The Jerusalem building permits the BBC didn’t report

On the afternoon of January 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration” to which amendments were subsequently made.construction-art-22-1-main

The article includes many of the building blocks used to frame the narrative that has been presented in numerous other recent BBC reports.

a) A lack of historical context: the history of Jerusalem is presented as beginning in June 1967.

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

b) A partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Settlements in East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

c) Portrayal of the absence of progress in the peace process as being primarily attributable to construction in Israeli communities in specific parts of Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria.

“Mr Obama regarded opposing new settlement homes as a key plank in pursuing a possible “two-state solution” to ending the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.” […]

“The latest UN Security Council resolution stated that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.”

d) A euphemistic portrayal of the end of negotiations in April 2014.

“Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.”

This report also resurrects an old BBC theme last seen in 2013: the promotion of the inaccurate notion that construction in the area near Ma’ale Adumim known as E1 would prevent territorial contiguity in a future Palestinian state. 

construction-art-22-1-e1

But the really interesting part of this report is what it does not tell BBC audiences and what that says about the BBC’s editorial policy on the topic.

The article’s subject matter is portrayed as follows:

“Israel has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem, after the staunch pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office. […]

Jerusalem’s City Hall approved construction permits for 566 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.”

Readers were not told that under any realistic scenario (such as those put forward in the Clinton Parameters or the Olmert Plan), those three Jerusalem neighbourhoods would remain under Israeli control. Likewise, audiences were not made aware of the fact that no existing agreements between Israel and the PLO (including the Oslo Accords) forbid or curb construction of housing within Jerusalem or Judea & Samaria.

However, as the Jerusalem Post reported, at the same committee meeting the Jerusalem municipality in fact approved 105 more new homes than was reported by the BBC in this article. 

“On Sunday, the municipal construction committee approved 566 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev, as well as 49 units in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina; 14 in Wadi Joz; 24 in Umm Lison and Umm Tuba; 7 in Jebl Mukaber; 4 in Beit Safafa; 3 in Sur Bahir; and 4 in a-Tur.”

In other words, not for the first time we see that the BBC is only interested in reporting the granting of construction permits in “occupied East Jerusalem” if it believes (rightly or not) that those housing units are intended for Jewish Israelis. 

The fact that the topic of Jerusalem building permits receives coverage – or not – on the basis of religion/ethnicity is obviously troubling – not least because it shows that information liable to complicate the chosen narrative is ignored. It is difficult to see how the BBC can claim to be providing its audiences with information that meets editorial standards of ‘due impartiality’ when that politically motivated editorial policy is so evident.

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What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

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No follow-up to a story the BBC previously featured in four reports

This week one of the juveniles who carried out a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood in October 2015 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.

“The 14-year-old from East Jerusalem was convicted earlier this year on two counts of attempted murder for the October 2015 knife attack, in which he and his cousin critically injured a 12-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man.

The teenage assailant was 13 when he carried out the attack along with his 15-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by security forces responding at the scene.

According to the indictment filed in May, the court rejected the defense presented by the teen’s attorneys that the cousins had no intention of murdering the Israelis, but rather had simply wanted to “scare the Jews.”

The judges determined that the cousins went on the stabbing spree in order to “help Hamas and become martyrs.” Still, they took into account the defendant’s apology and the fact that his elder cousin had stabbed the two victims.”

As has been noted here before, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial (although the corporation has produced coverage of the legal process in cases in which the perpetrators were Israeli Jews) and it was therefore unsurprising to see that audiences were not informed of the outcome of the trial of the Pisgat Ze’ev attacker even though the story was covered by the BBC extensively at the time.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

On the day of the attack (October 12th 2015) the BBC News website produced a report which was amended to include a politicised description of its location.

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition.”

Two days later the BBC News website published an article which initially gave context-free amplification to false claims concerning the two terrorists from the PA president.

“He also accused Israel of carrying out “executions of our children in cold blood”…” 

On October 15th and 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced written and filmed reports in which the father of the older attacker was showcased and Bowen roundly dismissed the subject of incitement.Bowen filmed Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

When the recently sentenced youth was convicted in May, it was reported that:

“The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.”

