More PA incitement the BBC will not report

As has been noted here on many occasions, the BBC serially avoids any serious reporting on the issue of Palestinian Authority incitement – including that relating to the sensitive issue of al Aqsa mosque.

For some years now the PA has been exploiting the anniversary of an incident that took place in 1969 when a mentally ill Christian Australian tourist set fire to the mosque. As the Times of Israel reported, this year was no exception.

“The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both revived the lie that a Jew or Jews were behind the 1969 arson of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by a Christian fundamentalist, which took place 48 years ago.

Marking the August 23 anniversary, both parties again blamed Jews and tied the old incident to recent conflict at the Temple Mount, which saw weeks of protests and violence. […]

Dr. Mahmoud Habbash, Supreme Sharia Judge in the Palestinian Authority and a close adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday, in statements published by the official PA news site Wafa, that “the fires that erupted in the Al-Aqsa Mosque 48 years ago by a Jewish terrorist of Australian origin are still burning today, as long as the noble sanctuary and the holy city [of Jerusalem] are violated by the Israeli occupation.””

Palestinian Media Watch reports that in addition, official PA television aired a ‘documentary’ on the topic that was also shown in previous years.

“With Palestinian-Israeli tensions over Jerusalem’s Old City and the Temple Mount still simmering, the Palestinian Authority has chosen to intensify Palestinian anger and hate by repeating one of its most dangerous libels – that “senior Jews of high position” planned the arson of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969. In a documentary broadcast on PA TV, it was presented as fact that not only did Jews plan the arson of the Mosque but also that after the fire started Israel shut off the water supply, preventing fire fighters from efficiently putting out the fire. […]

“PA TV’s decision to broadcast this Al-Aqsa libel now, follows its ongoing attempts to keep Palestinian hatred of Israel simmering over the Temple Mount issue. Last month the Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs told Palestinian viewers on television that Israel was planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque…”

The BBC frequently tells its audiences that ‘tensions’ in Jerusalem are caused by the belief on the part of Palestinians that Israel intends to alter the status quo on Temple Mount or even that al Aqsa mosque itself is ‘in danger’. It does not however bother to inform audiences why such baseless beliefs are so enduring and widespread and how they are nourished by incitement in the PA media and from even the highest of PA officials.

Without that crucial information, BBC audiences clearly cannot properly understand the recurring story of ‘clashes’ in Jerusalem.

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

On June 20th the BBC finally broke its silence on the topic of the faux outrage at the security measures installed after the July 14th terror attack in Jerusalem when the BBC News website published a filmed backgrounder that was billed on its Middle East page as “Holy site metal detector row explained”.

The link leads to a video titled “Jerusalem holy site security row explained” and its synopsis reads:

“There is anger over security at the Jerusalem holy site where two Israeli police officers were killed.”

The video includes both text and commentary from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell – but does it really explain the issue comprehensively, accurately and impartially? The backgrounder opens:

Text: “What started the latest tensions over Jerusalem’s holy site? Protesters are furious with Israel for tightening security at one of Islam’s holiest places.”

The fact that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism is not mentioned.

Knell: “For Palestinians, anything seen as a threat to al Aqsa mosque is a rallying cry and a symbol of Israel’s occupation.”

While Yolande Knell amplifies the baseless propaganda concerning “a threat to al Aqsa mosque”, she does not bother to inform viewers that in fact, no such threat exists.

Text: “Israeli soldiers are responding with tear gas. Unusually, Israel closed the site after two of its police officers were shot dead by armed men inside the mosque grounds.”

The backgrounder does not clarify that the incident (that took place at Lions Gate rather than “inside the mosque grounds”) in which the two Israeli police officers were murdered was a terror attack. Critically, viewers are not told that the terrorists used weapons that they received from an accomplice inside al Aqsa mosque. Without that crucial information, BBC audiences obviously cannot understand why the metal detectors were subsequently installed.

Knell then reverts to politicised terminology seen previously in BBC reporting:

Knell: “Now the gate to the al Aqsa mosque compound is open once again but to reach it you have to pass through one of those metal detectors. Israel says it’s a safety issue. Palestinians say until those are removed, they’re going to pray outside.” [emphasis added]

Knell does not clarify that some worshippers are not heeding the call to pray outside and have been using the mosque as usual despite the metal detectors. Neither does she tell BBC audiences that the call to boycott the mosque was actually put out by the Jordanian Waqf. Viewers are not told that non-Muslim visitors to the site (entering via the Mughrabi Gate) already pass through metal detectors, as do all visitors to the Western Wall.

