An illustration of BBC under-reporting of terrorism against Israelis

As regular readers know, the vast majority of non-fatal terror attacks against Israelis do not receive any BBC coverage and in 2016 that meant that just 2.8% of the total attacks were reported.

One of those unreported attacks took place in on September 19th 2016 when two police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

“Two police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack outside Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday morning, police said, as a fresh wave of attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank persisted for a fourth straight day.

A female officer, 38, was seriously wounded in the assault. A male officer, 45, was moderately wounded, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.”

The female officer – a mother of two – was left partly paralysed by the attack.

“Border policewoman Tsippi Yacovian, who was critically wounded and partially paralyzed after her spinal cord was severed during a September terrorist attack near the Old City’s Herod’s Gate, testified this week against the man accused of repeatedly stabbing her.

Despite efforts from a team of doctors, the attack left her paralyzed below the waist and elsewhere.

“I have no feeling in my legs, back or rib cage, and my hands are very weak,” she testified. “I now can’t do basic things and will be dependent on others for most of my life.””

Yacovian is confined to a wheelchair and requires 24 hour care. After months of treatment in hospital came to an end, she was unable to go home because her house does not meet her needs. A crowd-funding campaign was launched in July to help her and her family relocate to a suitable house.

“Because of her medical condition, Yacobian’s house in Almon (also known as Anatot), north of Jerusalem, is no longer suitable. She needs complete wheelchair accessibility, specialized equipment and 24-hour assistance. She can’t live in a house with an elevator because she is not strong enough to press the button. […]

Additionally, Yacobian’s life is at risk every time she travels for a lengthy period. She needs to live in Jerusalem, near Hadassah Medical Center and Beit Halochem (Soldier’s House), where she will continue her rehabilitation.”

This week the crowd-funding campaign reached its goal of a million shekels.

While BBC audiences have seen follow-up reporting on victims and survivors of terror in other locations, this story is just one of hundreds deemed not newsworthy by the BBC.  

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC’s double standards on terrorism highlighted again 

 

Revisiting a BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem

On July 26th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ heard a report from Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman concerning the unrest in Jerusalem and elsewhere that followed the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack twelve days earlier.

As was noted here at the time, in that report:

“Bateman then went to visit the family of a person killed while participating in violent rioting in a district of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Children played outside as I visited the home of Susanne Abu Ghannam. Her son Mohammed was among those who died on Friday, shot – she said – by Israeli forces.”

Although listeners heard the mother claim that “the occupation forces were surrounding the hospital in order to take his body”, Bateman did not inform them that there is no indication that was the case.”

On August 12th Israel’s Channel 10 aired footage filmed inside the grounds of that hospital – the Makassed Hospital – on the same day. The video shows (at 01:20) large amounts of paving stones and breeze blocks which were stockpiled in advance in the hospital’s car park as ammunition to be thrown at the security forces during the rioting. One rioter can be seen (at 01:40) throwing a breeze block at the police from the hospital’s roof. Channel 10’s reporter explains (at 02:22) that the police activity in the hospital was aimed at locating the rioters hiding in the hospital grounds.

The likelihood that BBC audiences will hear or see that aspect of the story is of course exceedingly slim.  

BBC WS history show ‘explains’ Camp David summit failure

h/t JB

The August 4th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is described in its synopsis as follows:

“In 2000 the US led a major effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bill Clinton brought the two sides together at the leafy presidential retreat in Maryland. The Israeli leader, Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, failed to reach any agreement and the summit ended in failure. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the senior American diplomatic interpreter and policy adviser, Gamal Helal who attended the Camp David summit.”

Promotion of the programme on Twitter showed that it purports to inform BBC audiences why the Camp David summit failed.

So what do listeners hear on that topic and what conclusions would they reach? [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

After introducing the programme, presenter Farhana Haider tells audiences that:

“Israel had been pushing for this summit. Chairman Arafat for the Palestinians had argued there’s not been enough progress on earlier agreements to merit such a high level meeting but President Clinton had pressed ahead.”

Later on Haider tells listeners that the actual process of negotiation:

“…involved the negotiating teams meeting with each other and also separately with the Americans on most days. Face to face contact between Arafat and Barak was very limited. Mistrust was clearly running deep, says Gamal.”

Helal: “The main meal was dinner and all three parties were attended by the principals. So during dinner was the only time when they would sit together. […] Sort of like mingling. What did not happen was a bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks or the trilateral talks at the principals level. That did not happen because Prime Minister Barak did not want it.”

Haider alleges:

“…both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions. The US and the Israelis had also overestimated Arafat’s willingness to bargain away sovereignty over Jerusalem. In fact, the city’s final status was as much of a red line for Arafat as it was for Ehud Barak.”

 Gamal Helal recounts how, in a one-on-one conversation with Arafat he tried to persuade him to seize the historic opportunity and that:

“…at the end he looked at me and he said ‘I can’t’. And I said ‘why can’t you?’ He said if I accept this they will kill me’.”