Since the surge in violence began last autumn, Bowen and his colleagues have repeatedly dismissed the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism as contributing factors, preferring instead to promote PLO approved talking points concerning “the occupation” to their audiences.

Remarkably, the fact that this Palestinian teenager – and many others – expressed a will to die as a “martyr” in a “religious war” has not distracted the BBC from promotion of that chosen political narrative or prompted it to carry out any serious journalistic investigation into the issue of incitement.

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part two

In part one of this post we noted that two recent reports from the BBC’s Middle East editor featured interviews with members of the families of two terrorists killed whilst carrying out attacks in Jerusalem.

Both those terrorists – and many others – were motivated by incitement based on conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque and hence one would have expected the person charged with providing BBC audiences with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” to offer them factual background information on how that incitement is propagated, by whom and to what ends.

Jeremy Bowen’s presentation of the issue of incitement in his written report  – “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“- is as follows:Bowen written Manasra

“The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.”

And:

“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. […]

The Israeli government denies that it plans to change the status quo around the Aqsa Mosque. It maintains that agitators have incited trouble by spreading baseless rumours.

But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians…”

In the filmed report – “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” – viewers are told by Bowen that:Bowen filmed Manasra

“The Israelis deny that they want Jews, who venerate the site [Temple Mount], to worship there too. Palestinians don’t believe them. That’s a major reason for the anger on the streets across the Palestinian territories.”

And:

“Israel says Palestinian leaders tell lies to incite riots and the killing of Jews. Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry.”

Later on in the report, viewers hear an Israeli police spokesman say:

“We’re talking about a small number within the Israeli-Arab population that unfortunately is both listening to the incitement that is being put out on the internet as well as by different organisations.”

In other words, in neither of these reports is the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount explained to BBC audiences in Jeremy Bowen’s own voice. Instead – as has been the case in much other recent BBC reporting – that topic is presented exclusively as something which “Israel says” or “Israel maintains” and audiences are given no tools with which they can assess whether what “Israel says” is correct or not.

Like his colleagues, Bowen refrains from showing his audiences examples of that incitement on the internet, on social media (including accounts run by Palestinian organisations such as Fatah and Hamas), on official PA television and official PA newspapers. As has long been the case – even before this latest wave of terrorism – Bowen refrains from clarifying to BBC audiences that incitement concerning holy sites in Jerusalem is coming from differing sectors of Palestinian society – including the PA president, Palestinian Authority ministries and religious leaders.

Bowen also refrains from telling BBC audiences about the long history of the exploitation of the topic of Temple Mount for purposes of incitement and makes no effort to examine why that particular subject is so potent or what the aims of those employing such incitement are.

Significantly, neither he nor his colleagues have to date made any effort to independently inform their audiences worldwide that there is no basis to those conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, Bowen opens this filmed report with promotion of an inaccuracy which has been seen in other recent BBC content but, when coming from a supposed expert responsible for the accuracy and impartiality of the world’s largest broadcaster’s Middle East content, is particularly remarkable.

“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.” [emphasis added]

The Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque are two of many structures in existence on an enclosed area known by Muslims as Haram al Sharif and Jews and Christians as Temple Mount. That entire area is not al Aqsa Mosque, even if some interested parties with a very clear political/religious agenda would like to claim otherwise for the purpose of denying Jewish history in Jerusalem.

The fact that we have seen repeated cases of adoption and promotion of that narrative from assorted BBC correspondents over the past few weeks raises considerable cause for concern with regard to the BBC’s ability to report on this very sensitive topic to audiences in the UK and worldwide accurately and responsibly.

However, whilst the BBC’s Middle East editor avoids providing audiences with comprehensive information on the issue of incitement, he does use his own words – together with paraphrasing of anonymous sources – to tell them what they should see as the cause of the current violence. In the written article, for example, readers are told that:

“Jerusalem has been simmering dangerously for two years or more. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asserting what it believes is its national right to build homes for Jewish Israelis wherever it decides they are needed in a city that it calls its undivided, eternal capital.

