BBC News misleads audiences on Palestinian boy’s death

Towards the end of the BBC News website’s recent report on the topic of a new Israeli law – discussed here – readers were told that:impeachment law art

“On Tuesday, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed during a clash in the occupied West Bank town of al-Ram, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Muhey al-Tabakhi died as a result of a wound inflicted by a projectile that struck his chest and caused heart failure, according to a ministry spokesman.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said border police officers had fired tear gas and stun grenades after a petrol bomb was thrown at them.”

Although the article does not specifically tell them so, most readers would obviously understand those three paragraphs to mean that Israel was responsible for the boy’s death. But is that established fact?

The Times of Israel reports:

“The Israel Police said, however, that the violence broke out when Border Police officers who were returning the body of a Palestinian terrorist were “pelted with Molotov cocktails.”

The troops responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and did not use live fire, police said.”

The BBC’s Israeli newspaper of choice, Ha’aretz, reported that:

“Palestinian reports said that the boy was shot in the chest on Tuesday afternoon in clashes that erupted in Al-Ram. He was then transferred for treatment to a nearby hospital in Ramallah but died of his wounds hours later.

However, residents of the village contradicted the Palestinian Health Ministry statement. They said that the boy’s death should be investigated since direct evidence of the circumstances that lead to the incident was not immediately available. They claimed that the medical teams that arrived to treat the boy at the scene were not sure what was had happened there.”

So as we see, the circumstances are far from clear but nevertheless, the BBC allowed its readers go away with an impression of the incident that happens to dovetail with the messaging put out by the PA Health Ministry.

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Despite conflicting claims, Daily Mail pronounces Israel guilty of killing Palestinian boy  (UK Media Watch)

 

 

BBC News ignores another Iranian funded terror group

Iran’s financing of terror is not a topic to which the BBC has devoted much serious reporting, despite the ample available evidence available. It is therefore not surprising to see that the following story has to date been ignored by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau.Iran Hizballah

“Israel announced Monday it had outlawed a Palestinian group it said acted as a front for Iran-directed terror activities targeting Israelis and the regime of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signed the order outlawing Al-Hirak Al-Shababi (“The Youth Movement”) at the recommendation of the Shin Bet internal security agency, a ministry statement read.

The decision followed “significant information indicating that the group is directed by Hezbollah and Iran to carry out attacks against Israelis, and ignite a wave of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” it read. […]

Members of Al-Hirak Al-Shababi were engaged in firebombing and bombing attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as stirring unrest on the volatile Temple Mount compound in the city, the ministry said.”

This of course is not the first time in recent months that Iranian efforts to destabilise the region have been ignored by the media organisation committed to enhancing its funding public’s “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  

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The terror group BBC audiences have never heard of

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC’s promotion of the politicised narrative according to which ‘settlements are an obstacle to peace’. Last month we noted here that the statistics do not support the claim made by the corporation’s journalists that Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem endangers the two state solution. At the beginning of this month the BBC continued its promotion of that narrative in three separate items (here, here and here) which supposedly informed audiences about a report from the Quartet but actually airbrushed significant parts of its content.Construction art

On July 6th the BBC News website continued to propagate that narrative in an article titled “US criticises Israel over plans for new settlement homes” which relates to comments made by the same US State Department spokesman who just days earlier had refused to condemn an antisemitic libel promoted by the PA president in the European parliament (which the BBC chose to completely ignore).

The BBC News article tells readers that:

“The US has criticised Israeli plans to build hundreds of new homes in existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

State department spokesman John Kirby called the plans the “latest step… in a systematic process of land seizures”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Israeli government’s decision.

The international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators also recently criticised settlement construction.”

However, while amplifying statements that dovetail with its own chosen narrative, the report does nothing to enhance readers’ understanding of the background and context to the story.

