks

As has been the case in all the BBC’s reporting on this subject, Connolly failed to provide listeners with an accurate representation of the circumstances behind the demonstration at Turmus Aya, saying:

“A group of demonstrators set out for the village of Turmus Aya because they believe that Israel’s marking out land there to build a new settlement of the sort regularly condemned by the international community near the existing settlement of Shilo.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad. The demonstration – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 07:24) – was intended to garner publicity for that move, as the presence of film crews obviously informed of the event in advance also indicates. Whilst Connolly may have been told that the demonstrators “believe” there are plans to build a new community in the area, he obviously did not bother to fact-check the existence of any such plans before repeating that hearsay.

Once again, Connolly’s account of the sequence of events is also misleading.

“The Palestinians found the Israeli security forces waiting for them and a confrontation which was perhaps inevitable began quickly. In television images you can see an old man pushed to the ground and getting up and striking Israeli soldiers with a flag pole. There is a lot of violent shoving and tear gas is used. In the midst of it, Ziad Abu Ein finds a camera and begins telling the crew what’s going on. Listen carefully and you can hear him fighting for breath before he begins to speak.

Voiceover: They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is their terrorist army; practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.

Connolly: Now, within minutes of recording that brief interview Ziad Abu Zain [sic] had died in an ambulance taking him to hospital and it’s still not clear exactly what caused his death. At one point an Israeli Border Police officer was seen to grab him by the throat but perhaps very briefly. He would have inhaled tear gas and there are also stories of him being hit and shoved.”

Connolly fails to clarify that the use of tear gas was in response to an attempt by the demonstrators to approach Adei Ad and that the media interview given by Abu Ein occurred after his provocation of and altercation with the Border Police officer rather than beforehand, as clarified by Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon here (Hebrew) from 03:16.

Connolly then uses an extended version of the interview with Hanan Ashrawi (who was not present at the scene) also found in his television report on the subject from the same day and, despite the lack of any evidence proving that Abu Ein was “killed”, nevertheless includes that allegation in this item.

Ashrawi: “Well first of all it’s extremely sad that a colleague and an old friend has been killed in such a cruel way. But I’m also…I have a sense of outrage. Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people: that we save the land where Israel was attempting to steal the land.”

No mention is made in this report of Abu Ein’s conviction for the murder of two Israeli teenagers and the injury of over 30 others in a terror attack on Tiberias market in 1979. Neither are listeners informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli special forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

The next day, December 11th, the evening version of Newshour (also presented by Tim Franks) included a report by Yolande Knell (from 00:45:00 here) which contained a statement from Saeb Erekat similar to the one used in her television report from the same day.Newshour 11 12 Franks  

Knell’s description of the previous day’s events is as follows:

“Yesterday television crews filmed Mr Abu Ein as he joined dozens of protesters in a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. But Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. After scuffles broke out an Israeli Border Policeman briefly grabbed Mr Abu Ein’s throat and later he fell to the ground, clutching his chest. An Israeli doctor was present at the Palestinian post-mortem examination and Chen Kugel from the National Institute of Forensic Medicine gave Israel’s conclusions.

Kugel: The findings of the autopsy were that the cause of death was a heart attack. Now this type of heart attack is caused by stress and apparently he had a stressful event just before – we all saw it – and we found some bruises in the muscle layer and the sub-cutaneous layer of the neck.

Knell: For the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, it was more clear-cut.

Erekat: Ziad Abu Ein was killed in cold blood. The autopsy report said he had an explosion in the major artery. What caused this was Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein. They are fully responsible.”

As was the case in her filmed report, Knell refrains from informing audiences that there is no evidence to show that Abu Ein was “killed” or ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten’. Note too how she places the evidence-free rhetoric of Erekat on the same level as the scientific opinion of a senior physician. Neither is any attempt made by Knell to inform listeners of Abu Ein’s past conviction for terrorism.

A look at the coverage of this incident across various BBC platforms (see related articles below) shows that in two filmed reports for television, two written articles and three World Service radio programmes, the picture presented to audiences adheres predominantly to the Palestinian narrative.