The government’s backing for the expansion of settlements in the sections of Jerusalem captured during the 1967 war, and classified as occupied territory by most of the rest of the world, has transformed some districts.

Palestinians feel they are being squeezed out of their home. They believe that their territory is being eaten up by Israel’s appetite for land, and loath what they see as a national ideology designed to enforce the dominance of Israel and Judaism. […]

Jews have settled alongside areas that were wholly populated by Palestinians, in some cases right in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

Bowen even promotes a spurious link between incitement concerning Temple Mount and Israeli construction.

“But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians, not least because it comes when Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem have been expanding.”

It is unclear upon what factual information Bowen bases that claim of ‘expansion’ because not only do official figures document construction in all of Jerusalem without differentiation between its various districts, but the available statistics for building up to the end of the second quarter of 2015 show no sign of “expanding” construction beyond the usual rate throughout the last four years and figures for the third quarter of 2015 are not yet available.

Besides ‘settlements’, Bowen promotes additional themes as explanations for the current violence in both his reports. In the written article readers are told that:

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. […]

Israel’s use of considerable force in defence of its people also causes anger. The shooting dead of some assailants has been condemned, not least by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

And:

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

Similar themes are promoted in Bowen’s filmed report:

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal”

“Palestinians get constant reminders that Israel is in charge. It can mean a lifetime of humiliations. […] For some, that produces a murderous rage.”

These two reports present audiences with two categories of ‘context’ for the current wave of terrorism in Israel. One the one hand, Bowen gives a completely inadequate representation of the issue of incitement concerning holy sites, presented exclusively using the “Israel says” formula which signals to audiences that he and his organisation do not stand behind it.

On the other hand we see Jeremy Bowen using his own voice – and reputation – to persuade audiences that the explanation for the violence is to be found in a “military occupation” which includes “settlements” and causes “humiliation”, pushing apparently agency-free Palestinians towards “murderous rage”. 

Obviously any explanation of why that ‘occupation’ came about or what was the status of the geographical areas concerned before the Jordanian occupation (which Bowen naturally refrains from mentioning) would detract from the narrative he is trying to promote and so audiences are deprived of that context and left with the take-away message that Israelis are to blame for the terrorism against them.

Jeremy Bowen’s choice of politically motivated narrative is cringingly obvious. The problem is that there is another, much older and deeper story here which predates ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ and is related to the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount. That is a story which Bowen and his colleagues have avoided telling BBC audiences, not just in these two reports and not only over the last few weeks, but for a very long time indeed.

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part one

Two recent reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – the man responsible for providing his employer’s audiences with “analysis that might help set it [news] in its context” – included interviews with the father of one of the teenage terrorists from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina who stabbed a man and a thirteen year-old boy in nearby Pisgat Ze’ev on October 12th.

In an article titled “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“, which appeared on October 15th and remained in the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section for five consecutive days, readers once again saw politicised terminology used to describe the neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.Bowen written Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

In other words, readers are encouraged to believe that the “typical teenager” and his cousin were not influenced by “a video” (apparently the only example of incitement of which Bowen is aware, despite there being dozens of others in various media) because he did not have a mobile phone, internet access or a TV.

Interestingly, the terrorist’s family name has been given as Manasra by most media outlets and official sources – rather than ‘Mahania’, as used by Bowen. However, one place which does use the name “Mahayneh-Manasra” is the website of the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre – a highly partisan organisation which has been used by Bowen as a source of information in the past. Of course if the information about the current wave of terrorism in Israel being provided to BBC audiences is coming, even in part, from a body with a record of anti-Israel activity and links to similarly inclined organisations, then that should be clarified to audiences. 

In a similarly themed filmed report produced for BBC Television news programmes and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” on October 16th, Bowen tells viewers:Bowen filmed Manasra

“Hassan Mahania [sic] aged 15 was shot dead after he stabbed two young Israelis and attacked the police. His father Khaled can’t understand where, as a parent, he went wrong.”

Footage then cuts to the weeping father saying:

“I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.”

