Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder

Fifty years ago today, the build-up of events that led to the Six Day War had already begun.

After fourteen Palestinian terror attacks had been carried out with Syrian support since April 7th, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned Syria of retaliation on May 13th 1967.    

Also on May 13th, the USSR promoted disinformation about a fictitious planned Israeli attack on Syria to the Egyptians and Syrians.

On May 14th Egyptian troops were mobilised around the Suez Canal and two days later Nasser demanded the removal of UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula: an ultimatum that was met by the UN Secretary General on May 18th.

On May 17th two Egyptian warplanes flew a reconnaissance mission over Israeli territory and on May 19th tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks massed in the Sinai.

Three days later, on May 22nd 1967, Egypt created a casus belli by blockading the Straits of Tiran.

So how are those events portrayed to the BBC’s audiences? In the past we have looked at some of the BBC produced material concerning the Six Day War that remains accessible online (see ‘related articles’ below). Another item still available is a backgrounder titled “1967 Middle East War” which is undated but appears to have been compiled about a decade ago.

The first page of that backgrounder ostensibly provides an introduction to the topic and the events that led to the conflict. Subsequent pages give day-by-day accounts of the fighting which are notable for their significant omissions, perhaps the most glaring of which is the absence of any mention of the message conveyed by the Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol via a UN official to the king of Jordan on the morning of June 5th informing him that:

“We are engaged in defensive fighting on the Egyptian sector, and we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us. Should Jordan attack Israel, we shall go against her with all our might.”

In other words, the BBC erases the fact that Jordan’s decision to attack despite that communication was the precursor to its defeat in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

The introduction is noteworthy for the fact that it promotes a theme seen in additional BBC material: a passively worded portrayal of the 1948 invasion of territories designated as part of the homeland for the Jewish people at the San Remo conference in 1920, without any clarification of the fact that the conquered areas were subsequently occupied (and in the case of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, subjected to unrecognised annexation) by the belligerents.  

Rather, BBC audiences are told that:

“The 1967 Middle East War, also known as the Six Day War, was the third conflict between Israel and neighbouring Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

The first, in 1948, left East Jerusalem and the River Jordan’s West Bank under Jordanian control and the coastal Gaza Strip under Egyptian control.”

The build up to the Six Day War as described by the BBC includes a portrayal of Arab League backed terror organisations established three years earlier as “newly-formed Palestinian militant groups”:

“Tensions continued to rise and newly-formed Palestinian militant groups began cross-border raids with Arab support. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was keen to unite the Arab world and spoke of “the destruction of Israel”, while Israel feared it could be wiped out.

In May 1967, President Nasser demanded the removal of Unef troops from the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and signed a defence pact with Jordan. Some historians question whether Nasser planned to go to war, but all three factors, and Egyptian troop deployment in the Sinai, led to a pre-emptive strike by Israel.” [emphasis added]

The BBC refrains from informing its audiences of the fact that Nasser had been warned in advance that blockade of the Straits of Tiran would bring about war.

“In a desperate attempt at de-escalation, on May 19, Israeli diplomats frantically dispatched cables to capitals around the world, declaring that as long as Egypt did not close the Straits of Tiran – its artery to the East, including access to oil from Iran – it would not initiate any hostilities. Through Paris, Washington and Moscow, Jerusalem was sending an explicit message to Cairo: A naval blockade would be considered a casus belli. At that point, tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks had already deployed in the previously demilitarized Sinai – a buffer zone filled with UN peacekeepers designed to prevent a surprise attack. Three days later, despite the Israeli warning, Egypt nonetheless announced it was closing the Tiran Straits. “The Israeli flag shall not go through the Gulf of Aqaba,” Nasser said in a speech.”

A noteworthy omission from the BBC’s account is any information concerning the part played by the USSR in stoking tensions.