Text: “Why does the site matter? This is a holy site for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Jews call it Temple Mount – the site of two biblical temples. They can visit – but cannot pray. Could the violence escalate? Yes. Washington supports Israel’s response but there’s been criticism from the wider Islamic world.”

BBC audiences are not given the context that is the long history of Palestinian and Arab incitement using the al Aqsa mosque as a pretext for violence. Neither are they informed that previous internationally brokered attempts to improve security at the site and prevent the exploitation of al Aqsa mosque for violent ends were scuppered by the Palestinians.

This story is of course about far more than the installation of a few metal detectors of the type seen at places – including Muslim holy sites – all over the world. Rather, the latest contrived “row” is just one more attempt by Palestinian leaders to negate the presence of Jews at their holiest site, using a pretext that those who fabricate the crisis know only too well is bound to trigger violence.

BBC audiences, however, are by no stretch of the imagination being told the whole story.  

Related Articles:

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

No BBC News follow up on Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story

Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

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

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

Several hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a report (from 19:18 here) on that story that was introduced by Julian Marshall as follows:

“And we go now to Israel where two Israeli police officers have died after three Israeli Arab gunmen opened fire on them in Jerusalem’s old city. Police chased the attackers into one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al Sharif. All three attackers were killed.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report on the same incident, that description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they returned to that site – with the police in pursuit – after carrying out the attack.

Marshall continued:

“The mosque complex at al Aqsa has been closed and evacuated and Friday prayers there have been cancelled for only the second time in 50 years. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, said the Palestinian leadership should be held responsible.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Erdan speaking which included the only mentions of the words terror and terrorists in the entire report.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount and continue to keep the status quo here. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians – but we all should understand that the incitement that was led by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority directly led to this terror attack that happened this morning.”

Marshall: “Well let’s go live now to Jerusalem and the BBC’s Tom Bateman. So what actually happened in this incident, Tom?”

Although several hours had already passed since the incident took place and the sequence of events was by that time clear, Tom Bateman had apparently not been keeping up with events. [emphasis added]

“Well this happened at 7 o’clock this morning local time. You’ll remember that this is in the vicinity of the most revered site in Jerusalem; holy to both Jews and to Muslims. Now the exact location of this attack has remained still a bit unclear but what we know is that they were close to the Lions’ Gate entrance beside that compound. And the police say they were armed with an automatic weapon, a pistol – there was a knife involved too – and that they opened fire on police officers. Now there was then a chase of some sort and some mobile phone footage has shown that at least one of the attackers was chased by police officers and shot.”

In fact the terrorists had two automatic weapons and Bateman similarly failed to clarify that the terrorists were on Temple Mount before they launched the attack or that they intentionally returned there afterwards. He continued:

“Now as a result of the initial fire by the attackers two police officers were fatally wounded. Ah…they were Israeli police officers. They were Druze – an Arab minority religion in Israel – and the attackers themselves were Israeli Arabs. They were from a town in the north of Israel and had Israeli ID and the domestic security services said that they were not aware of these men beforehand.”

Given the failure by both Marshall and Bateman to provide listeners with the full sequence of events, listeners would be unable to understand the context to their next topic of discussion.

Marshall: “And I would imagine tensions heightened by that decision to close the mosque complex at al Aqsa.”

Bateman: “Yeah, that’s right. As you said that is a highly, highly unusual move. There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.”

Bateman did not clarify to listeners that those “prayers […] outside the compound” were not coincidental.

“The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Maan News that he was prevented from going to site. “”We are determined to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to hold all prayers in it,” he said. He called on Palestinians to come to Jerusalem or to head to the checkpoints near Jerusalem to protest the cancellation of prayers.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the walls of the Old City, behind hastily set up police cordons, to pray and protest the actions of the Israeli police.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians spread the message using social media. Using the hashtag #Go_and_pray_at_alAqsa, they called for the faithful to come to the mosque.

The Director of the Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed Omar al-Kiswani, in a video shared on social media, said Israel was “taking advantage of what happened” at the Temple Mount “to impose a new reality on the ground.”

As we saw in part one of this post, the BBC News website was able to report that the closure of Temple Mount after the terror attack was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation – just as British police closed areas of London on two occasions following terror attacks there earlier this year – and not just some arbitrary move by the Israeli authorities. The fact that Tom Bateman failed to clarify that point in this report is therefore all the more remarkable and that failure was repeated later on the same day when Bateman gave another report to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘.