Listeners never find out who ‘they’ are and Haider asks “could you sense his frustration?” without clarifying whether she is referring to Arafat or Clinton. Helal answers:

“Yes and I think there was also a lot of frustration as a result of Prime Minister Barak’s behaviour and attitude during Camp David. For example he promised that there would be negotiations around the clock and the two sides would be meeting discussing all permanent status issues and none of that happened. He basically locked himself up in his cabin. He met only with President Clinton. There was no bilateral meetings with Chairman Arafat except a very short encounter but no actual negotiations between the two leaders. He was not engaged at all. The Palestinians, when they saw that they decided to withdraw and simply say no to everything.”

Haider sums up the story:

“After 15 days of talks, nothing was agreed. Though President Clinton came and went, leaving the parties to continue their discussions, the basic problem was that the maximum Israel offered was less than the minimum the Palestinians could accept. On July 15 2000 the parties left Camp David, blaming the other for the failure.”

The Camp David summit did not end on July 15th 2000 but actually took place between the 11th and 25th of July. Although this programme clearly steers listeners toward the view that the negotiations failed because of “Barak’s behaviour and attitude”, a report published in the New York Times the day after the summit concluded gives a different account.

“The president [Clinton] and other American mediators made clear that it was Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who balked in the end, and by all accounts the issue was Jerusalem, the Holy City both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their sacred capital.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Clinton singled out the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, for his readiness to make hard compromises. ”I would be making a mistake not to praise Barak, because I think he took a big risk,” the president said. ”The prime minister moved forward more from his initial position than Chairman Arafat, particularly surrounding the question of Jerusalem.””

In an interview he gave to Ha’aretz in 2002, Ehud Barak cast light on the circumstances behind Helal’s claim that he “locked himself up in his cabin” and the allegation that the Palestinian delegation’s negative responses were the product of Barak not being “engaged”.

“The moment of truth at Camp David occurred when Clinton brought his ideas and put them on the table. Overall, Clinton’s ideas said that in return for ending the conflict and acquiescing to some Israeli security demands and leaving 80 percent of the settlers in Israeli territory, [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat would get a sovereign Palestinian state, demilitarized and contiguous, in ninety-something percent of the West Bank and a hundred percent of the Gaza Strip. Including exit points to the neighboring countries, a hold in East Jerusalem and the right of return to the Palestinian state but not to Israel. Israel would agree to accept a certain amount of refugees on a humanitarian basis but not a single one on the basis of the right of return.

For us these ideas are no simple matter. They are far from a simple matter. Especially when you try to go into a bit of detail about Jerusalem. But we held lengthy discussions and in the end we decided, because of considerations of historic responsibility, that we have to accept the plan as a basis for discussion. Arafat twisted and turned with it and effectively said no. Clinton went back to him and pounded on the table and Arafat again did not answer but effectively gave an answer that was no.

At this stage Clinton has to go to Okinawa, for a meeting of the G-8. So I say to him, Look, until you extract readiness from Arafat to accept your ideas as a basis for negotiations, there is nothing to discuss. It is hard for us, too, we also have reservations, these ideas are very close to the Palestinian position, but we accept them as a basis for discussion. When you get a positive answer out of Arafat, I’m here. You know where my cabin is.

Clinton goes off to Okinawa, leaving me with the impression that he understands that there can be no discussion. But he leaves a different impression with his staff and with the Palestinians. They understand that in the meantime the discussions can proceed with [secretary of state Madeleine] Albright. When I discover this, I find myself in an impossible position. That is the origin of the story that Barak locked himself in his cabin in a state of depression. But in fact I had no choice. I couldn’t undercut Albright but I couldn’t continue with the negotiations, either. So I told everyone to leave my cabin and I did some sports and I read the book `Five Days in London’ from cover to cover.”

As for Haider’s claims that “both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions” and her description of Jerusalem as “a red line […] for Ehud Barak”, Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David, Shlomo Ben Ami, has some interesting recollections.

“Question: I understand that there was a stage at which Barak astonished everyone by agreeing to divide the Old City of Jerusalem into two quarters under Israeli sovereignty and two quarters under Palestinian sovereignty. Did he do that on his own or was it a joint decision made by the entire Israeli team?

Ben Ami: “As I told you, I suggested that a special regime be introduced in the Old City. In the wake of that discussion, sometime later, the president put forward a two-two proposal, meaning a clear division of sovereignty. In a conversation with the president, Ehud agreed that that would be a basis for discussion. I remember walking in the fields with Martin Indyk [of the State Department] that night and both of us saying that Ehud was nuts. We didn’t understand how he could even have thought of agreeing. Afterward I wrote in my diary that everyone thinks that Amnon [Lipkin-] Shahak and I are pushing Barak to the left, but the truth is that he was the one who pushed us leftward. At that stage – this was the start of the second week of the meeting – he was far more courageous than we were. Truly courageous. Clinton told me a few times: I have never met such a courageous person.””

And Ben Ami also comments on why the Camp David summit failed.

