BBC practice of repeat reporting of Israeli planning permits continues

Earlier this month the BBC’s most quoted Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, published an article by Barak Ravid and Chaim Levinson titled “Netanyahu Pledged 3,800 New Settlement Homes, but Only 600 Will Be Actually Built” and sub-headed “[c]lose examination of the list of construction plans expected to be approved next week reveals that the number of units presented to the public inflated and recycled”.

“The 3,800 units presented to the public is an inflated, recycled number, with the government expected to give immediate building permits to only 600 units.

Of these, 300 homes will be in Beit El, promised to the settlement after the demolition of the homes in Ulpana Hill over five years ago.[…]

Final approval will also be given for 102 homes in the new settlement of Amichai, which is being built for those evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. But since there has been no decision made yet on the objections that were submitted to the plan, construction isn’t expected to begin in the near future. […]

The total of 3,800 units includes plans that were approved in the past but which have had some units added. For example, Kfar Etzion already had 120 units approved, and the 38 have now been added. The government is thus presenting all 158 as “new” homes to be approved. A similar trick was pulled in Har Adar, where 10 additional homes were added to a previously approved plan of 60 homes and together became a “new” plan for 70 homes.

That’s not the only strange matter on the list published Tuesday. In Elkana, there had been a previously approved plan for 45 homes. Now the planning council is meant to turn that plan into a sheltered housing facility for 250 elderly people. The government is counting it as 250 new homes.”

On October 25th (two weeks after the appearance of that Ha’aretz article) readers of a report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel approves 176 new settler homes in East Jerusalem” were told that:

“Last week, Israeli authorities approved the construction of more than 2,600 additional homes in settlements across the West Bank.”

The BBC already reported on the planning approval for 234 units in Elkana over a year ago. In January of this year it reported on the approval for 100 units in Beit El and in June it reported on the plans for Amichai.

In other words we see that the BBC policy of reporting the same planning applications over and over again – and thereby inflating the number of what it likes to call “settler homes” constructed in the minds of its readers – continues to be an issue.

As is inevitably the case, this latest BBC report (which once again promotes a partisan map produced by a political NGO) fails to meet the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on due impartiality by failing to give “due weight” to alternative views of its standard mantra:

“About 200,000 Jewish settlers and 370,000 Palestinians currently live in East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As usual too, this report portrays history as having begun in June 1967 with no mention of the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or explanation of the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish National Home in 1922.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a step that was not recognised by the international community.”

The article portrays the story which is its subject matter as follows:

“Israeli authorities have approved a major expansion of a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality issued permits for 176 new housing units in Nof Zion, which is surrounded by the Palestinian district of Jabal Mukaber.

It will almost triple in size, making it the largest settlement inside a Palestinian area of East Jerusalem.”

BBC audiences were not, however, told that preliminary plans for those “new housing units” were already approved in 1994 and that the first 91 units were built in the early 2000s. Neither were they informed of some relevant background to the story: (translation by BBC Watch)

“The basis of the neighbourhood [Nof Zion] is on lands that were purchased on the hill by 11 Jewish families in the 1930s. After the War of Independence the Jewish contractor Rahamim Levi bought lands on the slope overlooking Temple Mount from residents of the Arab village. His children, Yehuda Levi and Evi Levi, completed the job in the coming years when they bought the plots from the Jewish families. But the area did not have building permits and in the coming decades, until the beginning of the 1990s, the land stood empty. Only during the time of the Rabin government were building plans approved for the site.”

When, in April 2015, planning permission was granted for over 2,000 units in Jabel Mukaber the BBC did not bother to report that story because the permits were for the Arab sector. In other words, once again we see that the BBC’s interest in reporting on Israeli planning permits is not determined by the project’s location or by the ownership of the relevant land but is entirely dependent upon the faith and ethnicity of the people it assumes will be moving into newly built apartments and houses in specific areas.

That is self-conscription to a political cause rather than journalism.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes more of its unvarying narrative on Israeli construction

‘Due impartiality’ and BBC reporting on Israeli construction

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’

Why is this Israeli planning decision different from others for the BBC?

What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

 

 

Revisiting a BBC story from 2002

During the Second Intifada, on September 9th 2002, BBC News reported the arrests of three Jerusalem residents in an article titled “Palestinians ‘planned to poison diners’“.Cafe Rimon art 1

“Israel is holding three young Palestinians from East Jerusalem on suspicion of plotting to poison diners at a café in the city.

