As we have had cause to note in the past, 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.
That guidance was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward.
So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.
On June 3rd visitors to the BBC News website saw yet another example of that BBC adoption of PLO terminology in the synopsis to a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman titled “Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site”.
“Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers broke out at Al Aqsa mosque compound, the holy site also known to Jews as Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]
What that synopsis describes as “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers” [sic] was actually violent rioting initiated by people who certainly were not ‘worshipping’ at the time.
“Following the report that Jews will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Sunday, according to the Police Spokesperson’s Unit.
The commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, ordered the police to enter the Temple Mount and take care of the rioters.
As the police attempted to enter the place, Arab worshipers began throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the forces. The forces responded with riot dispersal means.”
The report itself opens with similar terminology promoting the notion that the violence ‘broke out’ all by itself and with no account of what the rioters actually did. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
“Clashes broke out at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Palestinians were angered by this Jewish visit to the compound. It came on a day of high tensions.”
Audiences were not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism or that under existing agreements, while non-Muslims have the right to visit the site, they do not have equal prayer rights there. The report continued:
“Later in the day, outside the walls of the Old City…
Bateman: “This is a pretty potent mix of religion and nationalism for these Israelis. They’re just passing through Damascus Gate into the Muslim quarter of the Old City, populated with Palestinian shops and homes. The message from these people is that the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Of course the Palestinians they’re about to walk past think very differently.”
Man [voiceover] “What’s happening in Jerusalem today is a robbery of Jerusalem. If this is the capital of Isreal [sic], why do you need all these forces to show everyone that this is your undivided capital.”
The use of the term ‘Isreal’ in the subtitles is either a grave spelling error or promotion of a term which is frequently used by anti-Israel activists to negate the country. The report went on:
“The parade is known to Israelis as the ‘March of Flags’. It celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war of 1967.”
Bateman then showcased one of the participants who presumably gave him the answer he was looking for.
Bateman: “What do you think of these Palestinians here watching people go past?”
Woman: “We don’t have this country, Palestine. Only Israel. The Palestinians can live with us. It’s good but it’s [us] who own the country.”
Bateman’s own retort to the woman was not shown in the subtitles.
Bateman: “You get a real sense of the confrontation at a moment like this. The Israelis dance with flags and the Palestinians are being stopped behind lines of police.”
The report ends:
“The march ends at the Western Wall…the holiest site at which Jews can pray. Israelis couldn’t access it for two decades before the war of 1967.”
Remarkably, this report on the topic of Jerusalem Day – the day marking the reunion of Jerusalem – avoided telling BBC audiences that the reason Israelis couldn’t “access” the Western Wall “for two decades” was because Jordan had belligerently invaded and occupied the area, ethnically cleansing Jews from the Old City in the process.