Information concerning the 19 year-long Jordanian occupation and the status of those areas before the belligerent Jordanian invasion of 1948 which would enable readers to understand why Israel views those areas as disputed is absent from this article. As ever, the BBC promotes its regular mantra on ‘international law’ without informing audiences of the existence of legal opinions which challenge that narrative.

“About 570,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Readers are not informed that the announcement to which the US spokesman was relating came in response to a recent series of deadly terror attacks.

“Citing an Israeli official, the Associated Press reported that the Israeli plans included 560 new homes in Maale Adumim, just outside Jerusalem, as well as almost 200 in the city itself. The plan also called for more than 600 new homes in an Arab neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, AP said.”

Neither are they informed that the “600 new homes in an Arab neighbourhood” (which interestingly is apparently categorised as a “Jewish settlement” for the purposes of this report) are intended to house Arab families from Beit Safafa and are part of a project in Givat HaMatos that the BBC has been reporting on since 2012.

Several days before this article was published we learned via Yolande Knell that the BBC is aware of the fact that in any realistic scenario of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians such as those proposed in the Clinton parameters and the Olmert offer, the main blocs of Israeli communities would remain under Israeli control.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

The sites of the housing units proposed in this latest announcement (which is only a preliminary step before the issue of tenders) would all be included in such land swaps – Givat HaMatos/Beit Safafa, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa and Ramot.

One must therefore wonder why the writer of this article refrained from informing readers of that fact and instead opted for the context-free promotion of misleading polemics such as:

“Mr Kirby said: “If true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.””

Unfortunately the answer to that question is all too clear. The BBC has once again demonstrated that it is not interested in providing its audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to reach their own informed conclusions on this topic but prefers to amplify any and every statement or report which supports its own adopted political narrative, whilst at the same time downplaying or ignoring issues such as the foreign funded PA’s incitement and glorification of terror and Hamas’ terrorism.

That of course is campaigning – not journalism.

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Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

BBC cites ‘large increase’ in Israeli building but fails to provide context

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

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

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during June 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 103 incidents took place: 71 in Judea & Samaria, 29 in Jerusalem, two inside the ‘green line’ and one incident originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 86 attacks with petrol bombs. Two shooting attacks, 10 attacks using explosive devices, one vehicular attack and one stabbing attack took place in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. One stabbing attack and one shooting attack occurred inside the ‘green line’. Along the border with the Gaza Strip one shooting attack took place.

Five Israeli civilians were murdered in Palestinian terror attacks during June. Twenty-one people (mostly civilians) were wounded: fifteen in the shooting attack in Tel Aviv on June 8th, one during the attack in Kiryat Arba on June 30th, two in a stabbing attack in Netanya on June 30th, two in a vehicular attack in Kiryat Arba on June 25th and one soldier was wounded by a petrol bomb in Issawiya on June 29th.

The BBC News website covered the shooting attack at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv on June 8th and produced a follow-up article the next day, the third version of which included the names, ages and genders of the four people murdered.

The stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba on June 30th was also reported and the murdered victim was named. The same article was later updated to include a brief mention of the stabbing attack in Netanya on the same day in which two people were wounded.

“Later on Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two Israelis in the coastal city of Netanya before being shot dead by a passing civilian.”

An attempted stabbing attack near Einav on June 2nd was briefly mentioned in the caption to a photograph which appeared in an article on a different topic.

“On Thursday a Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. The Israeli army said the woman had tried to stab a soldier”

Attacks on vehicles travelling on Route 443 on June 21st were reported on the BBC News website after a passer-by was mistaken for one of the terrorists and shot dead by a soldier at the scene.

Incidents which did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website included attacks on two buses on June 5th, shooting attacks on cars travelling near Halamish on June 7th, a stoning attack on a bus on June 8th, a stoning attack on a bus on June 12th and a vehicular attack near Kiryat Arba on June 24th.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported the two fatal incidents which took place during the month of June (but without describing them as terror attacks in its own words) and mentioned three additional non-fatal attacks.

