BBC Arabic breaches style guide on Temple Mount

Earlier this week we documented descriptions in BBC World Service radio news bulletins of a premeditated demonstration of intolerance at a site holy to three religions as “clashes at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem”. We noted that:

“…the BBC has returned to its past habit of complying with PLO instructions by naming the place its style guide says should be termed “Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif” as “the al Aqsa Mosque”.”

While no coverage of those August 11th incidents appeared on the BBC’s English language website, the BBC Arabic website published a report on that day headlined “Al-Aqsa Mosque: Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians after Eid al-Adha prayers”.

Readers were told that: [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

Extremist Jewish groups were trying to congregate near Moors’ [Mugrabi] Gate in order to enter the Mosque and commemorate the anniversary of what is referred to as ‘the destruction of the temple, which coincided this year with Eid al-Adha…”

And:

“At a later time, the police allowed dozens of Jewish extremists to enter the plaza of the Jerusalem sanctuary for a few minutes…”

In exactly the same way that BBC World Service radio’s failure to comply with the BBC’s own style guide confused audiences, this report’s employment of the deliberately politicised term “al Aqsa Mosque” to describe the entire Temple Mount plaza and the ensuing claim that Jews were trying to “enter the mosque” is inaccurate and materially misleading.

The headline further misleads readers by suggesting that “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians” took place in the al Aqsa Mosque rather than – as was actually the case – outside the building.

Also inaccurate is the blanket description of unarmed, non-violent visitors to the holiest site of their faith as “extremists”. While Muslim visitors to the site on that day (some of whom participated in the violent rioting) were described by BBC Arabic merely as “Palestinians”, the description of Jewish visitors as “extremists” demonstrates bias on the part of that BBC department.   

CAMERA Arabic has submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning that report.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio news confuses audiences with politicised terminology

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

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

 

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Jews of the Middle East in the eyes of BBC Arabic

This is the first in a series of posts by CAMERA Arabic showing how Arabic language channels belonging to Western media outlets frame the topic of Jews who originate from or live in the Middle East and North Africa by distinguishing ‘loyal’ Jews from ‘treacherous’ Zionists. All translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified.

“May God bless the soldiers of Israel […] may he shed his light on us, on Israel and on Tunisia, long live Israel and long live Tunisia!

Those spontaneous words, originally an excited mixture of Hebrew and a colloquial dialect of Arabic, were chanted by a woman on a bus full of fellow tourist-pilgrims, with many others in the group cheering and responding to her wishes with “amen”. Most if not all of them were Jewish Israelis of Tunisian heritage. Their journey’s destination was the al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Jews have been conducting an annual celebration there every Lag b‘Omer (which usually falls in May) for generations, and this year (2019) saw the number of pilgrims and visitors to the site exceeding all previous gatherings since the country underwent the Jasmine Revolution in January of 2011.

The entire trip was documented by Rina Matsliah, a well-known Israeli journalist who was born in Tunisia herself. It was her report that brought a seemingly marginal moment to the public eye: the enthusiastic woman and her group were shown for a few seconds in an evening news program on Israel’s Channel 12. The report also revealed to the viewers that the group had the opportunity to look from outside at the house near the capital Tunis where, in 1988, Israel had assassinated Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir (a.k.a Abu Jihad) – one of Fatah’s leading terrorists and a man responsible for the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians.

That documentation of a group of Israeli tourists proudly praising Israel and its soldiers on Tunisian soil and later looking at a site where a prominent Palestinian leader was assassinated soon sparked a scandal in the North African country.

An Arabic subtitled version of the report was promoted by Hezbollah affiliated ‘al-Mayadeen’ channel, and demonstrations and sit-ins were subsequently held in front of government buildings in Tunisia. Under the accusation of “normalization” with the “Zionist entity”, the protesters specifically demanded the removal from office of René Trabelsi – Tunisia’s minister of tourism and the first Jew ever to be appointed minister in modern Tunisian history. Trabelsi is a member of a tiny Jewish community of no more than 2,500 people.