“In mid-May, Soviet meddling severely escalated the brewing conflict. On May 15, Israel Independence Day, plans for a parade involving large numbers of Israeli troops in western Jerusalem drew outrage in Arab countries. Wishing to defuse the situation, Eshkol forbade bringing heavy weapons into the capital. This decision was used by the Soviets to stoke tensions; on May 15, Anwar al-Sadat, then speaker of the National Assembly, visited Moscow, where he was warned (falsely) by the Soviets that Israel was planning to invade Syria sometime between the dates of May 16 and May 22. The Soviets cited the absence of weapons in the Jerusalem parade as proof that the Israelis were preparing for war and falsely claimed that Israel was massing brigades along its norther border with Syria. Syria also quickly passed the disinformation to Egypt’s President Nasser, who on May 14 declared a state of emergency and made a show of parading his troops through Cairo on their way to Sinai. During this period, Arab leaders and the media spoke daily of eliminating Israel.”

Also noteworthy is the fact that readers are not informed of the terror attacks against Israeli civilian communities launched from Syria in the Spring of 1967 or the Arab League’s Jordan River Headwater Diversion Plan.

Like other BBC produced material on the topic of the Six Day War which is still available online, this backgrounder is deficient in providing audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the build up to the conflict.

In particular, the failure to properly explain the status of the Gaza Strip, Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem before they were belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt 19 years prior to the Six Day War hinders full audience comprehension and lays the foundations for misunderstanding of events throughout the subsequent fifty years and until this day – particularly given the BBC’s penchant for presenting history in the Middle East as having begun on June 10th 1967.  

Related Articles:

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

Yom Yerushalayim

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

Reviewing original BBC reporting on the Six Day War

 

Reviewing original BBC reporting on the Six Day War

As the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War approaches, it is interesting to take a look at how the BBC reported that event at the time – not least in order to be able to compare those reports with content produced years after the event.

A section of the BBC News website titled “On This Day” includes archived reports mostly from the years 1950-2005.

Among the entries for May 30th is an article titled “1967: Egypt and Jordan unite against Israel“.

“The King of Jordan and President Abdel Nasser of Egypt have signed a joint defence agreement.

The news came as a surprise to Egyptians and foreigners alike since King Hussein has often been criticised for cosying up to the West. […]

Today, King Hussein was met at Almaza military airport by the president on an unannounced visit to the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Five hours later, Cairo Radio announced the two leaders had signed the deal stating that “the two countries consider any attack on either of them is an attack on both and will take measures including the use of armed forces to repulse such an attack”.

The five-year deal paves the way for the creation of a defence council and joint command. General Mohammed Fawzy, Egypt’s Chief of Staff, would command military operations in case of war. […]

Israel says the pact has greatly increased the danger of an all out-war between Israel and the Arab states.”

The article also includes background information relating to the war that broke out days later:

“Tensions in the region have been building for the last three weeks since Egypt increased its military presence in the Sinai Peninsular [sic] and ordered the United Nations Emergency Force off Egyptian territory.

On 22 May President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

Five days later he declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.””

Another report from June 5th 1967 – titled “Israel launches attack on Egypt” – records the start of the fighting. 

“Israeli forces have launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and destroyed nearly 400 Egypt-based military aircraft.

Fighting broke out on the Israel-Egypt border but then quickly spread to involve other neighbouring Arab states with ground and air troops becoming embroiled in battle. […]

Israel took decisive action today claiming the element of surprise was the only way it could stand any chance of defending itself against the increasing threat from neighbouring states.”

The article provides the following context:

“The Arab states had been preparing to go to war against Israel with Egypt, Jordan and Syria being aided by Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria.

On 27 May the President of Egypt, Abdel Nasser, declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.”

Egypt signed a pact with Jordan at the end of May declaring an attack on one was an attack on both. This was seen by Israel as a clear sign of preparation for all-out war. […]

The path for war was cleared on 16 May when President Nasser ordered the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces from the Egyptian-Israeli border.”

On the final day of the war – June 10th 1967 – the BBC produced a report titled “Israel ends six-day war“.

“Fighting in the Middle East has ended after Israel finally observed the UN ceasefire and halted her advance into Syria.

Within the last six days Israeli troops have taken territory many times larger than Israel itself and united the holy city of Jerusalem for the first time since 1948.”

The report goes on:

“Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol justified the pre-emptive strike on Egypt, and battles with Jordanian and Syrian forces by saying his country was acting in self-defence.

