Between January 1st and January 9th 2014 the BBC News website published five separate articles on the subject of the deteriorating health of Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
January 1st: “Ariel Sharon’s health suffers ‘serious deterioration’“.
January 2nd: ”Israel ex-PM Ariel Sharon ‘critically ill’“
January 3rd: “Israel ex-PM Ariel Sharon ‘deteriorates further’“
January 5th: ”Ariel Sharon: Doctors pessimistic over ex-PM’s survival“
January 9th: “Israel ex-PM Ariel Sharon condition ‘worsens’“
Each of those articles includes between two and three links (totalling fourteen links in all) to the BBC’s profile of Ariel Sharon which, despite being recently updated on January 1st, still promotes the erroneous claim that his visit to Temple Mount in September 2000 was the cause of the second Intifada. That same myth is also to be found in assorted BBC backgrounders on the subject of the second Intifada.
Ariel Sharon’s death on January 11th prompted BBC coverage of predictably gargantuan proportions, some of which continues to stubbornly perpetuate that same inaccurate and misleading claim.
An “In Pictures” feature which appears on the BBC News website includes a photograph captioned:
“As opposition leader in 2000, Mr Sharon paid a controversial visit to the holy compound in Jerusalem known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims. Palestinians rioted and the second intifada (uprising) ensued.”
In the obituary published on the BBC News website it is stated:
“He swept into power in 2001, six months after the beginning of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, which began when Sharon paid a controversial visit to the the [sic] holy site in Jerusalem known as the Temple Mount to Jews, and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.”
In an article titled “Israel’s ex-PM Ariel Sharon dies” which also appeared among the coverage on the BBC News website, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly writes:
“In the year 2000, flanked by hundreds of Israeli riot police, he staged a visit to the area of the Old City in Jerusalem which contains sites sacred both to Jews and Muslims – the Temple Mount or Harem al-Sharif.
Even though the area is in the part of East Jerusalem captured by Israel in the war of 1967, Jewish rights to pray there are limited – and it is a microcosm of the tensions that fuel the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
Intense rioting followed his visit there and many people trace the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada to that moment.
Ariel Sharon was characteristically unrepentant.”
In a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen which appears on the BBC News website as well as having been broadcast on BBC television news programmes, Bowen states:
“As he pushed to become leader of the Israeli Right in 2000, he made a highly publicized, heavily guarded visit to the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, providing the spark for the second Palestinian uprising.”
Clearly, the BBC is extremely keen to keep the notion alive in the minds of its audiences that the second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon paid a thirty-four minute visit to Temple Mount within regular opening hours which was pre-coordinated with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. The trouble is, of course, that the version of events being energetically propagated by the BBC on multiple platforms is not accurate. The even bigger problem is that the BBC knows that very well, and yet it continues its opportunistic promotion of it anyway.