Two of the men, who were arrested in August, are also suspected of planning to mount a suicide bomb attack.”

Six days later, BBC News produced another report on the same case – “Palestinian ‘poison plan’ cook charged” – in which audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian cook has been charged by the Israeli authorities with plotting to poison customers at a restaurant in West Jerusalem where he used to work

The man – named as 23-year-old Othman Said Kianiya – was arrested last month along with two other Arab residents of East Jerusalem who have already been charged.

All three were alleged to be working on behalf of the militant group Hamas.”

This week the ringleader of the would-be poisoners was released after completing a fourteen-year prison sentence and photographs of his reception in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber show that the BBC’s use of the word “alleged” with regard to Sufian Bakri Abdu’s links to Hamas was superfluous.

Jabel Mukaber 1

Jabel Mukaber 2

Over the last couple of years, BBC reports have variously told audiences that terrorists hailing from Jabal Mukaber were “ground down by the occupation“, angered by the demolition of houses of other terrorists or enraged by “threats to an important Muslim site“. Audience understanding would of course have been enhanced had BBC also covered the topic of the long-standing links of some residents of that Jerusalem neighbourhood to proscribed terrorist organisations and carried out some serious reporting on the much neglected issue of Hamas’ efforts to boost its infrastructure in PA controlled areas. 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ cuts number of Har Nof terror attack victims by a third

The January 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a discussion (from 44:43 here) about punitive demolitions of the houses of terrorists.Newshour 10 1

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item as follows:

“Now…eh…one response by the Israeli authorities to the recent raft of so-called ‘lone-wolf’ attacks by Palestinians wielding knives, guns, even cars has been to reintroduce a policy of demolishing the homes of family members of those who perpetrate violence. It’s a divisive tactic; it was condemned by many Western governments as collective punishment and in 2005 a report by the Israeli Defence Forces concluded it wasn’t an effective one. That led to an almost total halt in demolitions for nearly a decade. So, has anything changed? Well in a moment we’ll hear from two Israelis with differing points of view. First let’s hear from someone directly affected by the policy. Muawiya Abu Jamal is a Palestinian construction worker. His brother and cousin killed four Israelis in an attack on a synagogue in November 2014. Although he has never been investigated in connection with that crime, his home was among those belonging to the family that were destroyed last October.”

Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal in fact murdered six Israelis in their attack on the synagogue in Har Nof – not four as Coomarasamy inaccurately states.

Coomarasamy’s final sentence in that introduction clearly leads listeners to believe that Muawiya Abu Jamal’s house was deliberately – and unjustifiably – demolished and his interviewee’s account supports that allegation.

Muawiya Abu Jamal (voiceover): “After the operation by my brother Ghassan and cousin Uday on the 18th of November 2014 an order was issued to destroy their houses. This was implemented in October 2015. The Israeli forces used large enough quantity of explosives not only to destroy Ghassan and Uday’s houses but to destroy my own house nearby as well, plus the homes of my two other brothers.”

Let’s take a closer look at the facts behind that portrayal. The demolition orders for the houses of Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal were issued in November 2014 and the family exercised its right of appeal, leading to a temporary court injunction on the order. The High Court of Justice eventually rejected the appeal. Contrary to the impression given in this item, the order on Uday Abu Jamal’s house was not carried out at the same time as that on the house of his cousin and explosives were not used when, on July 1st 2015, the house was sealed.  

On October 6th 2015 the demolition order on the house of Ghassan Abu Jamal was carried out. What is not clarified by the interviewee is that his own house is situated next door to that of his brother and in the same building as the apartments of additional members of the family. Whilst unintentional damage did apparently occur to those adjacent structures during the demolition process, James Coomarasamy’s inference that Muawiya Abu Jamal’s house was intentionally demolished despite his “never [having] been investigated in connection with that crime” is inaccurate and materially misleading.

Muawiya Abu Jamal continues:

“What can you say to a child when he asks you where is my toy? Where is my book? By demolishing homes they think other people will be scared. Also the Israelis think that demolishing homes is a deterrent but on the contrary; people have increased their attacks. I give you an example in my own family. After destroying the houses of Ghassan and Uday and the other houses nearby, my cousin Alaa Abu Jamal was there. He watched what the Israelis were doing – the force they were using – and then he went out a week later and committed another attack against the Israelis.”