“Camp David collapsed over the fact that they [the Palestinians] refused to get into the game. They refused to make a counter proposal. No one demanded that they give a positive response to that particular proposal of Clinton’s. Contrary to all the nonsense spouted by the knights of the left, there was no ultimatum. What was being asked of the Palestinians was far more elementary: that they put forward, at least once, their own counter proposal. That they not just say all the time `That’s not good enough’ and wait for us to make more concessions. That’s why the president sent [CIA director George] Tenet to Arafat that night – in order to tell him that it would be worth his while to think it over one more time and not give an answer until the morning. But Arafat couldn’t take it anymore. He missed the applause of the masses in Gaza.” […]

“But when all is said and done, Camp David failed because Arafat refused to put forward proposals of his own and didn’t succeed in conveying to us the feeling that at some point his demands would have an end. One of the important things we did at Camp David was to define our vital interests in the most concise way. We didn’t expect to meet the Palestinians halfway, and not even two-thirds of the way. But we did expect to meet them at some point. The whole time we waited to see them make some sort of movement in the face of our far-reaching movement. But they didn’t. The feeling was that they were constantly trying to drag us into some sort of black hole of more and more concessions without it being at all clear where all the concessions were leading, what the finish line was.”

Obviously the explanation of why the Camp David talks failed given in this BBC World Service ‘history’ programme is heavily tipped towards a particular politicised narrative that does not accurately reflect the whole story and therefore misleads BBC audiences.

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part two

In part one of this post we looked at what the BBC News website reported – and what not – throughout the first week of the events that took place in Jerusalem and elsewhere between July 14th and July 28th in order to assess the ‘historical record’ that remains available to members of the public trying to find information on those events.

While the first week of events received little BBC coverage with only four reports (3 written and one filmed) published between July 14th and July 21st inclusive, the second week saw the publication of ten reports (9 written and one filmed).

Saturday, July 22nd:

Events covered by BBC: Violent rioting continues – two Palestinians killed (one apparently self-inflicted).

BBC report: “Jerusalem: Metal detectors at holy site ‘could be removed’

Events not reported by the BBC: Fatah incitement continues. Turkish president issues statement condemning Israel. Anti-Jewish demonstration at synagogue in Istanbul.

Sunday, July 23rd:

Events covered by the BBC: Israeli police install security cameras at entrances to Temple Mount. Arab League issues statementIncident at Israeli embassy in Amman.

BBC reports: “Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site“, Israeli ‘kills attacker’ at Jordan embassy

Events not reported by the BBC: Waqf issues statement rejecting any and all security measures. Violence continues in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Violent demonstrations at synagogues in Istanbul. Missile fired from Gaza Strip.

Monday, July 24th:

Events covered by the BBC: Israeli staff at Amman embassy return to Israel.

BBC reports: Israel and Jordan in diplomatic standoff after embassy deaths“, Israeli embassy staff home after Amman standoff “, Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’” (discussed here)

Events not reported by the BBC: Missile fired from Gaza strip (discussed here). Stabbing in Petah Tikva.  PA minister promotes incitement on PA TV.

Tuesday, July 25th:

Events covered by the BBC: Metal detectors removed. Waqf issues statement continuing boycott. Abbas maintains freeze on ties with Israel.

BBC reports: Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site“, Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas

Events not reported by the BBC: Jordanian parliamentarians protest their government’s handling of embassy incident. Turkish president makes inflammatory statements. Fatah continues incitement. Violence continues.

Wednesday, July 26th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Abbas mobilises Fatah Tanzim ahead of Friday demonstrations, PA and Fatah continue incitement. Hamas calls for ‘Day of Rage’ on Friday. PLO declares continuation of boycott. Waqf presents list of demands to Israeli police.

Thursday, July 27th:

Events covered by the BBC: Remaining security measures removed. Waqf lifts boycott, Muslim visitors return to Temple Mount. Violence continues.

BBC reports: Israel removes Jerusalem flashpoint security apparatus “,Palestinians return to holy site after Israel security reversal“,Jerusalem holy site: Cheers as scaffolding removed“, Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths” (discussed here)

Events not reported by the BBC: Funerals for terrorists held in Umm al Fahm. Arab League accuses Israel of ‘desecration’ of holy site. Palestinians barricade themselves inside al Aqsa mosque.

Friday, July 28th:

Events covered by BBC: Men under 50 temporarily barred from entering Temple Mount after threats of violence.  Violent rioting on Gaza border and elsewhere. Attempted stabbing in Gush Etzion.

BBC reports: “Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes” 

Events not reported by BBC: Anti-Israel protests in Jordan and Iran.

As we see, BBC audiences were not provided with coverage of this story as it began with no reporting on developments that followed the July 14th terror attack seen until the appearance of Yolande Knell’s ‘backgrounder’ on July 20th.

In the coverage that was provided we see a complete absence of reporting on Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement and no mention at all of the Northern Islamic Movement. The level of violence was often played down with rioting described as “protests” and with one exception, additional terror attacks were not reported. Apart from brief belated mentions of one demonstration in Jordan, anti-Israel demonstrations and inflammatory statements by politicians in other countries were completely ignored. Significantly, BBC audiences saw no reporting at all on the violence against the Jewish community in Istanbul.

As noted here previously (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC’s coverage mostly failed to provide audiences with the essential facts behind the key issue of the ‘status quo’ at Temple Mount and frequently employed partial terminology that endorses the Palestinian narrative. 

