BBC confused about Western Wall and Temple Mount

On June 21st 2013 the BBC News website published an article about an incident which took place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in which a man was shot by a security guard. The article now appearing on the BBC’s website underwent some interesting changes along the way to its final version. 

This is the original version of the article, as recorded by the News Sniffer website:

WW version 1

Some 35 minutes later, the article was updated to read as follows:

WW version 2

As we see, both versions accurately described the Western Wall as “one of Judaism’s holiest sites” and “part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount dating back to a time when a Jewish temple stood on the Mount”. Unfortunately, somebody also decided to add the anachronistic term “Wailing Wall”, which is a British invention and is not in contemporary use by those for whom the site has religious or cultural significance. 

“The English term “Wailing Wall” or its equivalent in other languages dates from much later. In fact despite its hoary sound, “Wailing Wall” is a strictly 20th-century English usage introduced by the British after their conquest of Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917. In the 19th century, when European travelers first began visiting Palestine in sufficient numbers to notice the Jews there at all, the Western Wall was commonly referred to as “the Wailing Place,”….”

In other words, the BBC’s use of the term “Wailing Wall” today is on a par with the use of outdated colonial-era names for various cities or countries in Africa or India – something which the BBC naturally refrains from doing.

The next version of the article appeared some 35 minutes after that and here we find that the Arabic term ‘Haram al Sharif’ had been added to the terminology.

WW version 3

The same terminology was also used in the next version of the article:

WW version 4

By the time the next version came around, the anachronistic term “Wailing Wall” had fortunately disappeared.

WW version 5

That remained the case in the version of the article which followed:

WW version 6

In the article’s final version, however, the accurate description “part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount” had disappeared and was replaced by more opaque wording:

“The Western Wall is part of the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif). It is venerated by Jews as a remnant from the complex which housed the Jewish temple until 70AD.”

WW version 7

It is of course inaccurate to describe the Western Wall as “part of the Temple Mount” both in architectural and political terms. It is even more problematic when it is described as “Part of Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif”. Interestingly, the earlier historically accurate statements regarding the existence of the Temple were replaced by wording relating to subjective belief rather than historic fact and the BBC apparently does not understand that the Western Wall’s significance is its status as the closest accessible place to the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies.  

The article’s final version also includes a side box in which the anachronistic term “Wailing Wall” is reintroduced and the Western Wall is erroneously described as being a “[r]emnant of outer retaining wall of second Jewish Temple, destroyed in 70AD” – rather than a retaining wall of the mount on which the Temple stood . 

side box WW

The use of accurate language in articles relating to the Middle East is of course highly important and perhaps nowhere more so than in the specific geographical area of Jerusalem to which this particular report relates, for reasons outlined in this backgrounder. But, as the evolutionary stages of this article indicate, the BBC seems to be unnecessarily confused about the subject – and that inevitably bewilders and misleads its audiences too. 

Photo Western Wall

6 comments on “BBC confused about Western Wall and Temple Mount

  1. Much ado about nothing at all. The issue is that some trigger happy gung ho IDF idiot shot a guy for shouting. Shot him. And all you gripe about is getting a very very minor detail wrong.

    Is this it? Is this a story?

  2. Actually I don’t think the Guards at the Kotel are IDF – If I remember correctly, they wear blue shirts and navy trousers, and I always assumed they were the Police, but thinking about it now, they could also be some kind of private security – I’m not sure which. Either way, I kinda doubt that would stop you having a pop at the IDF, though. I think, in any country that had already had significant numbers of repeated experiences of the after-effects of persons shouting Allahu Akhbar, immediately bere triggering a detoneator concealed in tehiur pockets in busy public places,securtiy guards in your country might also be a bit sensitive to such occurrences

  3. That last bit was supposed to say that, in any country which had already had significant incidences of people shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’ immediately before trigging detonators concealed in their pockets and blowing themselves up in busy public places, the security guards there might well be specifically trained to react pretty quickly in such circumstances, and that any non-terrorist person that exhibited similar behaviour in front of armed guards in a public area would have to be either extremely stupid (i.e Darwin Award candidates) or just as hell-bent on dying as any actual suicide bomber.

  4. The reports describe Hadi Kablan, a former Border Patrol officer, from the Druze village Beit Jann as a security guard, suggesting that he was neither IDF or Police (Border Guards are a branch of the Police). There may have been an earlier confrontation but that will undoubtedly come out in the court proceedings.

    As the BBC can’t blame Israel for this I expect them to drop the story quickly.

    The BBC has a problem with Jerusalem as their favoured Palestinians often deny any historic Jewish connection at all. Palestinians sometimes refer to the alleged Jewish Temple. Similarly the use of ‘one of Judaism’s holiest sites’ rather than indisputably Judaism’s holiest site is used to diminish the Jewish claim. The BBC will never discuss the other holy sites for Judaism because Hebron and Bethlehem are in the territories and referring to them makes it harder to describe Israel’s presence there as illegal.

    On the other hand the BBC never hesitates to describe the Al Aqsa mosque as Islam’s third holiest site but never informs us which is the fourth or fifth.

  5. Beeboid terminological tinkering at its worst. Remember the use of language as a propaganda weapon harks back to George Orwell’s “1984” and remains vital for the BBC as a public-funded relic of the Soviet era.

    Naturally, none of these BBC propagandists speaks Hebrew or would dream of using the common Israeli parlance “Kotel” to refer to the wall.

    For those seeking enlightenment, or, at least, some sort of “guide for the perplexed” engendered by the BBC, take a peak at this live Kotel webcam:

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