He told the Sunday Times newspaper: “The threat of destruction that hung over Israel since its establishment and which was about to be implemented has been removed.”

He added: “For the first time in 19 years, Jews are again free to pray at the Wailing Wall and at other shrines sacred to Judaism in Jerusalem and Hebron.””

All three articles include a side box titled “In Context” which was added much later on. Two of those inserts include the following claim:

“It [the war] also displaced some 500,000 Palestinians who fled to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.”

No reference is provided to support that claim of half a million displaced people. Other sources, however, cite lower figures: the Palestinian American Council says some 360,000 people were displaced in 1967, the PLO says 200,000 and the ADL cites an estimate of 250,000.

The anti-Israel Palestinian interest group ‘Badil‘ published a document in 2004 referring to 400,000 displaced people, half of whom had previously been displaced during the 1948 war. However, in later years ‘Badil’ apparently tweaked that figure by 100,000 and material sourced from that NGO which appeared on the UN website in 2013 claims 500,000 displaced persons in 1967.

While the source of the figure promoted by the BBC is unclear, what is obvious is that the unsupported claim has been promoted to visitors to the BBC News website for well over a decade.

Related Articles:

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

Superficial BBC News report on Naharayim killer’s release

On March 12th an article headlined “Jordan releases soldier who shot Israeli schoolgirls” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

As is clear from the opening paragraph of the report, the BBC is aware of the fact that Ahmed Daqamseh did not only shoot at Israeli schoolgirls; he killed seven thirteen and fourteen year-olds on a school trip.

“A Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 has been released after serving 20 years in prison, Jordanian officials say.”

One must therefore wonder why the writer of that headline (which was also promoted on social media) chose the word ‘shot’ rather than ‘killed’ and why the BBC’s report makes no mention of the six additional victims who survived the attack or of the names and ages of those murdered.

The report tells readers:

“A military court deemed him mentally unstable at the time and sentenced him to life in prison.

In Jordan, this usually means 25 years. However, some lawmakers had lobbied for him to be freed early.”

It does not however clarify that “some lawmakers” actually means the vast majority of Jordan’s MPs.

Readers are also told that:

“Daqamseh is seen as a hero by some opposition activists in Jordan, who oppose the country’s peace treaty with Israel, signed in 1994.”

In fact, over the years Daqamseh has been championed by a range of supporters besides the euphemistically titled “opposition activists”, including Islamists, ‘human rights’ activists, trade unionists and lawyers – not least the former Justice Minister.  

Remarkably, the BBC’s report did not make any mention of the enthusiastic welcome given to Daqamseh upon arrival in his home village and the article was not updated to include the remarks he made in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“Hours after his release from 20 years in jail for gunning down seven Israeli schoolgirls, ex-Jordanian solider Ahmed Daqamseh declared on Sunday that Israelis are “human waste” that must be eradicated.

Daqamseh made his remarks to al-Jazeera TV station, shortly after returning from jail to his home village of Ibdir to cheering friends and family.

“The Israelis are the human waste of people, that the rest of the world has vomited up at our feet,” he told the TV station. “We must eliminate them by fire or by burial. If this is not done by our hands, the task will fall on the future generations to do.””

Apparently the BBC did not find the broadcast of that xenophobic incitement to the Doha-based channel’s millions of viewers around the Middle East newsworthy. 

 

 

Final status negotiations on Area C passé for BBC’s Kevin Connolly

On June 17th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Dead Sea drying: A new low-point for Earth“. Towards the end of Kevin Connolly’s long and at times rambling and repetitive piece, readers found the following:Connolly Dead Sea

“If the waters of the River Jordan are not to be restored, the likeliest scheme to revitalise the Dead Sea involves constructing a huge pipeline that would bring water across the desert from the Red Sea, far to the south. […]

Water would have to be desalinated first at the Red Sea (salty water would pollute the Dead Sea’s unique chemistry). It would then have to be pumped up to a great height and fed into enormous pipes that would channel the water across the desert to its destination.

The extra fresh water would benefit not just Jordan and Israel but the Palestinians too, so the World Bank is keen and the US is likely to provide at least some of the start-up capital.