In comparison with its record during 2015, we see an improvement in BBC coverage of fatal terror attacks in Israel during the first half of 2016 with all the attacks having been reported. Overall, the BBC News website has reported 4.18% of the terror attacks which took place between January and June 2016 inclusive and its record of reporting the missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year remains at 0%.

Table June

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

 

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Later versions of the BBC News website’s June 30th article concerning that morning’s terror attack in Kiryat Arba included the following:

“Also on Thursday, a senior United Nations official cited a long-awaited report by the Middle East Quartet as saying that hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians were being severely undermined by three “negative trends”.

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that they were continuing violence, terrorism and incitement; Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank; and a lack of control of the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority.”

As noted here previously, in its July 1st article relating to that report from the Quartet the BBC herded audiences’ attentions towards one of those three “negative trends” in particular by devoting 282 words to the topic of “settlement expansion”, 213 words to the subject of “violence, terrorism and incitement” and a mere 91 words to issues related to the PA’s “lack of control of the Gaza Strip” whilst completely ignoring the Quartet’s concerns about weapons smuggling, cross border tunnels and terrorism.

In case audiences had not quite got the message, an additional article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 1st with some very clear signposting seen in its promotion.

“Fate of settlements core to Israel-Palestinian peace”

Knell settlements art on ME pge

Titled “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay“, the article’s opening paragraphs include some equally overt signposting.

“For retired West Bank farmer Issa Hamed, the idea that Jewish settlements are destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer.

From the rooftop of his home in Silwad, north-east of Ramallah, the sprightly 86-year-old points to the red roofs of the settlement of Ofra, set up in 1975.

“At first, they took just one dunam (1000 sq m), where there used to be a Jordanian military camp, then they kept expanding and blocked access for the landowners,” Mr Hamed recalls.

“It became like a cancer growing quickly over the hills.”” [emphasis added]

Knell’s article contains many of the usual features of any BBC report relating to the topic of construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. As far as Knell is concerned, history begins in June 1967: she makes no effort to inform audiences of the legal status of Judea & Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before they were attacked and occupied in 1948.

“Settlement construction began after Israel defeated Arab armies in the 1967 Middle East war. It captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.”

Moreover, while failing to inform her readers about San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine, Knell does find it necessary introduce the subject of religion – but refrains from mentioning the no less relevant topic of Hamas’ approach to ‘Islamic lands’.

“Some Israelis choose to live in settlements for lifestyle reasons but others are religious nationalists.

They believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people – including Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria.”

Readers see the inevitable BBC mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of legal opinions which do not conform to the corporation’s chosen narrative.

“Since the 1970s, left- and right wing governments have encouraged Israelis to move to settlements. There are now at least 570,000 settlers.

Under international law, their presence is seen as illegal, but Israel disagrees. Officials have argued they are built on “disputed”, not “occupied” territory.”

The 1949 Armistice lines – specifically designed not to be permanent boundaries or borders – are misleadingly presented as such.

“The current coalition government includes pro-settler parties and ministers who live inside the so-called “Green Line”, marking pre-1967 boundaries.”

Knell promotes and amplifies the topic of the BDS campaign in her article but, as is inevitably the case in BBC content, fails to inform readers what that campaign aims to achieve: the dissolution of the Jewish state.

“They [Israeli officials] have already fought against EU moves to label settlement products and a civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

“The vast majority of international parties have refrained so far from any serious pressure on Israel,” says Palestinian politician, Mustafa Barghouti, who supports BDS.

“It’s not enough to condemn settlements and say they block peace.”

Palestinians plan to renew their calls for further sanctions, including a ban on products from settlements and companies that invest or work in them.”

Among the links to additional related material promoted to readers of this article is one presented as “The settlement issue”. That link leads to a highly partisan article originally published nine years ago which has already been discussed here.