Following a news bulletin in which listeners were told that “two Israeli police officers have been killed in Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli Arab gunmen who were then shot dead”, presenter Eddie Mair introduced Bateman (from 14:32 here) “live from Jerusalem”.

Bateman: “Eddie, the ancient walls of Jerusalem encircle this city’s most revered site. From where the golden Dome of the Rock rises over the Old City’s narrow streets is the third holiest mosque in Islam; al Aqsa. For Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the first and second Temples once stood. The Old City, heavily guarded, is also one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict and it was not long after dawn that police say three men armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a knife attacked Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the site.

Mobile phone footage showed a rapid exchange of fire as one of the assailants was chased within the compound before falling to the ground. The attack killed two Israeli police officers. They were Druze – a minority Arab religion in Israel –whilst officials said the attackers were Arab Israeli citizens from a town in the north of the country and were not known to the security services. Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke from the scene.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the statements from Erdan aired in Bateman’s earlier report – and with it the sole mention of the word terrorists in this item too.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians.”

As we see, Radio 4 listeners were also not provided with a full picture of the sequence of events including the fact that the terrorists were on Temple Mount – apparently with their weapons – before they launched their attack and that they returned there afterwards. Like World Service audiences, listeners to Radio 4 would therefore be unable to appreciate the context to the next part of Bateman’s report.

Bateman: “After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.”

Listeners were not told of Husseini’s record of inflammatory statements before they heard his comments.

Husseini: “This is the first time that they announce the prayer will not take place; the Friday prayer. And this has never happened before and I think this is very dangerous. They have to use their mind, you know, when they declare such things. This moment is very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Erasing all pre-1967 Jerusalem history in typical BBC fashion, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “The Old City is within East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war – a move not recognized by the international community. Israel’s government said today’s incident crossed red lines. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas – under pressure in the past from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn such attacks – did just that during a phone call between the pair but also said that closing down the area could have repercussions. Since the autumn of 2015 there have been a wave of attacks involving knives, guns and car rammings which had decreased in frequency but had not stopped. Today’s shootings in Jerusalem have already led to concerns about a fresh escalation in tensions.”

It is of course highly doubtful that the BBC would find it appropriate to provide a platform to people in a European country who used veiled threats to demand access to the scene of a terror attack just hours after it had taken place and while the police were still carrying out investigations. However, as we see in these two reports, for Tom Bateman the focus of this story is exactly those people rather than the incident itself, which he fails to explain in a manner which would enable audiences to understand why such the highly unusual action of closing Temple Mount had to be taken.

Related Articles:

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

 

No follow-up to a story the BBC previously featured in four reports

This week one of the juveniles who carried out a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood in October 2015 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.

“The 14-year-old from East Jerusalem was convicted earlier this year on two counts of attempted murder for the October 2015 knife attack, in which he and his cousin critically injured a 12-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man.

The teenage assailant was 13 when he carried out the attack along with his 15-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by security forces responding at the scene.

According to the indictment filed in May, the court rejected the defense presented by the teen’s attorneys that the cousins had no intention of murdering the Israelis, but rather had simply wanted to “scare the Jews.”

The judges determined that the cousins went on the stabbing spree in order to “help Hamas and become martyrs.” Still, they took into account the defendant’s apology and the fact that his elder cousin had stabbed the two victims.”

As has been noted here before, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial (although the corporation has produced coverage of the legal process in cases in which the perpetrators were Israeli Jews) and it was therefore unsurprising to see that audiences were not informed of the outcome of the trial of the Pisgat Ze’ev attacker even though the story was covered by the BBC extensively at the time.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

On the day of the attack (October 12th 2015) the BBC News website produced a report which was amended to include a politicised description of its location.

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition.”

Two days later the BBC News website published an article which initially gave context-free amplification to false claims concerning the two terrorists from the PA president.

“He also accused Israel of carrying out “executions of our children in cold blood”…” 

On October 15th and 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced written and filmed reports in which the father of the older attacker was showcased and Bowen roundly dismissed the subject of incitement.Bowen filmed Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

When the recently sentenced youth was convicted in May, it was reported that:

“The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.”

Since the surge in violence began last autumn, Bowen and his colleagues have repeatedly dismissed the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism as contributing factors, preferring instead to promote PLO approved talking points concerning “the occupation” to their audiences.

Remarkably, the fact that this Palestinian teenager – and many others – expressed a will to die as a “martyr” in a “religious war” has not distracted the BBC from promotion of that chosen political narrative or prompted it to carry out any serious journalistic investigation into the issue of incitement.