But the technical, financial and political difficulties are forbidding and the pipeline is unlikely to be built soon, if indeed at all.”

In fact a conference on the project was held in Jordan just last month.

“Israel and Jordan presented the planned Red Sea-Dead Sea canal to potential investors at an international conference in Aqaba, Jordan on Monday. […]

At the conference, project representatives presented a tentative timetable and listed its benefits. These include stabilizing the dropping water level in the Dead Sea, providing a source of desalinized water for Israel’s Arava desert and for Jordan, and strengthening cooperation between Israel and Jordan.

The U.S. government has already stated that it will be contributing $100 million to fund the project.

A tender to fund the project was recently published. Some 94 major international corporations have paid a fee to receive the tender paperwork.”

Connolly’s article is also remarkable for the crucial omissions in its portrayal of irrigation related issues, as shown for example in this particular passage:

“Israel has a dam across the southern section of the Sea of Galilee which gives it control of the amount of water flowing into the Jordan – it regards the Galilee as a vital strategic water asset, even though it’s been steadily increasing the amount of fresh water it creates through desalination plants in the Mediterranean.

The Israeli government began taking water out of the Jordan Valley system in the 1950s, the decade before it completed the dam.

And this creates problems for farmers in both Jordan and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank – all of whom need water to irrigate their farms and feed their people.

But Israel has problems too – although it has enough money and enough technical resources to ensure its own people have enough water.”

Any objective portrayal of that topic would necessarily inform readers of the existing water related agreements between Israel and Jordan and Israel and the Palestinians. It would also inform them on the topic of water use efficiency. In contrast to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Israel recycles waste water for agricultural irrigation, produces water for domestic consumption in desalination plants and uses water conserving irrigation methods

“The Palestinians absolutely refuse to irrigate their agricultural fields with treated sewage effluents. By comparison, more than half the agricultural fields in Israel are irrigated with treated waste water. Irrigating Palestinian agricultural fields with recycled water instead of fresh water would free up large amounts of water for home usage. This would greatly reduce the water shortage in many places.

Some Palestinian farmers irrigate their fields by flooding, rather than with drip irrigation technology. Drip irrigation, as practiced in Israel, brings water directly to the root of each plant, thereby reducing water consumption by more than 50 percent. Flooding fields causes huge water evaporation and leads to great waste.”

In other words, Connolly’s portrayal of a ‘rich’ Israel with “enough water” and – by inference – ‘poor’ Palestinians and Jordanians lacking water for crop irrigation is a very partial (although in no way unusual) picture of the real situation.

An additional notable feature of Connolly’s article is its use of politicised terminology – for example:

“Part of the [Dead Sea] shoreline is in the Palestinian West Bank under Israeli occupation so it’s possible that in future Palestinians too will reap the economic benefits of the sea’s unique properties.” (emphasis added)

Not only does that framing do nothing to enhance audience understanding of the history of the region, but it also conceals the fact that, like all other parts of Area C, the future of the area concerned is to be determined in final status negotiations according to the terms of the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians are of course party. 

Do BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy permit the misleading of audiences by means of an unqualified and preemptive claim about the end result of a process which has yet to take place?  

Related Articles:

Impartiality fail as BBC promotes FOEME objections to Red-Dead Sea project

More BBC whitewashing of the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 6th under the headline “Jesus’s tomb in Jerusalem undergoes restoration work” concludes as follows:Holy Sepulchre restoration

“Work is expected to take between eight and 12 months and during that time pilgrims will be able to continue visiting the site, church officials said.

Each denomination is contributing funds for the $3.3m (£2.3m) project. In addition, King Abdullah of Jordan has made a personal donation.

Jordan controlled Jerusalem’s Old City, where the church is located, until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and continues to play a role in safeguarding Muslim and Christian holy sites there.” [emphasis added]

Notably, no effort is made to clarify to readers how Jordan came to acquire ‘control’ over the Old City and they are not informed when that began or how long it lasted, meaning that uninformed audiences might well go away with the mistaken impression that Jerusalem was always in Jordanian territory until the Six Day War.  As ever, the accurate terminology for the Jordanian presence in parts of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 – occupation – is excluded from the BBC’s portrayal.