Listeners are not informed that Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky was killed and five other people wounded in the terror attack carried out by Alaa Abu Jamal on October 13th 2015.  Interestingly, when Muawiya Abu Jamal was interviewed by Jeremy Bowen just days after that attack, he provided a different ‘explanation’ for his cousin’s actions, claiming that he was “ground down by the occupation”. No mention is made of the fact that following the terror attack at the Synagogue in Har Nof carried out by his relations, Alaa Abu Jamal publicly praised their acts as being:

“…”something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.

 “This act was carried out because of the pressure placed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government in Jerusalem, as well as the continued acts of aggression against al-Aqsa,” he continued.

Following the axe attack that killed four worshipers and a policeman, Abu Jamal said: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.””

Neither are audiences told about the wider Abu Jamal family’s approach to the terror attack at the Synagogue – including Uday’s father’s claim that “this is a religious war” and his mother’s praise for the attackers – or about the reaction from broader Palestinian society. Listeners are hence left with the highly questionable take away message that the only possible and relevant background to Alaa Abu Jamal’s actions was the demolition of his relative’s house. 

The item continues with a conversation between Yisrael Medad and Jerusalem council member Laura Wharton. Surprisingly, Dr Wharton did not tell listeners about the recently published study by some of her colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which shows that “punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks.”

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details   

 

 

Terrorist? Motorist? It’s all the same to the BBC’s Kevin Connolly

As noted in a previous post, the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available for a limited period of time from 25:41 here).The World This Weekend

In addition to Connolly’s amplification of baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to Temple Mount and promotion of the notion that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”, a number of additional themes seen repeatedly in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel were promoted by Connolly and the programme’s presenter, Edward Stourton.

Stourton’s introduction began with promotion of equivalence between Israelis murdered by terrorists and the perpetrators of those attacks – who clearly interest him more than their victims.

“Forty-one Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories but the figures don’t really tell the full story. Many of the attacks which have resulted in those deaths were carried out by young Palestinian men with knives and they must surely have acted in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be killed themselves. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has thrown up violence in all sorts of forms, but this is new.”

The inaccurate notion that the current violence is “new” has also been seen in previous BBC content but of course there is nothing “new” at all about knife attacks or – as the second Intifada showed – about Palestinians committing terror attacks in which the likelihood of their being killed in the process was either obvious or intended.

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

“I have brought you to the Hass Promenade – a steeply terraced park not far from my home that looks east towards the hills of Jerusalem: a holy city, wholly divided.”

He later told listeners that:

“One of the recent stabbing attacks happened a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. The Palestinian village of Jabel Mukaber – home to at least one of the attackers of the last few weeks – is just beside me.”

In fact at least four perpetrators of attacks which took place before Connolly’s report was aired came from Jabel Mukaber – including the two who carried out an attack on a city bus in East Talpiot which has now claimed three fatalities and the one later described by Connolly in this report as “a motorist” – not, of course, a terrorist – who murdered a Rabbi waiting for a bus.

Connolly continued; his commentary too garnished with ample dollops of equivalence:

“Now I said ‘wholly divided’ but that’s not quite right. When the atmosphere suddenly sours as it has soured here in the last few weeks, Israelis and Palestinians alike are angry and frightened. There are victims on both sides, of course. But most people would struggle to identify with the sufferings of the victim on the other side.”

He next promoted a theme which has been dominant in his own previous reports and in other BBC coverage: the description of attacks directed at Jews (rather than “Israelis” as Connolly suggests) as ‘random’ events. Concurrently, Connolly ignored the known affiliations of some of the attackers with terrorist organisations and, predictably, refrained from telling listeners about the connecting thread between all those ‘random’ attacks: incitement.

“Israelis see their country as an island of democracy in a region of chaos and Islamic extremism and they crave a sense of normality. The attacks of the last few weeks have punctured that sense. They have been the work of individual Palestinians who’ve decided to take knives from their kitchens to randomly stab Israelis – soldiers, police officers and civilians. In one case a motorist drove his own car into a queue of pedestrians, with deadly intent. Those knives tear at the fabric of daily life here. Jewish Jerusalem is an edgy place these days where people suddenly feel that any Palestinian might be a knife attacker; any passing car might pose a deadly danger.”