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

The BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Temple Mount – both words capped. Note that the area in Jerusalem that translates from Hebrew as the Temple Mount should also be described, though not necessarily in the first four pars, as known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (ie lower case ‘al’, followed by a hyphen – and never ‘the al-Haram al-Sharif’, which is tautological). The Arabic translates as the Noble Sanctuary.” [emphasis in the original]

That guideline was generally followed in the past, as can be seen in the examples below.SONY DSC

“Ariel Sharon, then the leader of Israel’s opposition, paid a visit to the site in East Jerusalem known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa mosque – and frustration boiled over into violence.” (29/09/2004)

“The Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif is the most important religious site in Jerusalem.” (circa 2007)

“The Temple Mount compound, in the old city in East Jerusalem, covers an area of 35 acres. […] The same area is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).” (undated – circa 2009)

“The compound where the mosque lies is revered by Muslims and Jews and is a frequent flashpoint for violence. It is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.” (08/05/2013)

“Police said about 20 youths threw stones and fireworks at officers from the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. […] The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) compound, in the Old City in East Jerusalem, covers an area of 35 acres (14 hectares).” (25/02/2014)

“The compound – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, and contains the al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam.” (30/10/2014)

In late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists, as highlighted below.

SONY DSC

“Well…err….there were clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli police at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound – the place also known to Jews as the Temple Mount – in Jerusalem.”  (05/11/2014)

Earlier, Israeli police clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians inside Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount. […] And then all of these issues around restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound…ah…this holy site for Muslims, of course, but also for Jews who call it Temple Mount. (05/11/2014)

“It’s the Al Aqsa Mosque compound for Muslims – the third most sacred place in Islam – this mosque and then this is a site also revered by Jews because it contains…this is where the two Jewish temples were that stood in biblical times and at the moment Jews can’t pray there…ahm…but they can visit.”” (07/11/2014)

Concurrently, the BBC Academy recommended terminology was still seen in some reports from around the same time.

“But Israel also captured Haram al Sharif, or Temple Mount.” (08/11/2014)

“The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.” (18/11/2014)

“Tensions in Jerusalem have recently been heightened by a dispute over a compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism. The compound is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.” (19/11/2014)

“It is a compound which contains both the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif: the place where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended into heaven. It’s also the spot on which the ancient temples of the Jews stood: those buildings destroyed by foreign invaders which contained the Holy of Holies and which are the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and identity. To Jews it is the Temple Mount.” (18/11/2014)

“If you’re a Muslim you will know it as al Haram al Sharif. If you’re Jewish you’ll call it Temple Mount. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, this holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem is the focus of rising tensions between the two communities…” (28/11/2014)

However, the term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onwards. [emphasis added]

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site. It’s the third holiest site in Islam. For Jews, who call it Temple Mount, it is the holiest site in their religion.” (18/11/2014)

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course. Now that is a site sacred to both faiths – to Muslims and to Jews.” (18/11/2014)

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.” (26/07/2015)

 “Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police at the Al Aqsa complex in East Jerusalem – one of Islam’s holiest sites.” (26/07/2015)

“The violence broke out at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City – the scene of many confrontations in the past between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims. And that’s because this large complex is home to sites revered by both religions.”

“The clashes erupted this morning following the morning prayers in what Palestinian Muslims call Al Aqsa Mosque, which is their holiest place in the city and what Jews believe it to be the Temple Mount.” (13/09/2015)

“Separately, violence has again rocked the al-Aqsa mosque compound.” (16/09/2015)

“And as you said this is really to do with the clashes that have taken place over the Jewish New Year’s holiday at the holy site you can see behind me: the Al Aqsa Mosque compound.” (16/09/2015)

“Clashes have broken out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.” (27/09/2015)

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.” (01/10/2015)

“This week it’s the Jewish religious festival of Sukkot; that’s one of the times of year when Jews traditionally make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. That means, of course, that they move towards the Western Wall in the old city; that means they’re close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.” (01/10/2015)

“It’s home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews.” (09/10/2015 – the BBC Trust ESC decision relating to that statement can be found here.)

“The last straw has been the widespread belief that Israel is planning to allow Jews more access to the compound of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which Palestinians call the Noble Sanctuary and Israelis call the Temple Mount.”Kotel at night 2

“Jerusalem: city of beauty, sanctity and hate. Its holy places are at the centre of the conflict. Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.” (15/10/2015)

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest place in Islam. Jews call it Temple Mount and it’s also their holiest site.” (23/04/2016)

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? As noted above, the change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5ththe PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem.

