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

After almost four weeks of BBC coverage of the current wave of terror attacks in Israel, the promoted themes – and the deliberate omissions – which reflect the corporation’s editorial approach to the story have become clear and we will be addressing that topic fully in a future post.

One particularly disturbing aspect of some of the BBC’s coverage in recent weeks (especially given the corporation’s global outreach) has been the amplification of baseless conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – as was noted in this article:

“According to that conspiracy theory, Israel seeks or intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and whilst assorted versions of that libel have been published and broadcast by the BBC, the corporation has to date not told its audiences in its own words that they are baseless. At best, it has opted to tell them that “Israel says” it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. At worst, it has lent the BBC’s reputation of reliability to such lies.”

As can be seen in the above link, on September 13th listeners to the BBC World Service were told by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad that Temple Mount is a “Muslim site” and that: [all emphasis added]

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”

And:

“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.” 

Nawal Assad also promoted the Palestinian narrative according to which all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

On October 9th viewers of a filmed report broadcast on  BBC television news programmes heard Orla Guerin also promoting the inaccurate notion that all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque” when she told them that “It’s [the Old City of Jerusalem] home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews“.  

On October 13th an interviewee in a report by Yolande Knell told viewers of BBC television news programmes that al Aqsa Mosque had been ‘invaded’ and ‘disrespected’ and that Israel is “fighting our religion” – Islam. Not only did Yolande Knell fail to relieve viewers of the misleading impressions created by those inaccurate claims, she went on to amplify them yet again in an audio report broadcast two days later on BBC Radio 4.

On October 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also told viewers of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes that Temple Mount is “the Aqsa Mosque”.

“Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.”

On October 24th in an audio report aired on BBC Radio 4 Kevin Connolly likewise promoted the notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa compound” – and that the entire site is solely “Islamic”.

“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…” 

Prior to that, on October 18th, Connolly had also told listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 25:41 here – the rest of the item will be discussed in a separate post) that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”:The World This Weekend

“There’s a nagging fear that Israel might be planning to erode the Islamic identity of the sacred compound around that golden dome in the distance.”

Refraining once again from clarifying to listeners in his own words that such claims are entirely baseless, he continued:

“Israel repeatedly denies having any such plans but the denials fall on deaf ears. That is an issue with the power to provoke a kind of anger which is just not understandable in Europe or North America.”

Had BBC audiences received comprehensive information over the past four weeks on the topic of the incitement concerning Temple Mount which has been put out by Palestinian Authority sources and officials of the highest level (among others), they might have been able to understand what causes those “deaf ears”.

Likewise, had they been informed of the religious motifs evident in much of that incitement, they would have been better placed to join the dots between the whipping up of anger to a point at which young Palestinians murder Jews on the street in Jerusalem and the murders of cartoonists and Jews in a shop in Paris or a British soldier on a London street. 

But of course the topic of the incitement fueling this wave of terror – and in particular that disseminated by the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority and its ‘secular’ president – has been studiously avoided by the BBC over the last few weeks, except when alluded to briefly using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula. The reason for that is that the religious aspect of this story is one which does not comfortably fit into the BBC’s wider narrative and so it has been consistently sidelined in favour of ‘contextualisation’ featuring ‘occupation’, ‘humiliation’ and ‘failure of the peace process’.

However, as can be seen in the examples above, the BBC apparently has no problem accepting – and amplifying – the falsehood that Temple Mount (significant to all three Abrahamic religions) is “the al Aqsa Mosque” and exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”. The aim of that narrative is of course to deny Jewish history and negate Jewish links to Jerusalem.

Who would have thought that we would have reached a point where the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has embraced the role of amplifier of a false narrative rooted in religious and racial intolerance? 

 

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

In addition to the written report discussed in a previous post, the rioting on Temple Mount on September 13th was also the subject of a radio report (available here from 26:35) broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on that day.AAM 13 9 Newshour

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item as follows:

“Now there have been clashes today in Jerusalem between Palestinian youths and the Israeli police. 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. [recorded sound] Well that’s the sound of stun grenades fired by the Israeli police as they moved into the compound, confronted – they say – by Palestinians who’d barricaded themselves inside, throwing stones and fire crackers. Well Nawal Assad is BBC Arabic’s correspondent in Jerusalem; so what exactly happened?”

Listeners then heard the following inaccurate and partisan account from Nawal Assad: [all emphasis in bold added]

“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. Police clashed with these worshippers after the morning prayers because the police says that a group of Palestinian youths barricaded in the mosque against the orders of the Israeli police and the Israeli Ministry of Defence few days ago and the worshippers started throwing stones at the police and they responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the mosque.”