But Bowen fails to bring his audience’s attention to the fact that the image appearing on screen as he leads into that segment shows a ‘martyrdom poster’ with a photo of Hassan Manasra together with a large picture of the Dome of the Rock. He fails to tell viewers that, for example, two days after the terror attack in Pisgat Ze’ev, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education glorified terror by planting trees in honour of ‘student martyrs’ such as Manasra. And he avoids informing BBC audiences that Hassan Manasra’s cousin and accomplice Ahmed Manasra (later exploited by Mahmoud Abbas for even more incitement) provided insight into their motivations.

““I went there to stab Jews,” he told investigators at the Hadassah Hospital where doctors have been treating him for wounds he sustained during the incident, police said.

Manasra said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the Palestinian claim that Israel has been trying to change the status quo on the volatile Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

Likewise, Bowen ignores long-standing issues such as terror groups’ activities in Arab areas of Jerusalem and delegitimisation of Israel and incitement in schools – an issue now being investigated in schools in Beit Hanina attended by the Manasra cousins and an additional perpetrator of one of the recent terror attacks.

In the same filmed report Bowen also visited the family of another terrorist who, on October 13th, carried out this attack:

“On Malkhei Yisrael Street in Geula, a terrorist drove a car into a bus stop, hitting three pedestrians – one of whom, 60-year-old Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, was killed. The terrorist then left the vehicle and started repeatedly stabbing his victims.” 

Bowen’s description of the incident is as follows:

“He [Rabbi Krishevsky] was killed last Tuesday when a Palestinian rammed his car into a bus queue.”

He continues:

“The rabbi’s killer, who was shot dead, came from Jabel Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem. He was Alaa Abu Jamal who snapped; ground down by the occupation according to his cousin Wawiya [phonetic]. He wants peace, even though his house has just been destroyed in an Israeli reprisal against his brother who killed five Israelis last year.”

Bowen does not clarify that the incident “last year” is the terror attack in Har Nof in which worshippers at prayer in a synagogue were hacked to death by cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal from Jabel Mukaber. Neither does he tell viewers that Alaa Abu Jamal was an Israeli citizen who worked for the telephone company Bezek and used his company car to carry out the attack or that following the terror attack committed by his relatives last November in Har Nof, Alaa Abu Jamal publicly praised it, describing the attack as:

“…”something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.

 “This act was carried out because of the pressure placed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government in Jerusalem, as well as the continued acts of aggression against al-Aqsa,” he continued.

Following the axe attack that killed four worshipers and a policeman, Abu Jamal said: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.””

Clearly both the terrorists highlighted by Bowen in these two reports were influenced by the religiously themed incitement concerning Temple Mount. But did the BBC’s Middle East editor clarify that point to viewers and readers of these two reports and did his ‘analysis’ include any attempt to explain how that incitement is spread, by whom and to what end? Those questions will be examined in part two of this post.

BBC News amplification for Abbas’ lies and incitement about ‘dead’ terrorist

On October 14th PA President Mahmoud Abbas (whose elected mandate expired well over six years ago) made his first significant public appearance since the current wave of terrorism in Israel began. Speaking live on PA television, Abbas promoted a string of libels and falsehoods – but one in particular stood out.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “executing” a 13-year-old Palestinian who earlier this week stabbed an Israeli boy in Jerusalem and said the Palestinians “will not agree to Israel’s policy of occupation.” […]

Referring to an attack two days ago, in which Hassan Manasra, 15, and his cousin Ahmed Manasra, 13, stabbed a 13-year-old boy and 25-year-old man in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, seriously wounding both, Abbas said Israel killed the two attackers in “cold blood”. […]

Other Palestinian officials have also accused Israel of executing the teens in cold blood.”

A video of the part of the address reported above can be found here, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post. Notably, when the PLO later released an English translation of Abbas’ address in Arabic, the term ‘executing’ was downgraded

“In a speech he made on Wednesday evening, Abbas insisted that the Palestinians would not surrender to the “Israeli aggression” against the Palestinian people, their holy places, homes, and the “executions of children like Ahmed Manasra.”

