As recently noted here, the fact that the BBC was able to promote the notion of linkage between last Friday’s rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and the announcement concerning Jerusalem made by the US president two days beforehand meant that visitors to the BBC News website saw some modest coverage of that particular incident – in stark contrast to the numerous other incidents that the corporation chose to completely avoid reporting earlier in the year.
The same was true of some BBC radio stations. The December 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’, for example, included an item (from 52:08 here) introduced by Justin Webb as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Webb: “Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to allow plans for the US embassy to move there from Tel Aviv have enraged Palestinians and caused disquiet – to put it mildly – among America’s allies and the wider international community. In a statement issued after a UN Security Council meeting, Britain and other European countries called the move ‘unhelpful’. The Trump administration is hitting back at the UN – that they believe is biased against Israel – and at all those who’ve complained at this decision, telling them in effect ‘hold on, nothing’s working at the moment to bring peace – let’s try something new’.”
Webb then introduced “Tom Bateman our correspondent who’s been monitoring developments yesterday and indeed overnight” and Bateman opened his report with the last event to have taken place rather than the first.
Bateman: “Ah well overnight there were Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military says it targeted Hamas military sites including weapons manufacturing sites and also a training facility. And in the last 30 minutes or so Gaza’s Shifa hospital has said that they’ve found the bodies of two people under the rubble of one of those sites.”
Failing to clarify to listeners that the “two people” concerned were Hamas operatives, Bateman went on to give an account that included elements which BBC audiences could have found for themselves on Israeli English language news sites.
Bateman: “Now this comes after the Israeli military said three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Now we knew about two of those last night because one had been intercepted by the Israelis. Another didn’t reach Israeli territory. But a third it seems landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It’s unclear whether it actually exploded – there are conflicting reports about that – but the Israeli press is showing pictures online of a damaged car and one resident is said to have heard an explosion; said that her windows were shaking after what she said was an explosion. But all of this after those clashes across the West Bank yesterday and Israeli troops using live fire on people who got near to the border fence in Gaza where one man was killed.”
Later on in the same programme (from 01:03:59 here) that theme of linkage between the US announcement and ‘inevitable’ violence (of the kind that actually has been a regular occurrence throughout the long decades in which the US kept its embassy in Tel Aviv) was promoted in a news bulletin. Listeners were told that:
“Violence has intensified between Israel and Gaza after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
“Israel has launched further airstrikes against Hamas military positions in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. At least four Palestinians have been killed and many more injured in violence in the West Bank and Gaza since President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo today to discuss their response. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”
Listeners then heard a similar report to Bateman’s earlier one.
BBC World Service radio audiences also heard similar linkage promoted on December 9th in an edition of ‘The Newsroom’. Presenter Jackie Leonard introduced a lead item (from 00:07 here) that began with the sound of gunfire.
Leonard: “The sounds of further clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank this morning. It follows Friday’s ‘day of rage’ against President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel said it had launched airstrikes against Hamas military positions in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. […] Here’s our Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher.”
Usher – who apparently confused the Arabic term for Jerusalem with the name of the mosque on Temple Mount – misled listeners with the inaccurate claim that Israel’s response to the missile attacks on Friday evening was directed at launch sites rather than at Hamas facilities.
Usher: “As expected there was the announced ‘day of rage’ in the Palestinian territories against the decision by President Trump and that was also across a number of Arab countries. That sparked clashes with the Israeli police. Two people were killed in those clashes. Since then there’ve been several attempts, as forces in Gaza have done in the past, at firing rockets into Israel. Several of these were fired. They didn’t cause any casualties but the Israelis have responded – as they do – and they targeted what they said were bases where the rockets were being fired from and we know that two militants have died in Gaza from that. So four people so far as far as we know have died in one way and another from the violence. A large number of others have been wounded. Funerals are being held. Those are potentially new flashpoints. There are peaceful prayers with a large mass of people at the moment in Jerusalem itself in the Old City at Al Quds. Really everyone is just waiting to see how this now develops. It wasn’t as violent as some might have expected on Friday. Whether this now builds, whether the casualties build and this becomes similar to the intifadas that we’ve seen before is really very much an open question.”
However, the framing of Palestinian violence, rioting and missile attacks as being caused by the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem – rather than by the choices made by those throwing rocks and firebombs, launching missiles or stabbing a security guard at a bus station – was not the only type of linkage promoted in these two programmes, as will be seen in part two of this post.