Related Articles:

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

Did the BBC adequately explain the Temple Mount ‘status quo’?

A part of the Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story that BBC audiences were not told

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part one

 

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part one

Coverage of the events in Jerusalem – and related events elsewhere – during the second half of July naturally appeared on a variety of BBC platforms (see ‘related articles’ below) but the information that will continue to be accessible to the general public as what the corporation calls ‘historical records’ is that published on the BBC News website.

So how will that story be perceived by anyone trying to understand it in the future? Comparing the timeline of actual events with the information provided in the relevant BBC reports allows us to answer that question.

Friday, July 14th:

07:00 – Three terrorists from Umm al Fahm attack and kill two Israeli policemen stationed at Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Temple Mount closed to civilians as police conduct investigation.

BBC report: “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site” (discussed here)

Events covered by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Hamas. Mufti and al Aqsa preacher briefly detained by police. Waqf demands re-opening of site and calls for mass prayer in the streets. PA president Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack.

Events not reported by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and outlawed northern Islamic Movement’s Raed Salah. Fatah issues statement condemning closure of site and calls for ‘rage’. Jordan demands immediate re-opening of site. PA president Mahmoud Abbas calls for reversal of site closure. Arab League and OIC condemn the closure – but not the terror attack. Firebomb attack in Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 15th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount remains closed. Jordanian government spokesman demands that Israel open the site, despite ongoing police investigation. Demonstrations in Amman. Fatah incitement continues. Shooting attack in Ateret.

Sunday, July 16th:

Events covered by the BBC: 12:00 – Temple Mount re-opened to Muslim (only) visitors (briefly mentioned in a BBC report on another topic).

Events not reported by the BBC: Metal detectors installed at some of entry gates to Temple Mount: two gates in operation, around 600 worshippers visit. Waqf refuses to enter the site, instructs others to so the same and instigates protest. Jordanian parliament prays for perpetrators of Friday’s terror attack. Northern Islamic Movement incitement continues. Rioting continues.

Monday, July 17th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount re-opened for non-Muslim visitors, three gates opened to Muslim visitors. Waqf issues statement condemning metal detectors and instructing Muslims to pray outside the site. Rioting and demonstrations continue; PLO’s Mustafa Barghouti participates.  Fatah calls for a ‘Day of Rage’ on July 19th.

Tuesday, July 18th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Violent demonstrations continue. Vehicular attack near Hebron.

Wednesday, July 19th:

Events not reported by BBC: Temple Mount briefly closed to non-Muslim visitors. PA prime minister calls on international community to force Israel to remove metal detectors. Waqf instructs Jerusalem mosques to close on Friday and send congregations to the streets. Fatah declared ‘Day of Rage’ – violent demonstrations continue.

Thursday, July 20th:

BBC publishes its first report since July 14th: “Jerusalem holy site security row explained“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Police release video of preparations for terror attack including smuggling of weapons into al Aqsa mosque by accomplice. Although later reports told audiences that “Israel says” that weapons were smuggled into the site (but did not specifically mention the mosque), the video itself did not appear in any BBC content.

Attempted stabbing in Gush Etzion. Violent demonstrations continue. Hamas calls for mass protests on Friday.

Friday, July 21st:

Events reported by the BBC: Access to Temple Mount continues to be open. Rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Three Palestinian rioters killed.

Mahmoud Abbas announces end to ‘all contacts’ with Israel. Three Israelis murdered and one wounded in terror attack in Halamish. Hamas praises attack.

BBC reports: East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar” (discussed here), Bethlehem: Israeli forces and Palestinians clash“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here), Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank attack” (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Abbas announces $25 million budget to support ‘steadfastness’. Fatah incitement continues. Anti-Israel demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia (demonstrations in Jordan briefly mentioned in later July 24 reports)

Part two of this post will examine the second week of BBC coverage of events.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

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

Did the BBC adequately explain the Temple Mount ‘status quo’?

For anyone trying to understand the events ostensibly related to new security measures at entrances to Temple Mount in the latter half of July, familiarity with the history and terms of the ‘status quo’ operating at that site is obviously of prime importance. Without that information, it is impossible to make sense of Palestinian and Israeli claims or to reach informed conclusions about the story.

The history of that ‘status quo’ of course began in June 1967 when Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem ended after it lost the war it had launched together with Egypt and Syria.

“Within hours of Israel’s victory in Six-Day War and the unification of Jerusalem, the Minister of Defense at the time, Moshe Dayan, arrived on the Temple Mount and began to formulate the arrangements that would eventually be labeled “the status quo on the Temple Mount.” Dayan ordered the Israeli flag that had been raised at the site to be lowered and Israeli forces on the Temple Mount to be withdrawn to a position in the northern sector of the compound. […]

The new order that Dayan formulated on the Temple Mount was crystallized on the basis of Dayan’s belief that this was the correct formula of action to prevent the national-territorial conflict from spilling over into a religious one, since a religious war would be much more dangerous.