Whilst the BBC does continue to use the terms Temple Mount and Haram al Sharif as can be seen above, it has concurrently broadly embraced the PLO’s preferred terminology and that it not confined to correspondents on the ground alone.

Earlier this month the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee responded to an appeal concerning a complaint about the inaccuracy of the statement “It’s [Jerusalem’s Old City] home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims and Jews” with findings which support the earlier response from BBC Complaints:

“They note your points and accept that [the reporter] shouldn’t have said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was sacred to both Jews and Muslims. She meant to say the compound (which includes the Mosque and the Dome of the Rock).”

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 (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque.” [emphasis added]

A response from BBC Complaints received by BBC Watch earlier this year suggests that the BBC has internalised that claim:

“In the context of the interview “the area” he was referring to was the expanded prayer plaza which Muslims believe is an inseparable part of al-Aksa Mosque…”

So despite the BBC’s style guide not having undergone any changes, we see that de facto the BBC has adopted both the language – ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – and the political ideology found in the PLO’s November 2014 recommendations. Apparently BBC editorial staff do not grasp how that compromises the corporation’s supposed impartiality. 

Related Articles:

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BBC Trust: ‘it ain’t what we say; it’s what we meant to say that matters’

BBC ‘explains’ its claim that Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

 

BBC Trust: ‘it ain’t what we say; it’s what we meant to say that matters’

h/t Dr CL

The BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s latest publication includes a section which will be of interest to anyone contemplating allocating some of their precious time to making a complaint to the BBC.

On page 75 of that document we learn that the BBC dismissed a complaint concerning an inaccurate statement made by a BBC reporter on the grounds that it wasn’t what she meant to say.

“The complaint concerned the accuracy of a sentence in a news item about an upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Speaking about Jerusalem’s Old City and over general pictures from the Old City showing Muslims and Jews going about their day, the correspondent said:

 “It’s home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims and Jews.””

That report by Orla Guerin from October 9th 2015 can be found here.Guerin filmed 9 10

The statement is obviously inaccurate but the BBC’s response to the complaint was as follows:

“BBC Audience Services raised the complainant’s concern with BBC News:

“They note your points and accept that [the reporter] shouldn’t have said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was sacred to both Jews and Muslims. She meant to say the compound (which includes the Mosque and the Dome of the Rock).” Audience Services said they had nothing further to add and that they did not believe the complaint had raised an issue that justified further investigation.”

Apparently BBC Audience Services also did not see the need for a correction to be made. Unhappy with that response, the complainant pursued the issue.

“The complainant appealed to the BBC Trust reiterating the points he had made. He rejected the explanation given by BBC News, asserting that even as amended it was wrong:

“The … response that [the correspondent] intended to say Al Aqsa Compound is unacceptable. Accuracy demands the description/name used should have been that historically used for many hundreds of years which is extensively documented, as Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif).”

He said the description the correspondent used was the one favoured by the PLO and was evidence of bias.”

Readers will no doubt recall that in November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document (since removed from its website) instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. 

The BBC Trust Adviser advised against the complainant’s request for a review on the following grounds:

“The Adviser took the following factors into account:

  • the BBC said that the reporter had used the wrong wording: it was a slip of the tongue and not intentional
  • this was a passing reference to one of the flashpoints in the ongoing conflict
  • the majority of the report concentrated on a number of incidents – which had occurred elsewhere in Jerusalem and the occupied territories – and speculated that “lone wolf” stabbings of Jewish civilians might be the beginning of a third intifada

The Adviser reached her decision for the following reasons:

  • whilst the statement, that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to Jews, was incorrect, the audience would not have taken the statement literally and would have been unlikely to conclude that a mosque was sacred to Jews
  • the main point of the reporter’s reference here was to communicate to the audience that the area was sacred to both Judaism and Islam
  • this was achieved using unambiguous language which stated simply that it was considered sacred to both religions: neither view was favoured over the other, they were both given equal weight
  • the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated very close to, and on the same raised platform as, the Dome of the Rock (under which the ruins of the two Jewish temples are assumed to be buried – although there was ongoing debate about this) [emphasis added]
  • the audience would not have expected nor needed more details on this point in order to reach an informed understanding about the main focus of the programme
  • the audience were not therefore likely to have been misled on a material fact.”

One can only hope that the bolded statement above does not suggest that the BBC subscribes to or accommodates the narrative of ‘Temple denial’ propagated by some PA officials and others.