Beyond her grandstanding of the ‘settlements are to blame’ theme, Knell does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue. After quoting a spokesman from the Yesha Council, she writes:

“It points to the fact that Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, with the removal of 8,500 settlers, only led to further conflicts.”

Obviously Knell did not consider it useful to her case to discuss that topic further or to try to use that experience to enhance audience understanding of the potential scenarios in Judea & Samaria. Later on, under the sub-heading “What if?”, she makes a brief mention of a topic usually ignored by the BBC.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

She then goes on to say:

“However, it is estimated these could leave over 100,000 settlers in the West Bank.”

Knell does not clarify why she apparently thinks that would be an issue and again chooses not to discuss the fact that the evacuation of Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip did not prove conducive to ending the conflict.Knell settlements art

If readers are perhaps wondering how much of the column space in her nine hundred and sixteen-word article Yolande Knell devoted to presentation of the two additional “negative trends” cited in the Quartet’s report, the answer to that question is below: eighty-two words in which key points raised in the Quartet’s report are completely ignored.

“Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – also identify Palestinian violence and incitement and the political situation in Gaza as obstacles to peace.

The Israeli government believes that these are the factors that should be highlighted.

In recent days there has been a series of attacks. An American-Israeli girl was stabbed to death in a settlement near Hebron and an Israeli car in the West Bank was shot, causing it to crash, killing the driver and injuring three passengers.”

Once again we see that the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and glorification of terrorism, together with Hamas’ terrorism, tunnel building, its weapons smuggling and production and its violent rivalry with the PA – all of which are noted in the Quartet’s report – are airbrushed out of an article obviously intended to herd BBC audiences towards one specific view of what – and who – is “destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict”.

While completely consistent with Yolande Knell’s record, this of course is the type of editorialised advocacy journalism which flies in the face of the BBC’s claim to provide its audiences with ‘impartial’ reporting.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

 

BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly moves on to new pastures

After some five years at the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, Kevin Connolly is moving on to take up a new post in Brussels – but not before making a final contribution to the mission he describes thus:

“I came here just to play the smallest of parts in writing one chapter of Jerusalem’s story”.

As those who have followed Connolly’s work over the past few years will be aware, it has not infrequently included subtle (and not so subtle) re-writing of past and present chapters of “Jerusalem’s story” and his concluding musings on the June 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (from 16:27 here) are no exception.FOOC 16 6 Connolly

For example, Connolly uses the ambiguous term “line of demarcation” which implies far more permanency than was intended by those who drafted the 1949 Armistice agreement which produced the ceasefire line he is actually describing.

“A stone’s throw from the house lies the line of demarcation which separated the armies of the Arab world from the forces of the newly independent Jewish state back in 1949.”

In Connolly’s account, no belligerent invasion or occupation by the British-backed Jordanian army is evident.

“When the fighting ended in 1949 Jerusalem was grudgingly divided between Israel and the neighbouring Arab Kingdom of Jordan.”

Only one population suffered “dispossession and disinheritance” according to Connolly: the ethnic cleansing of the Old City of Jerusalem has apparently not come to his attention in the past five years.

“Many Zionists were filled with despair. What was the point of this long dreamed of Jewish state if it didn’t contain the place of prayer at the Western Wall or the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives? It was a time of bitterness and loss too for many of the Arabs of West Jerusalem and beyond who fled their homes never to return, beginning a story of dispossession and disinheritance that still has no ending.”

While refraining from mentioning the 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem, he does later find a use for that term:

“The war of 1967 left Israel in control of East Jerusalem, binding together the fractured fragments of Jewish hearts if you’re a Zionist, beginning 49 years of military occupation if you’re not.”

And Connolly even invents a Jordanian “claim” – and a dubious consensus – on belligerently occupied territory which the international community refused to recognise as Jordanian.

“The Palestinians who inherited the Jordanian claim on the east of the city believe it will be the future capital of their independent state and that is what the wider world wants too.”