The historical status quo on the Temple Mount included the following key components:

  1. The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to administer the site and would be responsible for the religious and civil arrangements concerning the Temple Mount.
  2. Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they could visit there. (This right – freedom of access to the Mount – was even anchored in the framework of Israel’s Protection of the Holy Places Law, 1967).
  3. The Israeli Police would be responsible for security within the holy compound, the interior area and its outskirts, the wall and the gates.
  4. Israeli sovereignty and law would apply to the Temple Mount, as in the other parts of Jerusalem where Israeli law applied after the Six-Day War. This ruling was upheld by the Israel Supreme Court more than once.
  5. Later on, it was decided that the only gate by which Jews would be allowed to enter the Temple Mount would be the Mughrabi Gate (Moors’ Gate), located in the middle of the Western Wall, while Muslims would enter the Mount through all the other gates. Tourists would be permitted to enter via three gates: the Mughrabi Gate, the Chain Gate and the Cotton Merchants’ Gate. In practice, today tourists are able to enter the Mount only via the Mughrabi Gate.
  6. Over the years, it was prohibited to wave flags of any kind on the Temple Mount.”

While some of those components have changed over time (for example, visiting hours for non-Muslims have been reduced and Muslim prayer areas have been expanded), the basic division of responsibility between Israel and the Waqf remains unchanged – as summed up concisely by the Times of Israel (which also has some good background on the history of the Waqf here):

“The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. Under an arrangement in place since Israel emerged victorious in the Six Day War in 1967, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under this status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.”

So how well was that crucial background communicated to BBC News website audiences during the last two weeks of July? In all, eighteen reports (16 written and two filmed) relating to stories connected to the tensions surrounding security measures installed after the terror attack on July 14th were published on the website in the fifteen days between that date and July 28th.

Only just over half (55.5%) of those reports included any sort of mention of the issue of the ‘status quo’.

Four reports cited the ‘status quo’ – or “arrangements” – without bothering to explain it.

East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar 21/7/17:

“In the wake of the killing of the police last Friday, Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the holy site. The move, however, drew an angry reaction from Palestinian and Islamic leaders who say it is a violation of the status quo. […]

Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain the status quo – a delicate set of arrangements in place at the site for the past 50 years. Any changes there are often regarded by Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a sought-after state, as a violation of these arrangements.”

Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site 23/7/17:

“But Palestinians strongly object to the installation of metal detectors. They see it as a move by Israel to assert more control over the sacred site and as a violation of longstanding access arrangements. […]

Meanwhile, the Muslim authorities overseeing the Al-Aqsa mosque say they reject any change to the status quo.

Israel insists the measure does not alter the delicate set of arrangements governing the site for the past 50 years.”

Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’  24/7/17:

“But Palestinians strongly object to the installation of metal detectors. They see it as a move by Israel to assert more control over the sacred site and as a violation of longstanding access arrangements.”

Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes  28/7/17:

“Palestinians said Israel’s new security measures upset the delicate status quo, which Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain since occupying the area in the 1967 Middle East war.”

Three reports mentioned Jordan’s role in the arrangement.

Israeli ‘kills attacker’ at Jordan embassy 23/7/17 :

“Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, is the custodian of the site, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount.”

Israel and Jordan in diplomatic standoff after embassy deaths 24/7/17:

“The incident comes at a time of heightened tension in the region over a Jerusalem holy site, where Jordan has an historical role as custodian. […]

Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, funds the upkeep of the site, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount, and runs the Waqf, the religious trust which administers the compound.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths 27/7/17:

“There were also protests against the security set-up in Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, funds the compound’s upkeep and runs the Waqf, the religious trust which administers it.”

Only three (16.6%) of the total of eighteen reports actually made an effort to clarify the division of responsibility at the site.

Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site 14/7/17:

“The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there.”

Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site 25/7/17 and Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas 25/7/17:

“For Palestinians, their [metal detectors] installation symbolised what they saw as an attempt by Israel to assert further control over the site of their holy shrine in occupied East Jerusalem – the mosque that also acts as a powerful symbol of their national aspiration. […]

The site is hugely politically sensitive and has been subject to a delicate set of arrangements – commonly referred to as the “status quo” – governing access, security and administration, for the past 50 years.

Under the arrangement, Israel is responsible for security and a Jordanian-funded religious trust, or Waqf, looks after the day-to-day running of the site.

Palestinians said the placing of the metal detectors upset the status quo, which Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain. Israel said Palestinians were using the issue as a pretext to spread hostility against the Jewish state.”

In other words, visitors to the BBC News website would have to have been lucky enough to stumble across one of three reports published on two separate days over a fifteen day period in order to get some inkling of what this story is really all about.

A part of the Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story that BBC audiences were not told

In the early morning hours of July 27th the funerals of the three terrorists who committed the attack at Lions’ Gate nearly two weeks earlier took place in their home town of Umm al Fahm in northern Israel.

“Thousands of people attended the funerals overnight Wednesday of the three Arab-Israeli terrorists who carried out a terror attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem two weeks ago, killing two Israeli Druze police officers with weapons they had smuggled onto the holy site.

Some 3,000 people were at the funerals in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, according to Hebrew media.

The burial processions included cheers and celebratory chants, as attendees vowed to become “martyrs for Al-Aqsa,” in reference to the mosque that sits on the Temple Mount along with the Dome of the Rock sanctuary.