In addition to hearing or reading differing and conflicting reports from unidentified Palestinian “witnesses”, “medics” and local reporters for foreign news agencies, BBC audiences were presented with two interviews with Hanan Ashrawi, one interview with Abdallah Abu Rahma and two interviews with Saeb Erekat, who was also quoted in one of the written articles. Despite the lack of any supporting evidence, audiences have been told that Ziad Abu Ein’s collapse and subsequent death was caused by inhaling tear gas, being hit and/or shoved, being hit by a tear gas canister, being beaten up, being suffocated and being hit on the head with a helmet – to name but some of the proffered accounts. They have also been told on two separate occasions across all platforms that Abu Ein was “killed” and on three further separate occasions that he was “killed in cold blood”.

In contrast, audiences heard one interview with an Israeli official (the pathologist) and in two other reports the BBC paraphrased statements concerning Abu Ein’s medical condition made by the Israeli authorities. Abu Ein’s terror conviction was only briefly mentioned in one of these reports.

The amplification of unproven, inaccurate hearsay, rumour and propaganda from obviously interested parties is not ‘impartiality’ as demanded by the BBC editorial guidelines. It is the BBC’s job to present its audiences with the verified facts behind a story in order to enable them to become better informed about events – not to blindly repeat the narratives promoted by anyone and everyone willing to speak to journalists.

Unfortunately, this kind of jumble sale journalism, in which all the tales offered to the BBC – however bizarre or disconnected from the facts – are promoted and presented as legitimate news, seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in BBC Middle East reporting.

Related Articles:

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

BBC’s Knell at Abu Ein funeral: all the rumour not worth reporting

BBC News website’s written reports on Abu Ein continue to spread rumour

Palestinian activist gets open mic for propagation of lies on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

 

 

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

On December 10th the BBC produced several reports concerning the death of PA official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation with Israeli security forces near Turmus Aya.

One of those reports was a filmed item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which appeared on BBC television news programmes as well as on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian minister dies during West Bank protest“. In fact, Abu Ein was not a “Palestinian minister” at the time of his death; his title (since September 2013) was head of the PLO’s ‘Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements’. Previously Abu Ein had held the position of deputy minister for prisoners’ affairs. The synopsis to that report amplifies assorted unverified rumours concerning the cause of his death:Abu Ein filmed Connolly

“A Palestinian minister has died after a confrontation with Israeli troops at a protest in the West Bank.

Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.

But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.”

The report opens with Kevin Connolly informing viewers that:

“The Palestinian protesters came to Turmus Aya in the occupied West Bank because they believe Israel has earmarked this land for its own future development. It’s near an existing Jewish settlement. The demonstrators came to plant olive trees: a way of saying the land is theirs.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24). Connolly continues:

“Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. The clashes were nothing new in this bitterly contested place. Israeli troops used tear gas as the confrontation developed. Ziad Abu Ein appeared, breathless, before the cameras to condemn Israel.”

Viewers then see footage of Abu Ein speaking to the media with a voiceover translation of his words:

“They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is a terrorist army, practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.”

The BBC News website also saw fit to publish a separate filmed item under the title “They’re assaulting us – Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein” with a synopsis also amplifying unverified rumour.Abu Ein filmed 2

“There are conflicting reports about his death – medics told the BBC he died from complications related to exposure to tear gas, but several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers.”

Returning to Connolly’s report, he then tells viewers:

“Then, Mr Abu Ein – a veteran Palestinian official – emerged at the centre of the angry scenes. Apparently grabbed by the throat at one point by an Israeli border police officer, he fell to the ground and was treated at the scene. But minutes after these images were captured, he had died on his way to hospital.”

Connolly’s chronology of events is in fact inaccurate. Reporter Roy Sharon from Channel 10 was at the scene and standing by Abu Ein at the time of the altercation. According to Sharon, who also filmed the events (see here from 8:25 and here from 3:16 – Hebrew), the security forces used tear gas in response to an attempt by the protesters to approach the outpost (not mentioned by Connolly), the altercation between Abu Ein and the Border Police officers took place about 15 minutes after the tear gas had been used and the interview given by Abu Ein to the media took place after his provocation of the security forces – not before as Connolly claims. Some four minutes later Abu Ein sat down on a rock feeling unwell, an Israeli paramedic approached him to offer help and roughly five minutes after that an ambulance arrived to transport him to hospital. Sky News correspondent Tom Rayner who was also at the scene tweeted:

Abu Ein Rayner tweet

A subsequent autopsy showed that Ziad Abu Ein died of a heart attack.

“The deceased suffered from heart disease, and there was evidence that plaque buildup were clogging more than 80% of his blood vessels, as well as signs that he had suffered heart attacks in the past.”