As we see, in addition to downgrading history and archaeology to a matter of Jewish belief, Assad misrepresented the rioters as “worshippers” and avoided any mention of their premeditated plan to disrupt visits to the site on Rosh Hashana eve whilst at the same time concealing their amassing of pipe bombs and additional materials intended to be used as weapons in the mosque. She also failed to inform audiences fully regarding the recent banning of two groups of paid Islamist agitators (consistently unacknowledged by the BBC) at the site. Assad then continued with promotion of flagrant falsehoods.

“Palestinians say that more than 600 visitors entered the mosque following the morning prayers. Many of them are Jews led by the Israeli agriculture minister Uri Ariel who has been calling recently many Jews to visit that area and pray in the Muslim site because they believe that the Temple Mount lies beneath that mosque. So many Jews heeded these calls and participated in this visit this morning.”

With Assad having told listeners just moments earlier that “clashes erupted this morning following the morning prayers” listeners would have been highly likely to take her subsequent claim that “visitors entered the mosque following the morning prayers” to mean that those visits sparked the violence. Her claim that “600 visitors entered the mosque” is clearly inaccurate: non-Muslim visitors to Temple Mount do not go into Al Aqsa Mosque.

Assad failed to tell listeners that the Jews visiting the site on that particular day were beginning celebration of a major holiday, instead leading them to believe that the visitors were ‘heeding calls’ from an Israeli minister. She clearly does not know the difference between the site of the ancient Temple and Temple Mount and her claim that Jews believe that the Temple is located underneath Al Aqsa Mosque are inaccurate and misleading. Whilst Uri Ariel (who did happen to visit Temple Mount on that particular day) has advocated for equal prayer rights for members of all religions on Temple Mount, Assad’s portrayal of Temple Mount as an exclusively “Muslim site” and her failure to clarify that it is the holiest site in Judaism prevented listeners from understanding the issue correctly.

Menendez then asked:

“What is the situation when it comes to access at the moment? Perhaps you could just describe the site and when it is that each group can go – or can anyone go whenever they like?”

The geographically challenged Nawal Assad said:

“There is more than 140 dunams which is a massive area of land.”

Of course the entire Old City of Jerusalem is built on an area of less than one square kilometre and in fact Temple Mount measures 488 meters along its west side, 470 meters along its east side, 315 meters along its north side and 280 meters along its south side: hardly “a massive area of land”. Nawal Assad then gave unqualified amplification to a narrative which is as historically inaccurate as it is politically motivated:

“Palestinian Muslims consider all that compound to be the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

She continued:

“There are about twelve gates. All the twelve gates are manned by guards – Israeli guards and also guards paid actually by the Jordanian government who has the control of the Muslim sites in Jerusalem. Israel has the right to allow or not allow whoever they want to enter into that compound to do prayers. In recent years there has been [sic] rules about dividing the times between Muslims when they can go to pray [and] visitors – as tourists. Since 2013 there has been more visit of Jews who have been seen – and I have seen it myself – who enter from the entrance near the Wailing Wall into the vicinity of the compound and they do like symbolic prayers there. This has been aggravating the situation in the compound itself because Muslim worshippers are against it.”

Neither Assad nor Menendez bothered to inform listeners that non-Muslims are in fact forbidden from praying at the site which is just as significant to them as it is to Muslims and Assad went on to make yet another inaccurate claim.

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”

In fact, the Israeli government has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site.

Menedez then asked a question which clearly misled listeners by implying that the latest round of violence on Temple Mount is connected to the issue of equal prayer rights:

“And are Muslims in Jerusalem firmly against that or is there any appetite for some sort of system to avoid these clashes happening?”

Assad went on to amplify a dangerous and entirely baseless conspiracy theory:

“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque. Not just Muslims actually, I must say, because there has been [sic] calls from the Muslim-Christian Palestinian Council this morning condemning these visits.”

The item closed as follows:

Menendez: “What’s the situation now? Have things calmed down?”

Assad: “No. Tension is still mounting in that area. About 300 people were marching just about noon here in Jerusalem and they were again dispersed.”

As we see, in addition to failing to provide listeners with anything even approaching the real factual background to this story, Nawal Assad used this item to promote the kind of inaccuracies and conspiracy theories which can have extremely dangerous consequences. Given that this item was broadcast around the entire world, it is all the more egregious for a BBC reporter to be adding the corporation’s stamp of reliability to such inflammatory rumours.

Either Nawal Assad is incompetent or she is exploiting this topic for the amplification of content which can only be described as incitement. Whichever the case, the BBC World Service needs to urgently clarify to its listeners around the world that there is no truth in her claims of impending changes in the status quo on Temple Mount by the Israeli government and no basis for the conspiracy theory concerning the destruction of Al Aqsa Mosque which she so irresponsibly promotes.Nawal Assad

The BBC might also care to note that its reputation as an impartial broadcaster is not enhanced by its Arabic branch’s Jerusalem correspondent’s use of a profile picture including a keffiyah. 

