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

Several hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a report (from 19:18 here) on that story that was introduced by Julian Marshall as follows:

“And we go now to Israel where two Israeli police officers have died after three Israeli Arab gunmen opened fire on them in Jerusalem’s old city. Police chased the attackers into one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al Sharif. All three attackers were killed.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report on the same incident, that description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they returned to that site – with the police in pursuit – after carrying out the attack.

Marshall continued:

“The mosque complex at al Aqsa has been closed and evacuated and Friday prayers there have been cancelled for only the second time in 50 years. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, said the Palestinian leadership should be held responsible.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Erdan speaking which included the only mentions of the words terror and terrorists in the entire report.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount and continue to keep the status quo here. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians – but we all should understand that the incitement that was led by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority directly led to this terror attack that happened this morning.”

Marshall: “Well let’s go live now to Jerusalem and the BBC’s Tom Bateman. So what actually happened in this incident, Tom?”

Although several hours had already passed since the incident took place and the sequence of events was by that time clear, Tom Bateman had apparently not been keeping up with events. [emphasis added]

“Well this happened at 7 o’clock this morning local time. You’ll remember that this is in the vicinity of the most revered site in Jerusalem; holy to both Jews and to Muslims. Now the exact location of this attack has remained still a bit unclear but what we know is that they were close to the Lions’ Gate entrance beside that compound. And the police say they were armed with an automatic weapon, a pistol – there was a knife involved too – and that they opened fire on police officers. Now there was then a chase of some sort and some mobile phone footage has shown that at least one of the attackers was chased by police officers and shot.”

In fact the terrorists had two automatic weapons and Bateman similarly failed to clarify that the terrorists were on Temple Mount before they launched the attack or that they intentionally returned there afterwards. He continued:

“Now as a result of the initial fire by the attackers two police officers were fatally wounded. Ah…they were Israeli police officers. They were Druze – an Arab minority religion in Israel – and the attackers themselves were Israeli Arabs. They were from a town in the north of Israel and had Israeli ID and the domestic security services said that they were not aware of these men beforehand.”

Given the failure by both Marshall and Bateman to provide listeners with the full sequence of events, listeners would be unable to understand the context to their next topic of discussion.

Marshall: “And I would imagine tensions heightened by that decision to close the mosque complex at al Aqsa.”

Bateman: “Yeah, that’s right. As you said that is a highly, highly unusual move. There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.”

Bateman did not clarify to listeners that those “prayers […] outside the compound” were not coincidental.

“The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Maan News that he was prevented from going to site. “”We are determined to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to hold all prayers in it,” he said. He called on Palestinians to come to Jerusalem or to head to the checkpoints near Jerusalem to protest the cancellation of prayers.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the walls of the Old City, behind hastily set up police cordons, to pray and protest the actions of the Israeli police.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians spread the message using social media. Using the hashtag #Go_and_pray_at_alAqsa, they called for the faithful to come to the mosque.

The Director of the Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed Omar al-Kiswani, in a video shared on social media, said Israel was “taking advantage of what happened” at the Temple Mount “to impose a new reality on the ground.”

As we saw in part one of this post, the BBC News website was able to report that the closure of Temple Mount after the terror attack was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation – just as British police closed areas of London on two occasions following terror attacks there earlier this year – and not just some arbitrary move by the Israeli authorities. The fact that Tom Bateman failed to clarify that point in this report is therefore all the more remarkable and that failure was repeated later on the same day when Bateman gave another report to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘.

Following a news bulletin in which listeners were told that “two Israeli police officers have been killed in Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli Arab gunmen who were then shot dead”, presenter Eddie Mair introduced Bateman (from 14:32 here) “live from Jerusalem”.

Bateman: “Eddie, the ancient walls of Jerusalem encircle this city’s most revered site. From where the golden Dome of the Rock rises over the Old City’s narrow streets is the third holiest mosque in Islam; al Aqsa. For Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the first and second Temples once stood. The Old City, heavily guarded, is also one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict and it was not long after dawn that police say three men armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a knife attacked Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the site.

Mobile phone footage showed a rapid exchange of fire as one of the assailants was chased within the compound before falling to the ground. The attack killed two Israeli police officers. They were Druze – a minority Arab religion in Israel –whilst officials said the attackers were Arab Israeli citizens from a town in the north of the country and were not known to the security services. Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke from the scene.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the statements from Erdan aired in Bateman’s earlier report – and with it the sole mention of the word terrorists in this item too.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians.”