Not for the first time, Connolly misleads listeners with regard to British history in the region, inaccurately suggesting that Mandate Palestine was a British colony.

“The British mandatory authority was a good government as colonial governments went – but like all colonial governments, it went.”

As we already know, Kevin Connolly thinks those who take issue with inaccuracy and omission in his and his colleagues’ reporting are driven by the wish to promote a “narrative” and his post-factual theory is again amplified in his parting shot.

“Supporters of the Palestinians and of Israel scrutinise everything that’s written about the city, alert for any terminological hint of bias or ignorance or both. Each side has its own lexicon and watches suspiciously for any hint that the news has been written in the words of the other. Is a young Palestinian who stabs an Israeli soldier a terrorist? Or a normal teenager goaded beyond endurance by generations of humiliation? Is an Israeli soldier who shoots a wounded and helpless Palestinian in such an incident a murderer or a young man defending his comrades and his country when they are under attack? There are no answers of course, beyond the answers you favour yourself. Reporting Jerusalem means finding words that convey what has happened and why – but also remembering that neither side recognises the truth of the other. The scrutiny is a legacy of the sense built up over centuries of how the unsettled future of this place matters to millions of people who have never seen it. These words aren’t exempt from that process either; ad nauseam maybe.”

Obviously Mr Connolly finds any examination of his five years of attempts to dictate “one chapter of Jerusalem’s story” tiresome and annoying and so he may be relieved to be moving on to pastures new. Given that the BBC does not refuse to respect the Belgian people’s choice of their own capital as it does in Jerusalem, we might perhaps expect to find Connolly less frequently engaged in negating the Belgian nation’s sovereignty over the City of Brussels.

“Jerusalem in general feels like it belongs to the world…”

“Jerusalem belongs to the ages and it belongs to the world.”

There are of course many of us who are not going anywhere and for whom the way in which the “story” of Jerusalem and Israel is told by brief sojourners such as Kevin Connolly has very real consequences. We remain charged with the task of trying to make certain that the “historical record” promoted by the world’s biggest and most influential broadcaster is both accurate and impartial in order to ensure that public opinion and foreign policymakers who take it upon themselves to intervene in that story are informed by facts rather than politicised journalistic activism.

And if Mr Connolly finds that tiresome, that perhaps says all that needs to be said about the motivations behind his wish to write – rather than observe and record – the story of the city and the country which hosted him for the last five years.   

Minor amendment to BBC report on gay pride murder sentencing

As was noted here on June 26th, a BBC News report from that day concerning the sentencing of Yishai Schlissel, who was previously convicted of the murder of one person and the attempted murders of six others at the Jerusalem gay pride march in 2015, failed to provide audiences with the full story.Schlissel sentencing art

Following communication from BBC Watch, one sentence in the report was amended. The original article stated:

“A police investigation last year called for the removal of six senior Israeli officers over the attack.”

That sentence – which did not inform readers that the recommendation was implemented – was later amended to read:

“Several senior Israeli police officers were sanctioned or reassigned following the attack.”

However, the report was not amended to include details of the full sentence handed down to Schlissel: life imprisonment and 31 additional years, plus an order to pay damages of 2.6 million shekels to the families of his victims.

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Incomplete BBC portrayal of sentence for gay pride murderer

On June 26th the BBC News website published an article titled “Jerusalem Gay Pride stabbing: ultra-orthodox Yishai Schlissel jailed for life” on its Middle East page which opens as follows:Schlissel sentencing art

“An Israeli court has given a life sentence to a man who killed a teenager and wounded five other marchers at last year’s Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.”

In fact, Schlissel was sentenced to life plus 31 additional years of imprisonment.

“The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday sentenced to life behind bars Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man convicted of stabbing to death 16-year-old Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade last year.

Schlissel was given another 30 years in prison for attempted murders of the six other people he injured in the attack, and another year for breaking the terms of his release from prison for a similar stabbing attack he carried out in 2005.”