Resources:

BBC World Service – contact details

‘Newshour’ on Twitter

Nawal Assad on Twitter

James Menendez on Twitter

 

BBC reports on Qalandiya rioting omit live fire by Fatah terror group, whitewash Fatah terrorist

On July 25th and 26th the BBC put out a number of reports concerning the rioting in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria.

The first report to go out on BBC television news was produced by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad and it also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 25th under the title “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. Reporting from Qalandiya, Assad told viewers:Rioting Qalandiya Assad

“This is definitely the biggest demonstration I have seen in any city or town in the West Bank since the war in Gaza. Those young people had reached the Israeli checkpoint and they are engaging in clashes with them and they are heeding the call of a group of young people. One of them is the child of a prominent Palestinian leader called Marwan Barghouti who is serving a lifetime imprisonment sentence in Israeli jails. It is too early to say this is the beginning of a third Intifada but the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had definitely called for one two days ago.”

Assad failed to inform viewers that Marwan Barghouti is a convicted Fatah terrorist and one of the leaders of both the first and second Intifadas. He was in fact sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment after having been found guilty of involvement in terror attacks in which five people were murdered and an additional 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder. Barghouti has on numerous occasions called for a third Intifada but Assad fails to mention that significant point.

Neither does she – nor any other of the BBC journalists reporting on this topic – make any mention of the calls from the Hamas leadership for violence.

“Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and abroad are calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to start a Third Intifada.

Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husham Badran, responding to the reports of clashes between thousands of Palestinians and police at the Qalandiya checkpoint, says the timing is right to rise up, Israel Radio reports.

“This is your opportunity,” he says to West Bank Palestinians.

Hamas official Izat a-Rishk calls, on Twitter, for a revolution against the enemy, adding that the blood of Gazans ignites the West Bank.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says the events at Qalandiya prove that the Palestinians are one people and that Gaza cannot be isolated.”

Also on July 25th, the BBC News website published a written report under the same title of “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. That article includes an equally tepid description of Marwan Barghouti from Nawal Assad.Rioting Qalandiya written

“The demonstration was called for by a group of youths on Facebook, among them the son of the popular imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Palestinians to expand the protests, and leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday.”

The same report states:

“At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank during protests against Israel’s campaign in Gaza, officials say.

About 10,000 protesters marched from Ramallah towards East Jerusalem, where they were met by Israeli forces. […]

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday, one of the last days of Ramadan.

The protest at Qalandia, outside Ramallah, saw Israeli border police use “riot control measures” and live fire. Protesters also used live ammunition, Israel said.” [emphasis added]

The Israeli police did indeed report the use of live fire by rioters but in fact, not just “Israel said” that its security personnel had been shot at: Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has clearly stated on more than one occasion that its members used live fire at the riot in Qalandiya. That fact has not been reported by the BBC at all.

The BBC report goes on:

“Large protests were also reported in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, after Israeli police prevented men under 50 from visiting the al-Aqsa mosque.

At least 20 protesters were arrested after they threw rocks at police, Israeli police said.”

The report fails to adequately clarify that the age restriction on males entering the most sensitive site in Jerusalem was part of measures to prevent violence.

“Security forces in the capital received reinforcement in the Old City on Thursday night in light of concerns that violent demonstrations would erupt on the occasion of Laylat Al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) celebrations, which marks the day the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.”

Concurrently, calls for a “Day of Rage” (not a “Day of Anger” as written in some BBC reports) on Friday July 25th also came from assorted Palestinian sources.

That same theme of supposed Israeli interference with freedom of worship – whilst failing to adequately clarify the context of incitement to violence from Palestinian leaders of various factions – also appeared in a July 26th filmed report by Orla Guerin; ‘parachuted in’ from Cairo. Guerin’s report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes as diplomatic efforts continue to secure Gaza truce“.Rioting Guerin rep

“In Jerusalem’s Old City, open-air prayers under the watchful eye of Israeli troops. Young Palestinian men were blocked from reaching the city’s most important mosque which is often a flash point. Israel’s struggling to contain the fury over the killings in Gaza.

Well, prayers are just coming to a close here. There is a very heavy Israeli security presence in the area. They’re determined to stop these Palestinian worshippers from coming any closer. This is the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and for Palestinians it’s been a bloody month. There’s a great deal of anger on the streets.” [emphasis added]

Whilst it is entirely predictable that the BBC would frame these riots as a reaction to the Hamas-initiated hostilities in the Gaza Strip, the fact is of course that calls for a third Intifada and incitement to violence have been going on for quite some time now. As we have noted here previously on numerous occasions, the BBC has consistently failed to report incitement coming from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and has likewise been silent on the topic of that organisation’s missile fire from the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities and on Fatah incitement during the searches for the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers last month.

The whitewashing of convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti and the failure to inform BBC audiences that a Fatah terrorist organization used live fire against Israeli security personnel is therefore entirely consistent with the BBC’s track record.