But just in case listeners were by now drifting off message, Connolly brought them back with more promotion of equal suffering and inaccurate portrayal of violent riots as “protests”.

“But Palestinians are fearful too. It’s nearly fifty years since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. You are almost a pensioner if you can remember when every detail of daily life wasn’t under the control of the occupier. […]

And there’s deep anger and resentment at the readiness with which Israeli forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians in protests.”

Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in “the West Bank” have actually lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the past two decades, meaning that Connolly’s attempt to persuade listeners that Israel controls “every detail of daily life” in places such as Ramallah, Nablus or Jenin is decidedly embarrassing.

This report from Connolly contributed nothing new to audience understanding of the wave of terrorism in Israel because it followed the now well-established template of BBC coverage according to which attacks not named as terrorism are portrayed as ‘random’ or ‘spontaneous’  and attributed to ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ created by “the occupation”. 

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part two

In part one of this post we noted that two recent reports from the BBC’s Middle East editor featured interviews with members of the families of two terrorists killed whilst carrying out attacks in Jerusalem.

Both those terrorists – and many others – were motivated by incitement based on conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque and hence one would have expected the person charged with providing BBC audiences with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” to offer them factual background information on how that incitement is propagated, by whom and to what ends.

Jeremy Bowen’s presentation of the issue of incitement in his written report  – “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“- is as follows:Bowen written Manasra

“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.”

And:

“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. […]

The Israeli government denies that it plans to change the status quo around the Aqsa Mosque. It maintains that agitators have incited trouble by spreading baseless rumours.

But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians…”

In the filmed report – “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” – viewers are told by Bowen that:Bowen filmed Manasra

“The Israelis deny that they want Jews, who venerate the site [Temple Mount], to worship there too. Palestinians don’t believe them. That’s a major reason for the anger on the streets across the Palestinian territories.”

And:

“Israel says Palestinian leaders tell lies to incite riots and the killing of Jews. Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry.”

Later on in the report, viewers hear an Israeli police spokesman say:

“We’re talking about a small number within the Israeli-Arab population that unfortunately is both listening to the incitement that is being put out on the internet as well as by different organisations.”

In other words, in neither of these reports is the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount explained to BBC audiences in Jeremy Bowen’s own voice. Instead – as has been the case in much other recent BBC reporting – that topic is presented exclusively as something which “Israel says” or “Israel maintains” and audiences are given no tools with which they can assess whether what “Israel says” is correct or not.

Like his colleagues, Bowen refrains from showing his audiences examples of that incitement on the internet, on social media (including accounts run by Palestinian organisations such as Fatah and Hamas), on official PA television and official PA newspapers. As has long been the case – even before this latest wave of terrorism – Bowen refrains from clarifying to BBC audiences that incitement concerning holy sites in Jerusalem is coming from differing sectors of Palestinian society – including the PA president, Palestinian Authority ministries and religious leaders.

Bowen also refrains from telling BBC audiences about the long history of the exploitation of the topic of Temple Mount for purposes of incitement and makes no effort to examine why that particular subject is so potent or what the aims of those employing such incitement are.

Significantly, neither he nor his colleagues have to date made any effort to independently inform their audiences worldwide that there is no basis to those conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, Bowen opens this filmed report with promotion of an inaccuracy which has been seen in other recent BBC content but, when coming from a supposed expert responsible for the accuracy and impartiality of the world’s largest broadcaster’s Middle East content, is particularly remarkable.

“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.” [emphasis added]

The Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque are two of many structures in existence on an enclosed area known by Muslims as Haram al Sharif and Jews and Christians as Temple Mount. That entire area is not al Aqsa Mosque, even if some interested parties with a very clear political/religious agenda would like to claim otherwise for the purpose of denying Jewish history in Jerusalem.

The fact that we have seen repeated cases of adoption and promotion of that narrative from assorted BBC correspondents over the past few weeks raises considerable cause for concern with regard to the BBC’s ability to report on this very sensitive topic to audiences in the UK and worldwide accurately and responsibly.

However, whilst the BBC’s Middle East editor avoids providing audiences with comprehensive information on the issue of incitement, he does use his own words – together with paraphrasing of anonymous sources – to tell them what they should see as the cause of the current violence. In the written article, for example, readers are told that:

“Jerusalem has been simmering dangerously for two years or more. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asserting what it believes is its national right to build homes for Jewish Israelis wherever it decides they are needed in a city that it calls its undivided, eternal capital.