Some flew the Palestinian flag. “Millions of martyrs are marching to Al-Aqsa,” the crowd chanted, in footage shown on Channel 2.

An unnamed member of the Jabarin family praised the attackers, telling Channel 2 they were “shahids” (martyrs), and saying “they received the respect they deserved with a mass funeral the area has not seen before.””

The organisers of the funerals claimed higher attendance:

“During the funeral procession, the three terrorists, buried alongside one another, were hailed as “shahids” (martyrs) while firecrackers were shot in the air, Palestinian flags were waved and the masses chanted: “By fire and with blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa,” and “You are the shahids of Al-Aqsa.”

The procession was led by the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, and other senior members of the outlawed organization. One participant said the funeral was one of the largest ever to take place in Umm al-Fahm, “as befitting the shahids honor.”

Funeral organizers claimed that over 10,000 people took part in the procession, while the Israel Police said it comprised less than 3,000 people.”

Writing at Ha’aretz a few days later, Moshe Arens noted that:

“Unfortunately, engraved in the memory of many will remain not only the criminal act by three Israeli Arabs from Umm al-Fahm, but even more disturbing, the mass celebrations there that accompanied their funerals. The gunmen evidently had the support of many in Umm al-Fahm, and others seem prepared to follow in their footsteps. Those who wanted to believe that it was the act of a few crazed individuals are sorely disappointed. The assailants killed two policemen and damaged the fabric of relationships between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens that will take a long time to repair.”

Those getting their news from the BBC, however, have no idea that those funerals took place and are completely unaware of the scenes that so disturbed the Israeli public in general and foremost the families of the two murdered policemen.

On July 27th the BBC News website published four reports on its Middle East page:

Israel removes Jerusalem flashpoint security apparatus 27/7/17

Jerusalem holy site: Cheers as scaffolding removed 27/7/17

Palestinians return to holy site after Israel security reversal 27/7/17

Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths 27/7/17

None of them includes so much as a word about the scenes that had taken place in Umm al Fahm earlier that same day.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

As noted in earlier posts (see here, here and here), listeners to BBC World Service radio recently saw the return of a practice that was documented on these pages just over a year ago. The reappearance of that practice has not however been limited to that particular BBC platform: it has also been seen in reporting on the BBC News website.

The background to the story is as follows:

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 but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. 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 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the 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 tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

Since the July 14th terror attack at Lions Gate, visitors to the BBC News website have seen the term “al Aqsa mosque compound” used in a third of the reports relating to Temple Mount that were published between July 14th and July 28th.

1) “Jerusalem holy site security row explained” 20/7/17, Yolande Knell (discussed here):

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.” [emphasis added]

In written reports, BBC audiences saw both the use of terminology that more or less complies with the BBC Academy’s style guide as well as language that complies with the PLO’s instructions to foreign journalists.

2) “Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site” 23/7/17:

“Tensions over the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have surged in recent days, with further deaths.

The site in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

3) “Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’ ” 24/7/17:

“Nikolay Mladenov urged a rapid solution to the current crisis over the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The site in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

4) “Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site” 25/7/17:

“It followed the killing on 14 July of two Israeli policemen by Israeli-Arab gunmen, who police say had hidden their weapons on the hilltop site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. […]

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

5) “Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas” 25/7/17:

“Both sides are under pressure from the international community to resolve the row over the holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. […]

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

6) “Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes”  28/7/17:

“Palestinians returned to the hilltop site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount on Thursday after Islamic authorities lifted a two-week boycott called in protest at new Israeli security measures there. […]

Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and the holiest place in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven, according to Islamic tradition.” [emphasis added]

The above-mentioned instructions in the BBC Academy’s style guide remain unchanged. However, as we see, journalists on the ground have returned to the practice of promoting the politically partisan, PLO recommended, term “al Aqsa mosque compound” – thereby compromising the BBC’s reputation as an impartial media organisation.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme last week heard two reports on consecutive days relating to the Palestinian rioting ostensibly in reaction to security measures installed at Temple Mount after two Israeli policemen were murdered in a terror attack on July 14th. Both of those items were notable for their promotion of moral equivalence between the murders of victims of terrorism and the deaths of rioters killed while engaged in violence.

In the July 25th edition of ‘Today’, presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item (from 01:16:07 here) as follows: [emphasis added]

Robinson: “Will the decision by the Israeli security cabinet to remove metal detectors at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites lessen the tension which has led to the deaths of three Israelis and four Palestinians in recent days, as well as an attack on Israel’s embassy in Jordan?”

The three Israelis mentioned by Robinson are the members of the Salomon family murdered by a terrorist who infiltrated their family home on July 21st as they finished dinner. The four Palestinians were all engaged in violent rioting (that was praised by the Palestinian president’s party Fatah) at the time of their deaths. Radio 4’s presenter however made no effort to inform listeners of the vastly different circumstances behind those deaths or to clarify that the Israelis were victims of terrorism.

Robinson likewise failed to clarify that the two Israeli policemen he went on to mention were also victims of terror, or who carried out that attack.