In an English translation of Abbas’ speech released by the PLO, however, the Palestinian president is quoted as saying Israel “shoots” Palestinian children in cold blood “as they did with the child Ahmed Manasra,” replacing the word “executions” with a more moderate language.”

Of course Mahmoud Abbas refrained from mentioning that “the child” in question, together with his cousin, carried out a vicious terror attack in Pisgat Zeev – as footage from security cameras released by the police shows.

Abbas also neglected to mention that Ahmed Manasra is alive and receiving treatment in a Jerusalem hospital.

So how did the BBC report that libelous incitement from the PA president? In an article titled “Attacks continue in Jerusalem despite new checkpoints” which appeared on the BBC News website late on the evening of October 14th, readers found the following.

Abbas libel in article 14 10

The claim that the attackers “stabbed an Israeli” is inaccurate – they stabbed two people in that incident – and that point was corrected in a later version of the report. With a link inserted to a Tweet from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, the passage now reads:

Abbas libel in art 14 10 later

Whilst this BBC report amplifies Mahmoud Abbas’ inflammatory and inaccurate claims, the corporation does not make an independent statement of its own to clarify to readers that Abbas’ libels are baseless or provide them with any of the evidence showing that Ahmed Manasra is alive.

Instead, it resorts to a version the well-worn ‘Israel says’ formula, which over the years BBC audiences have been well groomed to understand as meaning that the BBC does not confirm or endorse the information provided by Israeli sources. And predictably – in line with its editorial policy to date – the BBC also refrains from informing its audiences how incitement such as this latest example from Abbas has fueled the current wave of terror in Israel.

So much for the BBC’s claim that it is “standard-setter of international journalism“.

 

 

BBC portrayal of Pisgat Ze’ev terror attack focuses on politicised geography

BBC News website reporting of the terror attacks which took place in Israel on October 12th appeared in an article currently headlined “Jerusalem attacks: Israelis wounded in fresh stabbings” which was updated and retitled throughout the day as news of more attacks broke.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

Among the four attacks which took place on that day in Jerusalem was one in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood.

“A 13-year-old Jewish boy from Pisgat Ze’ev is in critical condition Monday after being stabbed nearly a dozen times by two teenage Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, marking the third terrorist attack in the capital in six hours.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the attack took place at approximately 3 p.m., when a 13-year-old Palestinian and a 17-year-old Palestinian armed with knives attacked the Jewish boy while he was riding his bicycle.

“Both terrorists stabbed the boy many times all over his body before a driver neutralized the 13-year-old terrorist by ramming his car into him,” said Rosenfeld. “The other assailant then stabbed a 24-year-old Jewish man nearby before being shot dead by police.””

According to media reports, the victims of the attack are still in critical condition.

Initial BBC News reporting on the incident read as follows:

“Police said two youths were stabbed by two assailants in the Pisgat Zeev district, one of whom was shot dead and the other shot and wounded. […]

Two Israelis aged 16 and 20 were seriously injured in the attack in Pisgat Zeev, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.”

In the next version of the report, the description of the location of the attack was changed.

“Police said two youths were stabbed by two assailants – one of whom was shot dead and the other wounded – in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. […]

Two Israelis aged 16 and 20 were seriously injured in the attack in the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.”

The version after that corrected the age of the younger victim.

“Police said two youths were stabbed by two teenaged assailants – one of whom was shot dead and the other wounded – in a settlement in East Jerusalem. […]

Two Israelis aged 13 and 20 were attacked in the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

She identified the two assailants as 13- and 17-year-old Palestinians from nearby Beit Hanina.

According to police, the pair stabbed the 20-year-old, seriously wounding him, before attacking the 13-year-old boy, who was riding a bicycle, critically wounding him.”

The final version of the report was again amended and now reads as follows:

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition. […]

One of the Palestinian attackers of the two youths in the Pisgat Zeev settlement was shot and killed by police. His 13-year-old accomplice was shot and seriously injured.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri identified the two assailants as 13- and 17-year-old Palestinians from nearby Beit Hanina.”