The government’s backing for the expansion of settlements in the sections of Jerusalem captured during the 1967 war, and classified as occupied territory by most of the rest of the world, has transformed some districts.

Palestinians feel they are being squeezed out of their home. They believe that their territory is being eaten up by Israel’s appetite for land, and loath what they see as a national ideology designed to enforce the dominance of Israel and Judaism. […]

Jews have settled alongside areas that were wholly populated by Palestinians, in some cases right in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

Bowen even promotes a spurious link between incitement concerning Temple Mount and Israeli construction.

“But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians, not least because it comes when Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem have been expanding.”

It is unclear upon what factual information Bowen bases that claim of ‘expansion’ because not only do official figures document construction in all of Jerusalem without differentiation between its various districts, but the available statistics for building up to the end of the second quarter of 2015 show no sign of “expanding” construction beyond the usual rate throughout the last four years and figures for the third quarter of 2015 are not yet available.

Besides ‘settlements’, Bowen promotes additional themes as explanations for the current violence in both his reports. In the written article readers are told that:

“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. […]

Israel’s use of considerable force in defence of its people also causes anger. The shooting dead of some assailants has been condemned, not least by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

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.”

Similar themes are promoted in Bowen’s filmed report:

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal”

“Palestinians get constant reminders that Israel is in charge. It can mean a lifetime of humiliations. […] For some, that produces a murderous rage.”

These two reports present audiences with two categories of ‘context’ for the current wave of terrorism in Israel. One the one hand, Bowen gives a completely inadequate representation of the issue of incitement concerning holy sites, presented exclusively using the “Israel says” formula which signals to audiences that he and his organisation do not stand behind it.

On the other hand we see Jeremy Bowen using his own voice – and reputation – to persuade audiences that the explanation for the violence is to be found in a “military occupation” which includes “settlements” and causes “humiliation”, pushing apparently agency-free Palestinians towards “murderous rage”. 

Obviously any explanation of why that ‘occupation’ came about or what was the status of the geographical areas concerned before the Jordanian occupation (which Bowen naturally refrains from mentioning) would detract from the narrative he is trying to promote and so audiences are deprived of that context and left with the take-away message that Israelis are to blame for the terrorism against them.

Jeremy Bowen’s choice of politically motivated narrative is cringingly obvious. The problem is that there is another, much older and deeper story here which predates ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ and is related to the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount. That is a story which Bowen and his colleagues have avoided telling BBC audiences, not just in these two reports and not only over the last few weeks, but for a very long time indeed.

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part one

Two recent reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – the man responsible for providing his employer’s audiences with “analysis that might help set it [news] in its context” – included interviews with the father of one of the teenage terrorists from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina who stabbed a man and a thirteen year-old boy in nearby Pisgat Ze’ev on October 12th.

In an article titled “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“, which appeared on October 15th and remained in the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section for five consecutive days, readers once again saw politicised terminology used to describe the neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.Bowen written 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.”

In other words, readers are encouraged to believe that the “typical teenager” and his cousin were not influenced by “a video” (apparently the only example of incitement of which Bowen is aware, despite there being dozens of others in various media) because he did not have a mobile phone, internet access or a TV.

Interestingly, the terrorist’s family name has been given as Manasra by most media outlets and official sources – rather than ‘Mahania’, as used by Bowen. However, one place which does use the name “Mahayneh-Manasra” is the website of the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre – a highly partisan organisation which has been used by Bowen as a source of information in the past. Of course if the information about the current wave of terrorism in Israel being provided to BBC audiences is coming, even in part, from a body with a record of anti-Israel activity and links to similarly inclined organisations, then that should be clarified to audiences. 

In a similarly themed filmed report produced for BBC Television news programmes and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” on October 16th, Bowen tells viewers:Bowen filmed Manasra

“Hassan Mahania [sic] aged 15 was shot dead after he stabbed two young Israelis and attacked the police. His father Khaled can’t understand where, as a parent, he went wrong.”

Footage then cuts to the weeping father saying:

“I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.”