Despite being obliged under the terms of its remit to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”, the BBC continues to distort the all important historical context of the dispute over Jerusalem one throwaway line at a time.

Related Articles:

Yom Yerushalayim

Why was the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem disappeared from a BBC website article?

Resources:

BBC Online contact details.

BBC uses coverage of attack in Jordan to promote politicised messaging

On June 6th the BBC News website reported an attack on security personnel in Jordan in an article titled “Jordan officers killed in attack at Baqaa camp near Amman“.Jordan attack

“Five people have been killed in an attack on Jordanian intelligence officers at a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital, Amman, government officials say.

They described the incident, rare in Jordan, as a “terrorist attack”.”

Covering the same incident, AP reported that:

“The targeted security office is a two-story building facing the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa near the Jordanian capital of Amman. The camp has a population of tens of thousands, including many Syrian refugees who have settled there since the start of the Syria conflict in 2011.

A highway separates the security compound and the camp.”

Although the relevance, if any, of the location of that still unfolding story is unclear, from the second version of its report onwards, the BBC elected to promote UNRWA messaging, including a link to the organisation’s profile of Baqaa camp – but not to its webpage which clarifies that “[m]ost Palestine refugees in Jordan, but not all, have full citizenship”.

“The Baqaa camp was one of six set up in 1968 for Palestinian refugees fleeing the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. […]

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says Baqaa is the largest camp in Jordan.

It is believed to house more than 100,000 refugees.

UNRWA says the camp continues to face major challenges, including unemployment, poverty and the need for structural repair.”

Furthermore, one of the two links to related reading posted under the article itself on the BBC News website’s Middle East page is a link to a photo essay from 2013 which promoted an exhibition staged within the framework of UNRWA’s public relations campaign.

Attack Jordan on ME pge

One can but wonder what was going through the mind of the editor who found it appropriate to exploit a report about a terror attack in Jordan for the opportunistic promotion of politicized messaging on an unrelated topic.

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

Recently we noted on these pages the lack of any follow-up from the BBC concerning a story it reported back in October 2015. That means that as far as BBC audiences are concerned, the information they were given in that article concerning Temple Mount still stands.Jordan TM report

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

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

That, however, is not the case.

Following Palestinian opposition to the plan and repeated delays in its implementation, the Jordanian authorities have now finally announced its cancellation.

 “Jordan’s prime minister on Monday said his government had decided to call off a plan to install surveillance cameras at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, derailing a US-brokered pact to ease tensions at the volatile hilltop compound.

Abdullah Ensour told the state-run Petra News Agency that Jordan was calling off the plan due to Palestinian concerns.

“We were surprised since we announced our intention to carry out the project by the reactions of some of our brothers in Palestine who were skeptical about the project,” he said. “We have found that this project is no longer enjoying a consensus, and it might be controversial. Therefore we have decided to stop implementing it.”

The decision came just days before the Jewish holiday of Passover — a time of increased activity at the site.”

Both Israeli and US officials have expressed regret regarding the Jordanian decision.

“Israel remains in favor of installing security cameras at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, even after Jordan reneged on the project due to Palestinian reservations, a senior official said Tuesday.

“Israel’s support for placing cameras on the Temple Mount remains unchanged. That’s because we believe in transparency,” […]

“It is regrettable that the Palestinian Authority objects to this idea. It’s clear that they don’t want repeated Palestinian provocations caught on tape,” the official said. […]

[US Secretary of State] Kerry hailed the agreement as an important breakthrough at the time. On Monday the US State Department expressed disappointment that the plan has apparently failed.

“We still see the value in the use of cameras,” said spokesman John Kirby.”

Despite the fact that the BBC has devoted so much past reporting to the topic of ‘tensions’ on Temple Mount – and is of course likely to do so in the future – it apparently does not find it necessary for its audiences to know that measures intended to reduce those tensions have failed – and why.

Related Articles:

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

Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

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

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part two

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

The BBC’s reputation as a reliable source – underpinned by a supposedly unwavering commitment to cast-iron accuracy and impartiality in its reporting – means that members of the public, researchers and educators regard its content as being an authoritative record. The BBC itself relates to its online archive content as “historical record” and its Director of Editorial Policy and Standards has stated that “[h]owever long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”.