The article neglects to mention that he was also ordered to pay damages.

“He was also ordered to pay NIS 2.6 million ($670,000) in compensation to the families of his victims.”

No mention is made of the judges’ remarks during sentencing.

“In their ruling, the panel of three judges declared, “We have before us a man who doesn’t see people in front of him. A cruel man. A man who sees himself as ‘giving and taking life’ in the name of the principles that he set for himself to enforce.”

“This dangerous man can no longer walk the streets of Jerusalem or any other place,” they said.”

The BBC report states:

“A police investigation last year called for the removal of six senior Israeli officers over the attack.”

Readers are left to guess whether or not the recommendation was implemented.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SONY DSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to promoting its preferred terminology “al Aqsa Mosque compound”, the PLO document from November 5th also states:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, sometimes referred to as the Noble Sanctuary (“Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic), is the compound that contains Al Aqsa building itself, ablution fountains, open spaces for prayer, monuments and the Dome of the Rock building. This entire area enclosed by the walls which spans 144 dunums (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque.” [emphasis added]

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

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

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

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

 

BBC R4 reveals what ‘really’ threatens to reignite Hamas-Israel conflict

On June 9th – the day after the terror attack at Sarona Market in which four people were murdered and 17 wounded – BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The World Tonight’ broadcast an item apparently intended to convey to audiences that any future outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas would be down to one prime factor.

As readers may be able to guess, that factor was not terrorism: the word did not appear even once throughout the report. Presenter Shaun Ley set the scene (from 18:13 here):R4 the world tonight 9 6

“Now, Israel’s newly appointed defence minister Avdor [sic] Lieberman has issued an order preventing the return of the bodies of any Palestinians who are killed in attacks there. The gunmen who shot dead four people and injured six [sic] others at a shopping centre in Tel Aviv last night were captured alive but this is a signal by Mr Lieberman – a political hardliner. In addition, permits for 83,000 Palestinians who were planning to come to Israel have been revoked and more troops are to be deployed in the occupied West Bank. Our reporter Andrew Hosken reports now from Jerusalem.”

Ley did not inform listeners that Lieberman’s order constitutes a return to previous policy or that the entry permits for Palestinians were frozen rather than “revoked”.

Hosken began his report with a description of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, going on to say:

“But in recent months Damascus Gate has also been the scene of a string of knife attacks, mainly by young Palestinians of both sexes, on Jewish Israeli policemen and women.”

Over a dozen attacks have taken place at Damascus Gate since October of last year. Contrary to the claims from Hosken, the attacks were not directed exclusively at members of the security forces and many Israeli police and border police officers are not Jewish. At least four civilians were wounded in attacks at that location. Neither were all the attacks at Damascus Gate “knife attacks” as inaccurately claimed: at least five shooting attacks took place, including the one on February 3rd in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was murdered.

Hosken continued:

“The attacks here have earned this wave of assault that began last October the not terribly subtle title ‘the Intifada of knives’. But the latest assault involved machine guns and at the heart of Jewish Israel – Tel Aviv – some fifty miles or so west of Jerusalem. The Israeli government, led by the Right-wing Likud party, has promised a severe reaction against any Palestinian entity – individuals, organisations, even families – it considers culpable.”

Listeners then heard some general statements from MK Dr Anat Berko before Hosken went on:

“Raids were conducted today by Israeli security forces in Yatta – a small town which is home to at least two of the attackers. It’s in the Palestinian West Bank area where so many Israeli Jews have created settlements in defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions.”

There were two terrorists involved in the Sarona Market attack and both came from Yatta which is in Area A and under full Palestinian Authority control. There are of course no ‘settlements’ in Areas A or B.

Hosken next went to Kibbutz Alumim in the Western Negev.

“Jeremy Maisel [phonetic] lives on the Alumim kibbutz in south-west Israel just two and a half miles from the Gaza Strip – home to 2 million Palestinians.”