But Bowen fails to bring his audience’s attention to the fact that the image appearing on screen as he leads into that segment shows a ‘martyrdom poster’ with a photo of Hassan Manasra together with a large picture of the Dome of the Rock. He fails to tell viewers that, for example, two days after the terror attack in Pisgat Ze’ev, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education glorified terror by planting trees in honour of ‘student martyrs’ such as Manasra. And he avoids informing BBC audiences that Hassan Manasra’s cousin and accomplice Ahmed Manasra (later exploited by Mahmoud Abbas for even more incitement) provided insight into their motivations.

““I went there to stab Jews,” he told investigators at the Hadassah Hospital where doctors have been treating him for wounds he sustained during the incident, police said.

Manasra said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the Palestinian claim that Israel has been trying to change the status quo on the volatile Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

Likewise, Bowen ignores long-standing issues such as terror groups’ activities in Arab areas of Jerusalem and delegitimisation of Israel and incitement in schools – an issue now being investigated in schools in Beit Hanina attended by the Manasra cousins and an additional perpetrator of one of the recent terror attacks.

In the same filmed report Bowen also visited the family of another terrorist who, on October 13th, carried out this attack:

“On Malkhei Yisrael Street in Geula, a terrorist drove a car into a bus stop, hitting three pedestrians – one of whom, 60-year-old Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, was killed. The terrorist then left the vehicle and started repeatedly stabbing his victims.” 

Bowen’s description of the incident is as follows:

“He [Rabbi Krishevsky] was killed last Tuesday when a Palestinian rammed his car into a bus queue.”

He continues:

“The rabbi’s killer, who was shot dead, came from Jabel Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem. He was Alaa Abu Jamal who snapped; ground down by the occupation according to his cousin Wawiya [phonetic]. He wants peace, even though his house has just been destroyed in an Israeli reprisal against his brother who killed five Israelis last year.”

Bowen does not clarify that the incident “last year” is the terror attack in Har Nof in which worshippers at prayer in a synagogue were hacked to death by cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal from Jabel Mukaber. Neither does he tell viewers that Alaa Abu Jamal was an Israeli citizen who worked for the telephone company Bezek and used his company car to carry out the attack or that following the terror attack committed by his relatives last November in Har Nof, Alaa Abu Jamal publicly praised it, describing the attack as:

“…”something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.

 “This act was carried out because of the pressure placed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government in Jerusalem, as well as the continued acts of aggression against al-Aqsa,” he continued.

Following the axe attack that killed four worshipers and a policeman, Abu Jamal said: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.””

Clearly both the terrorists highlighted by Bowen in these two reports were influenced by the religiously themed incitement concerning Temple Mount. But did the BBC’s Middle East editor clarify that point to viewers and readers of these two reports and did his ‘analysis’ include any attempt to explain how that incitement is spread, by whom and to what end? Those questions will be examined in part two of this post.

Why is this Israeli planning decision different from others for the BBC?

Whenever an Israeli planning body makes an announcement concerning some stage or other of the construction of apartments and houses in certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem or towns and villages in Judea and Samaria, the BBC is usually very quick off the mark in producing a report which typically includes condemnation from PA officials, comment from at least one political NGO and the standard BBC insert designed to impress upon audiences that “settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this”.

Last week, however, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of 2,200 new apartments in a neighbourhood on the ‘wrong’ side of the 1949 Armistice Lines and yet not a word on that decision appeared on the BBC News website.SONY DSC

“The Interior Ministry’s District Planning and Building Committee on Monday invited the submission of a master plan for the construction of 2,200 new housing units for the Arab sector in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. As part of the plan, several hundreds of housing units built illegally will also be retroactively approved. […]

The plan allocates an area of some 1,500 dunman [sic- dunams] between Jabel Mukaber and Abu Dis for the construction of housing units. The project also includes areas allocated for commercial and employment centers, public buildings, schools, new roads and new parks. The “American road” will also be developed as part of the plan, a central traffic artery for east and south-east Jerusalem, along which commercial and employment centers will be developed.”

The BBC’s cognitive dissonance concerning Arab Jerusalemites who live in what it persistently describes as “settlements” has been noted here in the past. Now we see another example of the disturbing fact that the BBC’s issues with Israeli construction actually do not depend on the project’s location – or even on the topic of building itself – but upon the faith and ethnicity of the people it assumes will be moving into newly built apartments and houses in specific areas.

There’s a word for that.