Connolly’s report goes on to show an interview with Hanan Ashrawi who, despite not having been present at the scene as far as is known, states:

“Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people.”

Despite seeing fit to amplify Ashrawi’s baseless propaganda, Connolly did not find it necessary to inform BBC audiences that Ziad Abu Ein was a convicted terrorist responsible for the deaths of two Israeli boys and the wounding of thirty others in a bomb attack on the market in Tiberias in 1979. Neither were audiences informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

Connolly closes:

“As news of Ziad Abu Ein’s death spread the Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning. It hasn’t said how it will respond politically but Mr Abu Ein’s death will further escalate the tension that’s been steadily rising here. Israel says it’s sorry for his death, is investigating and has offered to help with the autopsy. But Palestinian anger runs deep.”Abu Ein Davies Tweet

In fact, shortly after the incident Jibril Rajoub stated that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel – although such a move does not appear to have been implemented so far.

One thing, however, is certain: inaccurate reporting of the kind seen in Connolly’s report and on from BBC employees on social media can only add to the already incendiary cocktail of rumour and propaganda surrounding Abu Ein’s death and hence contribute to a potentially dangerous escalation of tensions.  

BBC’s Arab-Israeli conflict obsession distorts history

Over the past week or so the BBC has devoted quite a lot of coverage to the subject of the reburial of the ashes of Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson in Israel, in accordance with his last wishes.

Tel Hai

Tel Hai

That coverage has included:

An interview with adventurer John Henry Patterson” November 28th.

Benjamin Netanyahu recalls adventurer John Henry Patterson” November 28th.

Broadcasting House – BBC Radio 4, November 30th – Kevin Connolly from 34:33 here.

The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero” November 30th, Kevin Connolly.

Briton hailed as ‘Godfather’ of Israeli army reburied” December 4th.

Israel reburies ashes of British WW1 commander” December 4th.

The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero to be reburied in Israel” BBC World Service radio, December 4th

Much of that coverage was provided by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly and it once again provided an example of Connolly’s obviously keen interest in history and his ability to produce interesting, impartial and accurate reporting on related topics. Unfortunately though, BBC audiences do not get to read or hear such informative contributions from Kevin Connolly very often.

However, one inaccuracy did appear in an insert to Connolly’s November 30th feature article which profiled two members of the Zion Mule Corps commanded by Patterson.

Insert Connolly patterson article

SONY DSC

Tel Hai

The battle of Tel-Hai on March 1st 1920 was of course not “an early battle of the Arab-Israeli conflict”. Jewish settlement had begun there some fifteen years earlier on land purchased in 1893 by Baron Rothschild and in 1918 it became a kibbutz and was named Tel Hai. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the British withdrew from the area in 1919, handing it over to the French mandate authorities in accordance with agreements between the two powers. Local Arabs loyal to the Arab Kingdom of Syria rebelled against the French and the Jewish farming villages in the Upper Galilee – Metulla, Kfar Giladi, Hamara and Tel Hai – despite remaining neutral in the dispute, became regular targets for pillaging from December 1919 onwards, with two residents of Tel Hai killed in separate incidents in December 1919 and February 1920. The large group of armed Arabs who arrived at the gate of Tel Hai on March 1st 1920 led by Kamal Effendi demanded entry – not for the first time – in order to search for French soldiers. In the ensuing battle, six more residents of Tel Hai were killed, including Joseph Trumpeldor.

Hence, whilst Jews and Arabs were involved in that battle, its simplistic and inaccurate categorisation as part of the Arab-Israeli conflict detracts from the broader historic picture and misleads audiences. 

 

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.  

Related Articles:

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. 

 

 

 

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 one

The BBC World Service’s news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’ began its coverage of the terror attack which had taken place at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem earlier in the day on November 18th in the afternoon version of the programme – available here from 00:45 to 12:50 and from 30:00 to 39:00.Newshour 18 11 early

Presenter Razia Iqbal’s short introduction was followed by an eye-witness account from paramedic Akiva Pollak who was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Next came a recording of a statement by the Israeli Minister for Internal Security, Yitzhak Aharonovich, after which Iqbal told listeners:

“The synagogue attack comes a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem. Israel says this was a suicide but his family says he was murdered. Hamas said the attack was retaliation for the death of the bus driver.”

