BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

As recorded in part one of this post, politically partisan terminology – that contradicts the BBC’s style guide and was first seen in BBC content in early November 2014 following the issue of a PLO ‘advisory’ document to members of the foreign media – recently reappeared in reports by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell.

Just hours after Knell told listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 21st that the day’s rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere was caused by the fact that Israel had placed metal detectors “at the entrance to the al Aqsa mosque compound“, a later edition of the same programme included a report on the same story from her colleague in Jerusalem, Tom Bateman.

The item (from 26:36 here) was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby – who either had no idea why the orchestrated violence took place or was deliberately promoting the false narrative that it was prompted by the age restrictions on access to Temple Mount that were in fact implemented after – and because of – the calls from Palestinian leaders for a ‘Day of Rage’.

Kesby: “…clashes in Jerusalem today over restricted access to religious sites. Palestinians are angry that many have been prevented from praying at the al Aqsa mosque. Many protested. Well let’s get the background to all of this now from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Well I was down at the Old City just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem when prayers were taking place after midday. Now this part of the Old City is where the compound is…the al Aqsa mosque is to be found. It’s the same site that Jews refer to as Temple Mount; the most revered site in Jerusalem.”

Notably, Bateman’s description of “the al Aqsa mosque” as being “the same site” as Temple Mount conforms to that 2014 PLO ‘media guidance’:

“In addition to promoting its preferred terminology “al Aqsa Mosque compound”, the PLO document from November 5th also states:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, sometimes referred to as the Noble Sanctuary (“Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic), is the compound that contains Al Aqsa building itself, ablution fountains, open spaces for prayer, monuments and the Dome of the Rock building. This entire area enclosed by the walls which spans 144 dunums [sic] (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque.” [emphasis added]”

Bateman went on: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Bateman: “And normally you would see thousands of Muslims heading into the al Aqsa mosque compound. Now people were praying in their hundreds on the streets outside of the Old City walls and as we arrived there – many people had turned up – the police were blocking the road. They were preventing men under the age of 50 from going past those roadblocks. This was all after the killing last week of two Israeli police guards at the compound there. And the Israeli authorities have said that this was to do with maintaining security at the site – having the metal detectors there and the measures today to ban men under 50 – which they said were temporary. But all of this has created a real amount of anger among Palestinians, among Muslim religious leaders who called for this day of protest today.”

As we see, Bateman downgraded the ‘Day of Rage’ that was actually declared to a “day of protest” and failed to inform listeners that the attack on July 14th was an act of terrorism. He continued – giving an eye-witness account that notably erases the actions of the rioters:

Bateman: “Now before and after prayers took place there were some pretty angry confrontations. We saw stun grenades being fired. We saw people running from police officers on horseback. And shortly after that the tensions then spread to other parts of the city – to neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem – and in the last few hours the Palestinian Red Crescent has said that three people have been killed. They say there are 391 people hurt and they say nearly a hundred of those serious enough for people to have to have been taken to hospital.”

Kesby: “And as you say there, lots of complaints from the Palestinian side that the security forces have been heavy-handed. Is it your understanding that these measures in place at the moment after those deaths last week are temporary or could this be something that we see continuing?”

Bateman: “Well I think the Israeli authorities certainly were saying that the measures about preventing men under 50 from entering the site are temporary. As for the metal detectors at the site, well the police have said that weapons were smuggled into the compound before those three Arab Israelis carried out that attack last week. Now the point is that Palestinians – for whom the al Aqsa mosque is a crucially important site, not just to their faith but to their identity as well – that they fear that this may signal some kind of change; an assertion… a further assertion of Israeli control at the site there. And as international leaders appeal for calm in all this, I think that everybody realises and understands that tensions surrounding the al Aqsa mosque do have the potential to escalate.”

Notably, Bateman qualified his statement on the smuggling of firearms into al Aqsa mosque prior to the July 14th terror attack with the phrase “police have said” – despite the existence of video evidence. He then amplified Palestinian ‘fears’ without clarifying to listeners that they are baseless and without informing them that under the terms of the existing arrangements, Israel is responsible for security at the site.

As we see, although Tom Bateman has only been based in Jerusalem for a couple of months, he has already ditched the BBC Academy style guide’s instruction on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount and – like his more veteran colleague Yolande Knell – has compromised BBC impartiality by adopting partisan language that endorses the political agenda of one side to a complex conflict.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC backgrounder on Palestinian ‘metal detector’ outrage fails to tell all

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

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