The story was reported widely on Arabic-speaking channels, including those belonging to Western media organisations. Some quoted Arab social media without fact-checking the preposterous claims raised there. For example, a television program produced by BBC Arabic uncritically amplified outraged comments which viewed the visit as a military act.

“If this is true, Khalil al-Wazir Abu Jihad became a martyr twice, the first time when Israel assassinated him in 1988 and the second when his killers visited the house where he became a martyr in Tunis” (2:11)

I have no problem with Tunisian Jews in either Tunisia or France, I have a problem with the ‘Zionists’ who live in occupied Palestine, they’re all soldiers, whether on active duty or in the reserve forces, since military service is compulsory in the Zionist entity… I mean, [how can] we consider them tourists and their origin to be Tunisian!?” (2:26)

The BBC Arabic program also quoted an additional edited comment (1:54), by a Tunisian journalist who insisted there was nothing new about “Zionists” entering Tunisia.

The online BBC report about the same story noted that the journalist, Habib Bouajila called for the sacking of Trabelsi in order to “protect Tunisian national dignity”. Bouajila accused Trabelsi of dangerously distorting facts and inflaming tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites because the minister had pointed out al-Mayadeen’s affiliations with Hezbollah and claimed that the channel’s translation from Hebrew into Arabic was mistaken.

The full, unedited version of Boualija’s comment as embedded in a BBC Arabic webpage, is saturated with antisemitic tropes, undertones and dog-whistles. It views the incident as a new level in the prosecution of a conspiracy against the Tunisian people, involving Jews of many countries as well as Trabelsi himself (to whom he consistently refers by his Hebrew name Roni). The hateful comment concludes with death wishes to Israel and America.

The admittance of Zionists into Tunisia is not new – since the nineties everybody knows they’re entering with their Zionist passports in tourist groups or, in rare occasions, with their second passports. [This is the case] as long as all the Zionist settlers, from the minister to the last occupier-usurper, retain their original nationality, or [obtain] a western nationality, such as most members of Jewish diasporas all over the world have. The Jews of Tunisia, previous or current, and those who left it for occupied Palestine, are no exception.

This is not what’s new – the new provocation is the boldness of Roni Trabelsi, who holds the tourism portfolio and in his last statement assumed the role[s] of the [entire] Tunisian diplomatic corps, the President of the Republic and the Parliament, so that he would decide on Tunisia’s alignments along the international axes. He also assumed the role of a media analyst [who specializes in] TV-stations and affiliations, in order to classify the al-Mayadeen channel as Lebanese Shi’ite […], despite [the fact] it was merely conveying and literally translating the report of the Zionist channel. On top of that, he arrogantly surmised the ratio of Tunisians who deplore his tendencies towards normalization and shamed with what he sees as ‘disgrace’, i.e. Shi’ization and siding with the Resistance [Hezbollah]…

The audacity of the minister stems from his (admittedly correct) estimation that he is stronger than the Tunisian government and state. In a Tunisian landscape that sets his path [forward] and promotes him to be a ‘high-ranked official’, Roni is the distinguished, the selected; he has more power and importance than all the ‘indigenous’, ‘gentile’ ministers and officials. It also derives from his (admittedly accurate) understanding that the straw man of ‘antisemitism’ and the allegations of bigotry, terrorism and assaulting ‘our Jewish brethren’ will deter the cowardly politicians, commentators and academics who want to stay where they are or aspire to move up the ladder. In [such] a Tunisian landscape Roni knows, and those who fear of Roni know, that his installment, as well as the installment of his minions [lit. players], is at the hand of the great supervisor, who loves Roni and loves those who love Roni and isolates whoever hates him.