That was followed by a recording of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying:

“The Hamas movement praises the attack in Jerusalem and considers it a normal reaction to the killing of Yusuf al Ramouni and repeated Israeli crimes at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Hamas confirms how important it is to avenge Israeli crimes.”

This of course was not the only occasion on November 18th upon which the BBC – despite the scientific evidence provided by senior pathologists – elected to amplify a dangerous narrative based entirely on evidence-free Palestinian incitement. That same propaganda was promoted on BBC television news and on the BBC News website – see here and here.

After informing listeners that Mahmoud Abbas had condemned the attack – adding “and also called for an end to what he called Israeli provocations” – Iqbal introduced the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly who claimed that:

“..quite a lot of violent incidents in the past few weeks appear to have been the result of individuals acting alone with no planning and no preparation…”

Connolly did not inform listeners of the very relevant fact that many of those perpetrators belonged to assorted terrorist organisations or that some of the attacks were later claimed by such groups. Later on in the conversation, Connolly presented audiences with his menu of ‘contributing factors’ to the surge of terror and violence over the past few weeks.

“I mean we would say that washing around in the background of what is a palpable increase in tension in Israeli society are a couple of issues. There was the summer conflict in Gaza; there is continued Jewish settlement in an Arab district of East Jerusalem called Silwan.”

Yet again we see inaccurate BBC portrayal of the summer hostilities as having taken place exclusively in the Gaza Strip, along with another politically motivated presentation of the legal purchase of properties in a certain Jerusalem neighbourhood by people of a specific ethnic/religious group as “settlement”. Connolly goes on:

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course. Now that is a site sacred to both faiths – to Muslims and to Jews. Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven from that very point. Jews believe that it’s where their ancient Temple – destroyed by the Romans – stood; where the Holy of Holies of the Jewish faith is. Now by a very long tradition, only Muslims are allowed to pray at that site. Jews can go there but they may not pray. Now in recent years a Jewish religious movement has grown up arguing the right of prayer should be extended to Jews. Any attempt to tinker with the status quo is regarded as an incendiary issue – not just in Palestinian society but in the wider Arab and Muslim world – and I think it’s almost certainly that issue much more than the others which is fuelling, as I say, what is a very, very noticeable increase in tension, not just in Jerusalem but also in the occupied West Bank as well. So the atmosphere is changing here for the worse and of course you know the lesson of history here is that cycles of violence like this one are much easier to start than they are to stop. You know, Israel says it has no plans to change that status quo whatever religious Jews argue but that assurance is simply not believed in sections of Palestinian society.”

As has been noted here before, the status quo on Temple Mount actually relates to additional issues besides prayer rights for non-Muslims (Connolly failed to inform listeners that the site is also holy to Christians, who are not allowed to pray there either) and other changes have been made to aspects of the status quo over the years which have not been regarded as an “incendiary issue”. Interestingly, despite its being defined by Connolly as a “key” issue, at no point in its extensive coverage of the topic of Temple Mount has the BBC made any attempt to address the subject of why the egalitarian idea of equal prayer rights for members of all faiths at a site holy to three religions should produce such a violent reaction in the “Arab and Muslim world” or how that issue has been employed over the years as a catalyst by leaders with political interests, just as it is being used now.

Kevin Connolly did, however, respond appropriately in this item to Razia Iqbal’s following statement:

“And the attack at the synagogue has provoked extremist views on both sides and there have been calls for all sorts of reactions to it today. Has there been any reaction on the street?”

Connolly: “There have been small gatherings of people on the streets and I think I’d be cautious of the word extremist in terms of the reaction here. People here are very shocked by the scale and the nature of the violence. A lot of pictures are circulating here on social media of bloodstains on the floor of the synagogue, of bodies of the dead covered in prayer shawls, so there’s a real sense of shock here.”

Later on in the programme, listeners heard a recording of the US Secretary of State’s condemnation of the terror attack before Razia Iqbal introduced two interviewees from Jerusalem – presented as giving an Israeli and an Arab view of life in the city. However, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality (as was also the case on the BBC News website’s live page of the same day), the Israeli interviewee – Daniel Seiderman – was presented only as “a lawyer” and not as a political activist with the NGOs ‘Ir Amim’ and ‘Terrestrial Jerusalem’, meaning that audiences were not able to place his contribution in its correct political context and to understand that they were actually hearing two views from the same school of thought rather than differing ones.

The evening version of the November 18th edition of ‘Newshour’ will be discussed in a later post.