The complainant then appealed that decision by the Adviser and an ESC panel subsequently rejected his appeal.

“Trustees agreed that if they took this matter on appeal they were not likely to uphold a breach of the Editorial Guidelines given that:

  • the BBC had said it was the wrong wording, i.e. that it was inaccurate
  • an apology was given. The BBC had said “we’re sorry for this error”
  • the matter had been resolved. […]

Trustees decided not to take the appeal, on the basis that it would not be appropriate, proportionate or cost-effective since there was no reasonable prospect of the appeal succeeding.”

Surely the most cost-effective way of dealing this complaint would have been for the BBC to issue a prompt correction nine months ago when the clearly inaccurate statement was made.  Nevertheless, the valuable lesson we learn from this case is that what a BBC journalist later claims to have meant to have said – but didn’t – is grounds for the rejection of a straightforward complaint concerning an obviously inaccurate statement.

Is it really any wonder that members of the public find the BBC complaints system so ‘through the looking glass’ frustrating?

Related Articles:

Orla Guerin tells BBC audiences Al Aqsa Mosque ‘sacred to Jews’

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

The Temple, the Times and the BDS Supporter (CAMERA) 

In their own words: terrorists contradict BBC ME editor’s explanation of terror

Back in November 2014, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly presented listeners to BBC Radio 4 with a sympathetic cameo of a terrorist who had murdered an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv a couple of weeks earlier.TA terror attack bbc report

“[sound of a detonation] That was the Israeli army blowing up the house of one of the Palestinians who’ve run over and killed hitch-hikers, tram passengers and pedestrians in recent months. It’s a form of punishment the state has revived in Jerusalem in recent weeks. But punishment is easier than prevention. [sound of a radio broadcast in Hebrew] Take this crime. At a railway station a young Palestinian stabs an equally young Israeli soldier. […]

That young Palestinian was Nur Abu Hashem [sic], a jobbing painter and decorator who often came from his home at Nablus in the occupied West Bank to work without papers in Israel.

Nur Abu Hashem’s mother, Salsan [phonetic] waits with resignation for the inevitable demolition of her home. But worse for her than that are the nagging questions about how her popular son – a forgiving boy, she says – could have done what he’s accused of.”

On May 18th 2016 that “popular…forgiving boy” was convicted of the murder of First Sgt Almog Shiloni (who went unnamed in Connolly’s report).

“The Tel Aviv District Court ruled that the murder was premeditated.

The verdict described the murder as a “terrible and heart-rending affair in which the life of soldier Almog Shiloni was taken. The attack was not spontaneous in nature. He (Abu Khashiyeh) bought a knife at the flea market, and when he noticed the soldier he decided to execute his evil plan.”

“The defendant,” the verdict went on to say, “insisted on testifying, and in a short, focused and surprising testimony, after having pled not guilty, he abandoned his line of defense and admitted to all of the charges attributed to him.”

Abu Khashiyeh gave a chilling testimony during the trial, saying “It’s true that I murdered Almog Shiloni. I wanted to take his weapon and spray everyone because of what your rabbis are doing in al-Aqsa. I wanted to keep going, kill everyone on the street, continue everyone’s job. I murdered him. I planned to murder him.””

The indictment against Abu Khashiyeh stated that he “planned to murder a soldier in the hope of being killed and attaining the status of martyr.”

As ever, the BBC has not produced any follow-up reporting on that story and neither has it bothered to inform audiences who were told of the “inevitable demolition” of the terrorist’s family home that it never happened.

“The demolition order issued for Abu Khashiyeh’s house was throw[n] out a year later by the High Court of Justice. The judges determined that the long delay in carrying out the demolition—11 months from the day of the attack—is not reasonable and will therefore not lead to the deterrence sought.”

Another terrorist who – together with an accomplice – carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood last October, was convicted last week.

“A Palestinian teenager who committed a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and was then falsely proclaimed dead by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was convicted on Tuesday morning of two counts of attempted murder at the Jerusalem District Court.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

Ahmad Manasra committed the attack when he was 13 years old in October 2015, along with his 15-year-old cousin Hasan who was subsequently killed by police forces. The two stabbed and critically wounded 13-year-old Naor Shalev who was riding his bicycle, as well as another 21-year-old Israeli. […]

The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.””

At the time, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced a sympathetic interview with the father of “typical teenager” Hasan Manasra.

“Khaled Mahania [sic] told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.””