As of July 2015 the population of the Gaza Strip was 1.87 million.

“In the summer of 2014 during the conflict between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist organization that controls Gaza – the Alumim kibbutz came under rocket attack. No fewer than 282 code red alerts were issued to the people here, giving them 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. Jeremy Maisel remains pessimistic about any prospects of peace with the Palestinians.”

Maisel: “Hamas is a very extremist government there and they don’t hide their goals of destroying Israel, of killing Jews.”

Hosken continued:

“Most of the leaders of Hamas are based in Gaza and as far as the Israeli government is concerned, Hamas – which has often vowed to destroy Israel in the past – remains suspect number one when it comes to the attack in Tel Aviv.”

The Hamas movement in Yatta claimed that the two terrorists belonged to its organization soon after the attack.

Hosken then journeyed to Gaza.

“I’ve just crossed over from Israel into Gaza and the dysfunctionality of the place is clear on entry because after passing through Israeli passport control you have to negotiate two checkpoints on the Palestinians’ side operated by separate and differing organisations that have fought bitterly in the past for control of the Strip. The first is operated by Fatah and the second manned by Hamas.”

The checkpoint is actually Palestinian Authority – rather than “Fatah” – operated. Hosken then gave an inaccurate account of how the Gaza Strip came under Hamas control, completely erasing the terror organisation’s violent June 2007 coup from audience view.

“Hamas has controlled Gaza since winning elections here in 2006. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority which holds sway on the West Bank – home to two of the Tel Aviv attackers.”

Listeners heard entirely unchallenged statements from three interviewees in Gaza, the first being “a prominent Fatah leader” whom Hosken asked about “the so-called Intifada of knives”.

“It is a reaction more than Intifada. It is a reaction from the people. The humiliation they face on the borders and cross points of the Israelis. They are using a very, very bad way in dealing with the Palestinians. They keep them for long time on the cross points, on the entrances and they don’t allow them to go to Jerusalem. They touch the feelings of the people so it is not an organized act. It is just a reactionary act.”

Hosken did not bother to clarify to listeners that Palestinians can in fact travel to Jerusalem with the appropriate paper work or that the security measures at crossings into Israel are the direct result of Palestinian terrorism.

Listeners also heard from a similarly unchallenged porter whom Hosken asked “what he thought about the attack in Tel Aviv”.

“I feel happy because they have taken Jerusalem, they have taken our land and it’s right to defend ourself. The operation is a natural because they took our land and look what they are doing in Gaza: they cut the electricity, they close the border.”

Hosken did not explain to listeners that the electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip have nothing at all to do with Israel and are the result of a dispute between Hamas and the PA. He went on:

“…but could there be another war soon? Even before Tel Aviv there was concern at the appointment as Israeli defence minister of Avigdor Lieberman – a hawk when it comes to the Palestinians and a man who has supported the assassination of Hamas leaders in the past.”

Listeners then heard from an associate professor of politics at Gaza’s Al Azhar University.

“The Palestinian elite in Gaza are a little bit concerned that maybe the bringing of Lieberman as defence minister might mean another war is in the making between Israel and Hamas within the next six months or a year. Lieberman in the past year or so since the Israeli elections have asked Netanyahu to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and have pushed Netanyahu to assassinate the political leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip so it could mean military activity against Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza strip in the foreseeable future.”

Hosken then closed with the following trite statement:

“Tonight for many people here, recent attempts by both France and Egypt to broker peace talks have never felt more forlorn.”

Hamas – along with several other Palestinian factions – clearly has no interest in peace talks, as one presumes Hosken himself knows, and has spent the last two years rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Nevertheless, listeners to this item were led to believe that the main factor threatening to lead to a renewal of conflict is the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defence rather than Palestinian terrorism. Apparently that is what passes for ‘reporting’ at BBC Radio 4.