Mr Jordan might therefore care to consider a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available from 00:43 here) which was broadcast in the October 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent”.FOOC Connolly 24 10

Ostensibly providing listeners with a historical angle to the current wave of terror in Israel, Connolly’s report is remarkable for the fact that it once again promotes the notion that the attacks are of a “random and spontaneous nature”, ignoring the issue of incitement and the growing number of cases in which perpetrators have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations.

Concurrently, Connolly’s messaging for listeners includes the employment of statements such as:

“…the readiness with which Israel’s security forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians”

And, referring to checkpoints outside the Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which a very significant proportion of the attackers have come:

“….the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”.

But Connolly’s politically motivated framing of the story reaches its zenith in his inaccurate portrayal of the history of Jerusalem.

“Even the British – eternally torn between the desire to have an empire and the desire to have an empire on the cheap – left some kind of mark.”

“British rule lasted more than thirty years in the Holy Land.”

Mandate Palestine was not of course part of the British Empire, as Connolly implies in those two proximate statements. Britain indeed administered the Mandate for Palestine, but that mandate was established (along with several others) by the League of Nations with the specific aim of reconstituting a Jewish national home: a task which the administrator did not complete in the years before it returned that mandate to the League of Nations’ successor, the United Nations, on May 14th 1948.

Having distorted one very relevant part of the history by erasing the Mandate for Palestine from audience view, Connolly then goes on to promote a blatant factual inaccuracy.

“The British left in 1948, leaving the Arab kingdom of Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the Old City and West Jerusalem in Israeli hands.”

The uninformed listener would obviously take that statement to mean that Jordanian control over parts of Jerusalem was both recognised and perfectly legitimate: the result of their having been handed over to it by the previous ‘landlord’.

Despite having erased from the picture the fact that Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem actually came about by means of a belligerent invasion of Israel by Jordan (together with four other Arab nations) immediately following Britain’s abandonment of its role as administrator of the League of Nations mandate and Israel’s declaration of independence, Connolly goes on to include a demilitarized zone (surely unexplainable according to his version of events) in his story.

“The route I follow crosses what was then an edgy and dangerous DMZ – a demilitarized zone across which Israel and the Arab world contemplated each other in mutual hostility.”

He proceeds, erasing yet another episode of Jordanian belligerence from his account:

“In the war of 1967 Israel crossed the DMZ and drove the Jordanians out of the Old City and out of East Jerusalem. The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control, where they remain to this day.” [emphasis added]

Here we have yet another example (previous recent ones can be seen here, here and here) of the BBC’s adoption and promotion of the inaccurate narrative whereby all of Temple Mount is al Aqsa and Connolly even portrays the site as exclusively “Islamic” – despite the fact that it is of significance to members of three religions.

He continues:

“…the victory of 1967 brought the Arab population of East Jerusalem and dozens of outlying villages which had belonged to Jordan under Israeli military occupation.” [emphasis added]

Of course those locations were in fact under Jordanian occupation and their later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community, meaning that Connolly’s claim that they “belonged to Jordan” is inaccurate and misleading.

The take-away message promoted to listeners to this report is that the roots of the current wave of violence are to be found in the Israeli occupation of areas that previously belonged to “the Arab kingdom of Jordan”. Not only is that an inaccurate portrayal but in order to frame the story in such a way, Connolly distorts and erases the history of the region in a manner which actively hinders audience understanding of the wider issue.

Given that this report potentially risks wasting public resources by becoming the subject of editorial complaints, the BBC clearly needs to issue prompt corrections to the plethora of inaccuracies promoted by Kevin Connolly.

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More BBC downplaying of Iranian destabilisation of the Middle East

An article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 31st under the title “Four wars and counting: Making sense of the anti-IS struggle” once again provides some interesting insight into the BBC’s Middle East narrative.Marcus ISIS

The article opens as follows:

“Adversity, they say, makes strange bedfellows. This is especially true in the contemporary Middle East.