Both these terror attacks were carried out by teenagers who were influenced by the religiously themed incitement and conspiracy theories which the BBC repeatedly avoids addressing in a manner serious enough to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

In the same reports which featured Hasan Manasra’s father, Bowen told BBC audiences that:Bowen written Manasra

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”

And:

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

Six months later, reports produced by Bowen on his latest trip to the region repeated the same mantra.Bowen art 4 5

“But hundreds of conversations with Palestinians over many years here have convinced me that the biggest factor that shapes their attitudes to Israel is not the incitement to hate but the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that started after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

When Palestinians who agitate against Israel find an audience, it is because of the way that the occupation, which is inherently violent, has overshadowed and controlled Palestinian lives for almost 50 years.”

The political agenda which lies behind the Middle East content gatekeeper’s presentation of this issue means that even when terrorists like those above and others clarify their motivations in their own words, BBC audiences receive no serious reporting on the central issues of incitement, glorification of terrorism and Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families.

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s ‘explanation’ of the current wave of terror

Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

Last year the BBC devoted considerable coverage to the topic of the recurrent rioting at Temple Mount which was instigated even before the surge in Palestinian terrorism from around October 1st 2015.

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

BBC News twists Tisha B’Av Temple Mount incident with ‘last-first’ reporting

More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting

BBC article on Temple Mount riot notes ban on groups it previously failed to report exist

A worldwide platform for incitement from BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad

BBC’s Knell promotes Al Aqsa Mosque inaccuracy already corrected by NYT and Newsweek

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part two

From the beginning of October onwards, BBC audiences were repeatedly told that ‘tensions’ at the site were the cause of Palestinian violence – for example:

“…the police are on alert, especially in Jerusalem’s Old City. It’s home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews [sic]. Tensions over the shrine have fuelled the latest unrest and unleashed a new danger for Israelis: stabbing attacks.”

And:

“The anger’s fueled by a row over access to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City which is built in a place that’s both sacred to Muslims and Jews. Despite official Israeli denials, many Palestinians believe there’s a plan to change long-standing rules and give Jews the right to pray openly at the site they call Temple Mount.”

In late October the BBC reported on an agreement reached between Israel and Jordan designed to reduce those ‘tensions’.

“Israel and Jordan have agreed on moves aimed at reducing tensions surrounding a prominent holy site in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry says. […]

The steps he announced include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex.”

However, as was noted here shortly afterwards, BBC News did not produce any follow-up reporting on that story when Palestinian factions – including the Palestinian Authority – expressed opposition to that arrangement.

Although the agreement to install security cameras was reached nearly half a year ago, it has yet to be implemented.

“Negotiations over the cameras stumbled due to disagreements over three practical issues: Where the footage will be beamed to — whether it be Jordan, Israel or an open-access website; how much control Israel will have over the broadcast, with Jordan and the Palestinians refusing to allow the Israelis the capability to interrupt transmissions; and where the cameras will be located. Israel wants them inside the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock in order to prove that both are used to house weapons and stones that Palestinians use against Israeli security forces. Jordan and the Palestinians are opposed to this.

Last month Jordanian government spokesperson Mohammed Momani said that Amman will install cameras on the Temple Mount “within days.”

Senior officials had been concerned that a failure to install the cameras ahead of Passover, which will commence at the end of April, could spark clashes at what is traditionally a time of heightened tensions and an increased number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.”KAT tweet cameras TM

Even if the cameras are installed within the coming fortnight, it would appear that their contribution to the reduction of tensions may be decidedly limited.

“Palestinians placed notices on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem warning of plans to smash security cameras installed at the site holy to both Muslims and Jews, which has been at the epicenter of tensions in recent months.

Jordan, which is behind the camera initiative, subsequently stated that they will not be used to monitor the activities of the Muslim worshipers at the two mosques on the Mount, Channel 10 reported Saturday. […]

A “control center” will be set up to monitor round-the-clock video surveillance of the compound, Jordan’s Islamic Affairs Minister Hayel Daoud said recently.

The footage will be broadcast online to “document all Israeli violations and aggressions,” he said in a statement, also adding that no cameras would be installed inside the mosques.”

Given that the BBC devoted so much past reporting to the topic of ‘tensions’ on Temple Mount, one might have thought that Palestinian efforts to hobble measures intended to reduce those tensions – and Jordan’s acquiescence to the threats – would have received some coverage. To date, however, that has not been the case.