Once again and forever, past, present and future, we say to Roni and his supervisor, and to whoever loves Roni and whoever acts obsequiously towards Roni and his supervisor, and [to whoever] wants to reposition Tunisia in service of Roni’s friends and entourage in a supine Arab world and international community [lit. landscape], we say: Tunisia is Arab – Its spirit is [of] resistance despite our setbacks and breakdowns – it belongs with its [Arab/Islamic] Ummah – its compass is Palestine – and its voice is loud and clear: death to Israel – death to America – and glory to the resistance… and whoever doesn’t like it can go drink the water of La Goulette [a city on the Tunisian Mediterranean coast]. He can present himself as an ‘outside observer’ [lit. a bird at the roof] or an alcohol merchant or a civil servant, [all are] typical hypocritical stories [dipped] in nostalgia [that is made out] of Zio-Masonic [sic] flour between al-Ghriba and the Bab Bahr Cathedral [a famous church in Tunis which represents to the writer a Tunisia that’s not exclusively Arab/Muslim, like al-Ghriba]. We do not buy this position in our homeland, treacherous as it is coming from its honey-tongued proponents…”

In addition BBC Arabic’s online report also brought comments from other Tunisians who, in BBC’s words,

“feared […] that the incident would reflect badly on the Jews of Tunisia, who rejected Israel’s temptations and have confirmed their clinging to their Tunisian roots.

The protests eventually died out after the government responded by clarifying that none of the visitors has entered Tunisia under an Israeli passport. As for Trabelsi himself, he repeatedly denied any connection between Israelis who visit Tunisia and the perceived act of “normalization” that he was blamed for. In one interview, he also “firmly” condemned the tourists who, in his words, “celebrated the Israeli army on Tunisian soil.” Indeed, it seems that this time the Jewish minister has dodged the bullet. But as long as the debate that surrounds Jews who live in the Middle East is framed the way it is – framing that BBC Arabic obviously finds acceptable – it seems that he and his community will always be suspected of dual loyalty and will carry the burden of proof for their innocence.

Related Articles:

BBC whitewashes Islamist antisemitism with semantics

BBC whitewashes anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia

Airbrushing terror: the BBC on Abu Jihad

 

 

A story about Labour and antisemitism that the BBC chose to ignore

Since the BBC One ‘Panorama’ documentary about antisemitism in the UK Labour party was aired last week the BBC has produced a considerable amount of multi-platform follow-up content on that topic.

One recent story which the BBC has however not covered is the reaction to a Labour MP’s meeting with a member of the Jordanian parliament.

“A senior member of the UK Labour Party met last week in London with a Jordanian lawmaker who has voiced support for terror attacks against Israelis and called for tearing up the peace deal between his country and Israel.

Yahya al-Saud, a member of Jordan’s House of Representatives, posted a picture to his Facebook account Thursday of himself with Labour MP Fabian Hamilton outside the Houses of Parliament. […]

According to al-Saud, he and other members of the Jordanian parliament’s Palestine Committee met with Hamilton at the House of Commons, where they discussed stopping Israel’s “racist” practices toward the Palestinians, as well other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […]

The Jordanian MP has on a number of occasions backed violence against Israel, including suicide bombings, and said the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement “has brought nothing but disasters to the Jordanian people.”

He has also called to “liberate our holy places from the plundering Jews” and said he is “a slave to whoever takes me to Palestine as a fighter,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute watchdog.”

Following criticism, including from some of his constituents, Mr Hamilton later claimed that ‘he was not aware of Yahya al-Saud’s “appalling and Anti-Semitic remarks” when he met him and other Jordanian lawmakers in London’. One trusts that the same goes for the Jordanian MP’s misogyny and history of brawling.

However a no less interesting part of this story concerns the background to that meeting. One of the photographs posted by al Saud shows him (second from the left) meeting the British MP (third from the left).