The rise of so-called Islamic State (IS), which controls a swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq, has prompted the creation of a large, multinational coalition including the US, Turkey, and Washington’s Gulf allies, all intent on its destruction.

So too of course is Iran and, not surprisingly, Israel. This has resulted, for example, in pro-Iranian militias in Iraq appearing to be on the same side as the US.”

Marcus does not provide any supporting evidence for his dramatic claim that Israel is “intent” on the “destruction” of ISIS. Of course a more accurate and realistic portrayal would have clarified to readers that Israeli policy is to prevent ISIS, groups affiliated with it, or any other Islamist extremist elements from undermining her security – as clarified by the Israeli prime minister in July of this year.   

“We are partners with the Egyptians, and many other states in the Middle East and the world, in our battle against radical Islamic terrorism. This terrorism is directed by two different entities – Iran, and the radical Shiites, and ISIS and the radical Sunnis, as well as factions like Hamas.”

And:

“The world is facing two major threats, he [Netanyahu] said, the Islamic State threat, and the Iranian threat. “We should not strengthen one at the expense of the other,” he said, “we need to weaken both and prevent the aggression and military buildup of both of them.””

Later on in the article, the subject of Iran and its proxies is presented in muted language which does little more than obliquely hint at the real scale and significance of that issue and does nothing to clarify to BBC audiences exactly why so many actors in the region regard Iran as a very real threat.

“America’s Gulf allies – the Saudis and Qatar for example – have also been supporting various groups in Syria but they have had their eye very much on a second war: the battle against Iranian influence in the region exemplified by the embattled Syrian regime of President Assad and his (and Iran’s) Hezbollah allies from Lebanon.[…]

For the Gulf Arabs, the struggle against Iran is every bit as important as the battle against IS – possibly even more so. […]

The counter-Iranian struggle is also being played out in Yemen where the Saudis and their allies have intervened militarily […]”

Under the sub-heading “Israeli alliances”, towards the end of the article readers find the following:

“Indeed a fifth “war” – the region’s longest-running conflict – that between Israel and the Palestinians is also being influenced by the rise of IS.”

Some of course might question that description of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the region’s longest running” and exactly how it is supposedly “being influenced by the rise of IS” is left unclear. Marcus continues:

“The collapse of Syria as a military player is a mixed blessing for Israel.

IS-inspired groups are active on both its northern border and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. But the rise of IS (and a shared concern about Iran) has brought Israel and the so-called moderate Arab states closer together.

The most obvious manifestation of this are the growing military ties between Israel and Jordan. Israel has sold or transferred both attack helicopters and drones to Amman over recent weeks.

There are reports too that when Israeli and Jordanian warplanes flew to the US recently for a multinational exercise, the Jordanian F16s were accompanied on their transit by Israeli tanker aircraft.”

Jordan and Israel of course signed a peace treaty over two decades ago and collaboration in various fields is not novel. But even if that unverified report from one American website about accompanying Israeli aircraft and the similarly unconfirmed statement concerning retired helicopters originating from one anonymous Pentagon official do indeed prove to be correct, what is remarkable here is that Marcus puts the focus on ISIS as the reason for apparently extended ties between “Israel and the so-called moderate Arab states” whilst relegating the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and the theocratic regime’s patronage of regional terrorist groups to a euphemistic comment in brackets.

He concludes:

“While all of the attention of analysts has been focused on the potential collapse of two existing countries – Syria and Iraq – the real driving force in regional politics is the response to the rise of two putative new states, the caliphate of Islamic State on the one hand, and the potential emergence of a new Kurdish nation of some kind on the other.

It is not just the demise of the old order that is forging unusual alliances, but the shock of the new.”

What Marcus coyly describes as “a shared concern about Iran” is obviously a no less “real” and important factor in contemporary Middle Eastern “regional politics” than ISIS or a potential Kurdish state. However, as has been the narrative in much of the BBC’s previous reporting, the issue of Iran’s destabilization of the region (particularly in Syria where its backing of the Assad regime has resulted in far more civilian deaths than those caused by ISIS) is downplayed and audiences are once again deprived of the full range of information needed to build a “global understanding of international issues”.  

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