Robinson: “The detectors were installed at entry points to the al Asqa [sic] mosque – the third holiest site in Islam – after two Israeli policemen were shot dead in the area of the Temple Mount.”

Listeners were not informed of the all-important fact that the terrorists used weapons smuggled into the al Aqsa mosque.

Robinson: “The UN’s Middle East envoy has been warning of catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City. This is the reaction of Manuel Hassassassian [sic], the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK.”

Listeners then heard completely unchallenged statements from Manuel Hassassian.

Hassassian: “I think for the moment, removing the metal detectors is a stepping stone in the right direction of calming down the situation. But Israel is insisting on putting cameras and smart technology to control and to supervise the area of the Haram Sharif that alone heavily guarded by manpower and that in itself is also instigative to the Palestinian faithful worshippers who will go and pray in the Haram Sharif. But I must say that, you know, the removal, in general, of the metal detectors will pacify the situation and we hope – we hope – that Israel won’t resort to such measures in the future because the question of religion is something very, very, very sensitive that could create tension and escalation as we have seen the last week.”

Although he opted out of asking the PA’s representative any questions at all (for example, regarding incitement to violence by the PA and its dominant party Fatah), Robinson did find it appropriate to ask the item’s second interviewee – Efraim Halevy, who is not a representative of the Israeli government – questions relating to Israeli policy.

Robinson: “…is it time that your prime minister, your government, changed its approach?”

The next day – July 26th – ‘Today’ listeners heard another item on the same topic which was introduced (from 02:49:29 here) by Nick Robinson thus:

Robinson: “The area of East Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif remains very tense after days of protests by Palestinians over new security measures. Israel has now removed controversial metal detectors, saying they’ll be replaced with alternatives. But the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says he’ll maintain a freeze on security cooperation with Israel. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman now reports from Jerusalem.”

Failing to clarify that the July 14th attack at Lions Gate was an act of terror, Bateman began:

Bateman: “Gunshots rang out from one of the most revered sites on earth nearly a fortnight ago. Two Israeli policemen were shot dead by three Israeli Arabs who were killed by security forces. In the volatile moments that followed police closed the compound and two messages competed for public attention.”

Listeners next heard material recycled from a report by Tom Bateman that was broadcast on the BBC World Service twelve days previously.

Erdan: “The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place.”

Bateman: “Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke out, as did the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan Husseini.”

Husseini: “We are living under occupation. Now the mosque should be open. If the mosque will not be open, it means that we are going to have more problems. This moment is very dangerous moment, very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Bateman: “They did pray – but on the streets outside the al Aqsa mosque; the holy Islamic shrine and also a powerful symbol of Palestinian hopes for statehood. To Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the biblical temples once stood.”

Bateman then gave a brief qualified explanation of the reason for the installation of the metal detectors which it is hard to believe would have been fully understood by listeners. He failed to adequately clarify which “guns had been smuggled in” to where or by whom.

Bateman: “Israel said it was installing the metal detectors because the guns had been smuggled in. Tensions grew and on Friday became a day of Palestinian protest. Fearing unrest, Israel barred entry to the site to all men aged under 50.”

As was the case in a previous report for the BBC World Service, Bateman downgraded what was in fact defined by its initiators as a ‘Day of Rage’ to a “day of Palestinian protest”.

After listeners heard a brief recording of Bateman in Jerusalem on July 21st, he continued:

Bateman: “Israeli police fired stun grenades. The protests spread. This was now about more than metal detectors. For Palestinians it evoked fears Israel wanted to change the long-standing access agreement over al Aqsa. Israel repeatedly said this was not the case. The site is in East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel half a century ago. In the clashes over the weekend, five Palestinians were killed.”

Bateman then went to visit the family of a person killed while participating in violent rioting in a district of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Children played outside as I visited the home of Susanne Abu Ghannam. Her son Mohammed was among those who died on Friday, shot – she said – by Israeli forces.”

Although listeners heard the mother claim that “the occupation forces were surrounding the hospital in order to take his body”, Bateman did not inform them that there is no indication that was the case.

Bateman then moved swiftly on, promoting equivalence between that death and the murders of three Israelis in the July 21st terror attack in Halamish.

Bateman: “Another woman was left grieving on Friday. An hour’s drive from Jerusalem, in the Jewish settlement of Halamish in the West Bank, a Palestinian man – claiming his actions were for al Aqsa – entered the home of an Israeli family celebrating a birth. He stabbed to death Michal Salomon’s husband, sister-in-law and father-in-law.”

After listeners had heard from Michal Salomon, Bateman closed his report.

Bateman: “For Israel the crisis was about a profound need to maintain security at what one minister called the most sensitive location on earth. It has drawn in Israel’s neighbour Jordan; the custodian of al Aqsa as part of the two countries’ peace deal. Amid international calls for calm, Palestinian leaders said last night their boycott on entering the mosque would continue. It seems Israel’s decision to remove the metal detectors has yet to see this crisis resolved.”

Although this is far from the first time that we have seen the BBC equating the deaths of Palestinians participating in violent acts with those of Israelis deliberately murdered by terrorists, the fact that the BBC refuses to use the word terror to describe attacks against Israelis makes that politicised editorial policy of moral equivalence all the more misleading to audiences – and all the more offensive.

