On November 6th the BBC World Service apparently decided that the corporation’s public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” would be met by broadcasting an item (available from 01:00 here) relating to the terror attack of the same day in Jerusalem on its ‘World Have Your Say’ programme.
Listeners to that programme will have noticed that in her introduction its presenter promoted the notion of linkage between the terror attack and the rioting earlier in the day at what she described as “the city’s holiest site, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound – known to Jews as Temple Mount”.
The first two interviewees are presented as Khaled Husseini “who saw the attack” and medical first responder Aaron Adler. No intervention is heard from the presenter when Husseini says:
“…in the middle of the street there were some soldiers and settlers waiting to cross the street…” [emphasis added]
The presenter asks Husseini:
“What do you think of Aaron describing it twice there as a terrorist attack? And Hamas have praised what they call this heroic operation. How do you feel about those descriptions on both sides?”
The programme’s next two guests are Talal Jabari and Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post. Listeners hear the presenter first ask Jabari for his views by saying:
“Khaled Husseini there, clearly feeling that this was not a terrorist attack and that it was – to echo something that Hamas have said – that it was a natural response to what’s been going on in Jerusalem.”
Like Husseini, who categorized the incident as “kind of a revenge”, Jabari is also given BBC airtime to depict the deliberate ramming of a vehicle into civilian pedestrians as something other than a terrorist attack and to promote the claim that “East Jerusalemites […] feel like they’re losing the Al Aqsa Mosque to settlers”. No attempt is made by the presenter to clarify to audiences that any such feelings have no basis in fact.
Turning to Lahav Harkov, the presenter inaccurately depicts the chronology of events at Temple Mount on the same morning:
“…there were clashes at the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound when some Israeli activists tried to get access. The police then closed down access to everybody so the Palestinian population reacted to that…”
In fact, it was violent rioting by Palestinians which prompted the brief closure of the site rather than the other way round as BBC audiences are led to believe.
The presenter next compares Jews visiting Temple Mount with violent rioting and attacks on motorists using rocks:
“What though, Lahav, would you say to those Israeli activists who went to the Al Aqsa this morning and tried to gain access at such a sensitive time? I mean do you accept that, from a Palestinian point of view, that’s in a sense throwing a stone? It’s a metaphorical stone that’s being thrown.”
Talal Jabari is later given the opportunity to whitewash the incitement from Palestinian leaders which is a very relevant part of the background to recent events in Jerusalem and no intervention comes from the programme’s presenter as he both questions the existence of a Jewish temple on Temple Mount and misrepresents the intentions of those campaigning to be allowed to pray there.
“They [Palestinians] see their holy site – whether or not there used to be a temple there shouldn’t be part of the discussion. [….] Whether or not there was a temple there is not part of the discussion. We did not destroy the temple…ahm….we today have a mosque there. So it doesn’t make sense for these groups to say we want to destroy it and then rebuild a third temple and for us to just accept it.”
Rather than helping to build an understanding of this particular international issue, the inaccuracies, distortions and Hamas propaganda promoted in this programme could only hinder.
Listeners were also invited to post their own comments on the topic on the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page. Below are some of those comments which – after having passed moderation – remain on the timeline.
The BBC’s casual acceptance of antisemitic comments on the public discussion boards intended to meet its remit to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” is an increasingly worrying aspect of the corporation’s interpretation of that particular “public purpose” as defined in its constitutional document.