As we see, Radio 4 listeners were also not provided with a full picture of the sequence of events including the fact that the terrorists were on Temple Mount – apparently with their weapons – before they launched their attack and that they returned there afterwards. Like World Service audiences, listeners to Radio 4 would therefore be unable to appreciate the context to the next part of Bateman’s report.

Bateman: “After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.”

Listeners were not told of Husseini’s record of inflammatory statements before they heard his comments.

Husseini: “This is the first time that they announce the prayer will not take place; the Friday prayer. And this has never happened before and I think this is very dangerous. They have to use their mind, you know, when they declare such things. This moment is very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Erasing all pre-1967 Jerusalem history in typical BBC fashion, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “The Old City is within East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war – a move not recognized by the international community. Israel’s government said today’s incident crossed red lines. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas – under pressure in the past from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn such attacks – did just that during a phone call between the pair but also said that closing down the area could have repercussions. Since the autumn of 2015 there have been a wave of attacks involving knives, guns and car rammings which had decreased in frequency but had not stopped. Today’s shootings in Jerusalem have already led to concerns about a fresh escalation in tensions.”

It is of course highly doubtful that the BBC would find it appropriate to provide a platform to people in a European country who used veiled threats to demand access to the scene of a terror attack just hours after it had taken place and while the police were still carrying out investigations. However, as we see in these two reports, for Tom Bateman the focus of this story is exactly those people rather than the incident itself, which he fails to explain in a manner which would enable audiences to understand why such the highly unusual action of closing Temple Mount had to be taken.

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

 

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

Version 10

Some two hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC News website published an article titled “Israelis injured in gun attack near Jerusalem holy site”. As further details of the incident emerged the article was repeatedly amended and its tenth version now appears on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site“.

Unsurprisingly – given the BBC’s record of double standards in the language used when reporting terror attacks in different locations – in none the ten versions of that article did the writer/s use the word terror to describe the incident he or she was reporting.

From the second version onward readers found a paragraph that has been frequently seen in previous BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis since October 2015.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Once again, it is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

Version 1

Even after it emerged that in this case the three terrorists were Israeli citizens from Umm al Fahm, that paragraph remained in situ.

Later versions of the report stated:

“Elsewhere, a Palestinian was shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces at a refugee camp near Bethlehem on Friday, Palestinian sources said.

Barra Hamamdeh, 21, was killed during a raid by troops on the Dheisheh camp, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.”

The BBC did not clarify to readers that those “clashes” included attacks on the soldiers.

“According to the military, during an arrest raid in the Deheishe refugee camp, outside Bethlehem, Palestinians began throwing large rocks and explosive devices at the troops.”

The report tells readers that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack in a phone call to Mr Netanyahu” and that “the militant Palestinian Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack as a “natural response to the Zionist ongoing crimes”. It does not mention the additional praise for the attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or clarify that members of Abbas’ Fatah party also put out inflammatory statements.

“A member of the Fatah leadership, Abbas Zaki, said closing the Temple Mount “is a blatant violation, which we will not accept. Everyone must resist Israel’s moves. The three young men who were killed in Jerusalem were the ones who faced the real terrorism. We are now paying the price of the fake peace from the Oslo Accords. Resistance is the choice of all Palestinians and it is what will free the homeland.””

Version 2

The sequence of events is described by the BBC as follows:

“Two Israeli policemen have been killed and a third wounded in a shooting attack near a sacred site in Jerusalem.

They were shot by three Israeli Arabs close to the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police chased the attackers into the site and shot them dead.”

And:

“Police say the gunmen opened fire as they made their way from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif towards Lions’ Gate, an opening in the Old City walls about 100ft (30 metres) away.

The attackers were then pursued back to the compound, where they were killed.”

That description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they deliberately returned to that site after the attack.

“According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the officers.

After the shooting, the terrorists fled back toward the Temple Mount and other officers gave chase. Police then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.”

Version 3

This report does however explain that the closure of the site after the incident was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.”

The fact that the BBC clearly understands why the unusual step of closing Temple Mount had to be taken following the terror attack is particularly noteworthy given two radio reports on the same subject broadcast later in the day that will be discussed in part two of this post.