Second from the right in that photo is Zaher Birawi and the explanation for that is found in the Jordanian media. [emphasis added]

“MP Yahya Saud, who leads a parliamentary delegation to London, on Tuesday said that Jordan is paying the price of defending the Palestinian cause and safeguarding the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem

The delegation met with Palestinian and Arab community leaders and representatives of media institutions, with the presence of Jordanian Deputy Ambassador to the UK Daifallah Fayez, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

During the meeting, which was organised by the European Communication Forum and the Palestinian British Forum, Saud said that Jordanians stand behind their Hashemite leadership in rejection of the so-called “deal of the century”, adding that they sternly reject turning Jordan into an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians.” 

And:

“MP Yahya al-Sa’ud told the meeting that all Jordanians stand united behind His Majesty King Abdullah II in his rejection of the so-called “deal of the century” and any proposals to make Jordan a substitute homeland for the Palestinians. 

The meeting figured high on the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied Jerusalem. The meeting was organized by the Europal Forum in cooperation with the Palestinian-British Forum.”

While we do not know whether or not the Jordanian delegation similarly brought up the topic of “the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines” in Jerusalem with the MPs and member of the House of Lords that they also met in London, it does seem highly likely.

Had the BBC reported this story it could have performed a useful public service by informing MPs and the public alike that, although Jordan has been trying for some time to promote the notion that it holds custodianship of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as recently documented by our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic that is not the case.

Another service the UK’s public broadcaster could have provided by investigating this story would be to apprise British politicians such as Mr Hamilton of the background to the groups which apparently set up his meeting with the Jordanian MP about whom he now says he was under informed.

The link between the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ – described as “one of the components of the Hamas support network in the UK” – and ‘the EuroPal Forum’ is Zaher Birawi. As previously noted on these pages in connection to his role in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’:

“…in addition to playing a role in convoys and flotillas,  Zaher Birawi was also involved in the organisation of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ and was previously director of the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – an organisation banned in Israel due to its Hamas affiliations.

More recently Birawi has been active in the role of chairman of the London-based EuroPal Forum – an organisation which appears to have replaced the Council for European Palestinian Relations (also banned by Israel) which became defunct after its director – Arafat Shoukri , who was also involved with the Palestinian Return Center – left the UK for Qatar (and a job with Al Jazeera) around 2014.”

The UK Labour party’s connections to Hamas-linked organisations such as the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ and the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (with which Fabian Hamilton met in December 2017) caused some British commentators to ask “when is Labour going to take action in relation to its own extremism problem?” long before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader.

Some in-depth reporting on that meeting on Parliament premises between British politicians and the Jordanian delegation could have contributed significantly to the understanding of the BBC’s funding public as to how the Labour party’s antisemitism crisis was – and continues to be – incubated as well as how foreign interest groups with links to a terrorist organisation have access to their lawmakers. 

Related Articles:

Sky, AFP, Reuters (in Arabic) declare Jordan guardian of Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites  (UK Media Watch)

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

BBC Arabic host of Jerusalem show claims to be ‘in Palestine’

This is a post from CAMERA Arabic

On February 27th and 28th the BBC show ‘Global Questions’ recorded two programmes – the first in English and the second in Arabic – at the YMCA Centre located on King David street in the western part of Jerusalem.

The moderator assigned to the Arabic language panel was BBC Arabic’s Nour Eddine Zorgui.

On March 1st Zorgui tweeted from his official BBC account that he was “in Palestine this time”, adding a link to his Facebook page where at least 3 photos – one of them taken inside the YMCA building – are captioned “in Palestine”.

Zorgui made similar remarks at the February 28th event itself, referring to the city and country he was in as “Jerusalem” and “Palestine” prior to the commencement of recording.

Zorgui’s posts and remarks breach both BBC Academy style guide and BBC guidelines regulating employees’ social media activity which state:

  1. “In day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”
  2. “The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank.” (hence according to the BBC’s logic, western Jerusalem is in Israel)
  3. “The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial”
  4. “Editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should never indicate a political allegiance on social networking sites”
  5. “Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC”.