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BBC refrains from using the word terror in report on murdered family

 

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

When the BBC’s former Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza City in 2007, another BBC journalist gave an interesting view of his job description.

“”It is his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament in the Gaza Strip,” said the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, Paul Adams, himself a former Middle East reporter.” [emphasis added]

At the time, the BBC also reported the following statement:

“On Tuesday, Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said the government was making every effort it could to secure Mr Johnston’s release.

“We in the government are deeply sorry and ashamed that this kidnapping is ongoing, especially since he is a friend of our people and has done a lot for our cause.

“His kidnapping is detrimental to our nation and our national cause,” Mr Barghouti said.” [emphasis added]

Another member of the Barghouti clan had this to say:

“Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appealed Wednesday to the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston to release him immediately, calling him a “friend” of the Palestinians. […] “From my cell, and in the name of 10,000 prisoners in the occupation jails, I appeal and call immediately for the release of journalist Alan Johnston, the friend of the Palestinian people,” Barghouti said in a statement sent to reporters.” [emphasis added]

Following his release in July 2007, Johnston spent several years broadcasting and reporting on issues unrelated to the Middle East but was later appointed to the post of BBC World Service Middle East editor. Although those following the BBC’s Israel related coverage have heard comparatively little from Johnston since that appointment came into effect some two years ago, that has changed in the last couple of weeks, with Johnston providing commentary on the latest flare-up of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere. 

The lead story in the July 23rd late edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the attack on a security official at the Israeli embassy in Amman (from 00:11 here). Presenter James Coomarasamy brought in “our Middle East analyst” Alan Johnston who had little news to bring listeners about the incident itself at that stage. However, Johnston went on to tell listeners:

Johnston: “Now, we have no more information; it’s just not clear what sparked this but in the absence of more concrete information, I think there is bound to be speculation – speculation – that this was an attack of some kind and that it was linked to the current tensions in Jerusalem. And as you know, Palestinians there have been angered by Israel’s introduction of new security measures at the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.”

Coomarasamy: “What’s the latest about that particular controversy?”

Johnston then gave a noteworthy portrayal of the story that began on July 14th.

Johnston: “Well that controversy [sighs] began when there were two Israeli policemen killed in the vicinity of the holy site and the Israelis introduced metal detectors in the area.”

Remarkably, the BBC World Service’s senior “analyst” did not bother to inform listeners who murdered the two Israeli policemen or that the incident was a terror attack. Neither did he make any mention of the all-important fact that the terrorists used weapons smuggled into al Aqsa mosque by an accomplice – as shown in footage released by the Israeli police three days before this programme was aired. Although that footage is obviously crucial for understanding of the decision to install metal detectors, it has not been shown or described to BBC audiences on this or any other BBC platform. Johnston continued:

Johnston: “They [Israel] would argue that that’s a wholly legitimate security measure but of course Palestinians see this very, very differently. They see the arrival of the metal detectors as a sign of their Israeli occupiers seeking to gain more control over this crucially important, sensitive holy site.” [emphasis added]

Johnston did not bother to balance his uncritical amplification of the Palestinian narrative with factual information that would help listeners understand that Israel is responsible for security at the site and that the installation of metal detectors does not breach existing arrangements. Neither did he make any effort to tell listeners of the incitement and repeated calls for ‘days of rage’ by Palestinian leaders before he went on to promote equivalence between Palestinians killed while rioting and Israelis murdered by a terrorist while having a family dinner.

Johnston: “There’ve been protests, there’s been violence and there’s [sic] been deaths on both the Israeli and Palestinian side.”

After Johnston had noted the installation of CCTV security cameras at the site, Coomarasamy summed up his framing of the story as follows: [emphasis added]

Coomarasamy: “So it’s a case of popular frustration and anger. But what sort of impact is this having on a political and diplomatic level?”

Johnston: “Well this site is of such huge importance; it’s difficult to overstate that and everybody involved knows just how dangerous tensions there can become. They can rip across not just the Palestinian territories but the entire Muslim world.”

That of course is true – and it is precisely the reason why journalists reporting this story need to tell it in its entirety rather than editing out or downplaying Palestinian terrorism, incitement and pre-planned violence and rioting.

This is not however the first time that Johnston has done just that. Exactly two years ago when Palestinians rioted on Temple Mount, Johnston ‘explained’ to BBC audiences that Israel was to blame:

“…it’s more than just religious feeling that gives rise to scenes like this. Decades of Israeli occupation fuels an endless, simmering frustration among Palestinians and that always feeds into this kind of violence in Jerusalem.”

While reporting that promotes the notion of ‘frustrated’, ‘angered’ Palestinians devoid of any agency or responsibility for their actions while avoiding uncomfortable facts such as the racist hatred, incitement and glorification of terror regularly promoted by Palestinian leaders may be conducive to being lauded as a “friend of the Palestinian people”, it certainly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public or meet the BBC’s obligations.

One would of course expect better from any BBC journalist – but in particular from one carrying the title BBC World Service Middle East editor.

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