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

As readers already know, the BBC’s coverage of the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis has regularly included ‘contextualisation’ of the events in a style shown in the example below:

“The surge in violence began in September when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

However, BBC audiences have been provided with little, if any, information on the topic of the sources and history of those “rumours” or the mechanics of their dissemination – including by means of official Palestinian Authority and Fatah channels. That fact will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of one of the prime sources of conspiracy theory and incitement surrounding Temple Mount: the Northern Islamic Movement.

Two years ago the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell portrayed that organization as “conservative” but failed to inform audiences of its agenda and its links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whilst citing issues concerning Temple Mount as contributing to “tensions” which led to a wave of terror attacks against Israelis in October and November 2014, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences about the existence of organised groups purposely set up by the Northern Islamic Movement to cause unrest at that site. When, in September 2015, two of those organised groups were outlawed, the BBC described them as “Muslim groups” (rather than Islamist) and failed to provide audiences with information concerning their political and ideological affiliations.

On November 17th the Israeli government declared the Northern Islamic Movement an illegal organisation.

“For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun / Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount. This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.
 
Outlawing the organization is a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.

The northern branch, headed by Sheikh Raad Salah, is a sister movement of the Hamas terrorist organization. The two movements maintain a close and secretive cooperation. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is a separatist-racist organization that does not recognize the institutions of the State of Israel, denies its right to exist and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in its place. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement belongs to radical Islam and is part of the global ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ movement. The two movements share an extremist ideology and a common goal – the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Whilst there was no reporting of that news on the English language BBC News website, we can determine that the corporation is aware of it because the story did get coverage on BBC Arabic. In that report the Northern Islamic Movement is described as a group “which provides educational, religious services for the Palestinians inside Israel” and its Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood links are once again concealed.BBC Arabic Raed Salah

In June 2011 journalist John Ware wrote an article about the ban on entry into the UK of the Northern Islamic Movement’s leader, Raed Salah, in which he noted that:

“Although the Islamic Movement is not banned in Israel, it is closely aligned to Hamas, which is designated in the UK and mainland Europe as a terrorist organisation.[…]

Sheikh Salah’s Islamic Movement is reported to have mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden, calling him a “martyr” and his killers “Satanic”.[…]

Another consideration may have been an article that Sheikh Salah wrote three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, in which he said that unlike Muslim workers in the World Trade Center, Jewish workers had been absent on 9/11. […]

He [Salah] is also reported to have made a speech in February 2007 during a protest in East Jerusalem in which he accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread – allegations the sheikh strongly denies.”

That article appeared – and is still available – on the BBC News website. We can therefore conclude that the BBC knows full well that the Northern Islamic Movement is much more than a group engaged in the provision of “educational, religious services” and that of course raises the question of why the corporation continues to whitewash an Islamist group responsible for much of the incitement underpinning the current wave of terrorism against Israelis. 

 

New BBC WS culture show misleads on cause of terror wave in Israel in seven words

In recent weeks inaccurate and misleading information concerning Temple Mount has been promoted on a variety of BBC platforms. On domestic and worldwide radio, as well as on television and the BBC News website, audiences have been led to believe that the entire Temple Mount is ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ and that the site (which has religious significance to all three Abrahamic religions) is exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”.

The latest example of promotion of inaccurate information relating to that topic came in a new BBC World Service radio programme called ‘The Cultural Frontline’ which, listeners are told, is “the line where arts and news collide”.The Cultural Frontline

The first item in the first episode of that new show was devoted to a monologue by BBC regular Raja Shehadeh on the topic of “the first Palestinian National Museum”. That item (available from 00:55 here) was introduced by presenter Tina Daheley as follows:

“Our first stop is a place that’s been fought over for decades. We’re heading to the Middle East where tensions over control of a Jerusalem mosque have triggered serious violence in recent weeks.” [emphasis added]

Obviously, for there to be “tensions over control of a Jerusalem mosque”, more than one party must be seeking to control that mosque and that, of course, is not an accurate representation of the situation. Not only does Israel have no interest in seeking “control” of al Aqsa Mosque, but it has repeatedly stated that it will continue to uphold the status quo whereby that building and the wider area of Temple Mount is under the administrative control of the Jordanian Waqf.

But not only does Daheley’s claim materially mislead listeners by providing them with an inaccurate explanation for the surge in violent rioting and terrorism; it also conceals their real cause – and agenda – by diverting listeners from the incitement based on conspiracy theories concerning al Aqsa Mosque which really does underpin that “serious violence”. 

Let’s hope that future programmes in this series will pay more attention to the importance of accurate terminology.