CAMERA Arabic submitted a complaint to BBC, expecting that the network would acknowledge this breach of its own editorial guidelines and act to have Zorgui remove or amend his social media posts. However, since we were informed on March 15th that our complaint “had been referred to the relevant people” and that they “regret that it may take a little longer before they can reply”, at of the time of writing no further response has been received.

Related Articles:

BBC ‘Global Questions’ from Jerusalem rescheduled

BBC WS radio tries to do Arab-Israeli conflict demographics

 

 

CAMERA Arabic prompts BBC Arabic correction on US and Jerusalem

Last month the BBC Arabic website published a report about the relocation of the Paraguayan embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv (“Paraguay returns its embassy to Tel Aviv”, September 6th), which included the following phrase (translated):

 “the recognition of the United States in Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital”

original

However, the American administration has not in fact recognised Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel but rather considers the municipal borders of Jerusalem – as well as its permanent status – a matter dependent on the future results of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This was made clear in a statement issued by the State Department on its official website. Notably, no similar phrase appeared in the corresponding report that was published on the English language BBC News website.

CAMERA Arabic wrote to BBC Arabic in Arabic to point out the error but did not receive a reply. CAMERA Arabic then wrote a second letter in English – this time to the BBC World Service, which is responsible for the corporation’s foreign language content – informing them of the erroneous statement. This second attempt was successful: a quick response was received and the word “united” was deleted from the report.

However, no footnote has been added to advise audiences of the removal of that previously inaccurate and misleading statement.

CAMERA Arabic website launched

As readers may recall, recognition of the absence of monitoring of Arabic language content produced by Western media organisations – including the BBC – prompted CAMERA to initiate a new project last summer.

The CAMERA Arabic website is now live.

A number of corrections have already been secured, including the removal of Hamas propaganda from the Huffington Post’s Arabic website and a correction to a Reuters report in Arabic.

Related Articles:

Huffington Post Arabic Removes Hamas Propaganda  (CAMERA)

CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

CAMERA’s new Arabic department has prompted an amendment to an article published last month on the BBC Arabic website.

Although the arrest of the leader of the banned northern Islamic Movement – Raed Salah – on August 15th did not receive any BBC coverage in English, the corporation’s Arabic language website published both a report on that story and a profile of Salah.

In that profile, readers were told that Israel often arrests members of the northern Islamic Movement for protesting against archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Temple Mount.

As CAMERA has previously noted, the Waqf has in fact repeatedly carried out unauthorised excavations at the sensitive site.

“The 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law mandates prior agreement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs or Ministry of Education and Culture in order to carry out excavations in or near a holy site. A 1978 Antiquities Law stipulates that where such a site is used for religious reasons, paving, quarrying, and interment and other actions can only be carried out with the written agreement of the Director of the Department of Antiquities.

The Muslim Waqf, however, consistently refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty or the laws governing holy sites. Attempting to change the status quo of the Temple Mount, the Waqf has repeatedly flouted these laws with excavations and construction of new mosques. Many believe that under the guise of renovations on the Temple Mount, the Waqf is deliberately destroying archaeological evidence of the site’s Jewish history.”

Original version

CAMERA’s Arabic department contacted BBC Arabic requesting a correction and pointing out that, contrary to the BBC’s claim, none of the legal action against the northern Islamic Movement or its leader has been related to protests against archaeological excavations: rather the group has been outlawed since late 2015 due to its links to Hamas, incitement and provocation of violence.

Although no reply was received, that part of the report was subsequently amended and readers are now informed that “the Israeli authorities accuse the Islamic movement of incitement, instigating rioting and misleading the public”.

However (as is all too often the practice at the BBC) the article does not include a footnote alerting audiences to the fact that it has been amended.

Related Articles:

The Battle Over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount  (CAMERA)

BBC ignores another Northern Islamic Movement story – in English

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English