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC’s description of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev as a “settlement in East Jerusalem”; audiences have seen that politically motivated narrative amplified many times before, together with the standard BBC mantra “settlements are considered illegal under international law”.

But it is nevertheless remarkable that a BBC priority in its reporting on a heinous terror attack (of course not named as such) on a young boy riding his bike was to ensure that readers understood that the location of the attack is a place where – according to the BBC’s adopted narrative – Israelis really should not be.

Equally remarkable – though predictable given the corporation’s record to date – is the fact that the reckless use of this attack for the promotion of falsehoods and incitement by a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority was completely ignored by the BBC. 

BBC’s Panorama Jerusalem train programme takes viewers on a predictable journey

On July 20th the BBC One current affairs programme ‘Panorama‘ aired an episode titled “The Train that Divides Jerusalem“. Israeli readers may be surprised to learn from the programme’s synopsis that the light rail system serving their capital city is “controversial”.Panorama light rail prog main

“On the anniversary of last summer’s brutal conflict in Gaza, film-maker Adam Wishart visits Jerusalem and rides the city’s controversial new train. Only nine miles from start to finish, some hoped it could help heal divisions between Israelis and Palestinians, but as Wishart discovers, it has only deepened the sense of resentment on both sides. Travelling through the old city, he comes face to face with the battle over one of the world’s holiest sites and asks, could it be the flashpoint for the start of another war?”

In fact, the title chosen for this programme is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Wishart clearly sets out to ‘prove’ that Jerusalem is divided and the train is merely a hook for his pre-existing hypothesis.

As anyone who has ever spent an afternoon or an evening in Jerusalem’s various parks, at the Mamilla Mall, the Malha Mall or at the restored First Station knows, Jerusalemites of all backgrounds and ethnicities shop, eat, play, work and stroll at such locations and many use public transport to reach them. That aspect of Jerusalem life had no place in Adam Wishart’s film; he has decided that the city is “divided” and he already knows why.

“It was meant to help unite this place but the train is dividing it further.”

“Now it’s easier for Jews to travel into Palestinian suburbs…”

Very early on in the film Wishart finds it necessary to establish his credentials.

“I’m Adam Wishart – a British Jew….”

Scattered throughout the film are references to his previous visit to Jerusalem “on a Zionist education course as a teenager” and to his Zionist grandparents. Apparently his own background is intended to be a claim to added credence for his current assertions.

At the outset of the film Wishart proposes to take viewers on “a journey into the heart of a city which feels more divided than ever” and his concluding remarks half an hour later indicate that he found exactly what he was looking for – including some fashionable disappointment with the people who did not fulfil the dreams of others who do not actually live in Israel.

“My journey has been heartbreaking. When my grandparents campaigned for the State of Israel they hoped for a place of refuge, of tolerance and equal rights for all. As I take the last train I just can’t believe this could be the place that they dreamt of all these years ago.”

The highly selective journey which takes Wishart to that conclusion begins in Jerusalem’s Old City – or as he portrays it: “a world divided by religious rivalry”. Temple Mount is described as follows:

“…one of the holiest sites for Muslims – home to the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the courtyard that joins them. They’re all under Muslim control.”

That, of course, is a partial representation of the site’s actual status. Wishart goes on:

“It’s also home to the holiest site in Judaism – a Jewish temple destroyed over two thousand years ago. All that remains is the western wall of the courtyard – the Wailing Wall where Jews come to pray.”

The phrase “Wailing Wall” is of course a foreign invention: Jews and Israelis do not use that anachronism. Wishart goes on:

“Now some want to completely rebuild the temple on what they call Temple Mount. No matter that Muslim holy places are here already.”

The site has of course been known as Temple Mount for centuries – long before it was called anything else. Wishart then says:

“Once Jews only ever came as far as the Western Wall. Now one thousand Jews a month enter the courtyard – the heart of this Muslim place of worship.”

He gives generous airtime to the group of women engaged in what he calls “protest” at visits by non-Muslims on Temple Mount but avoids telling viewers who those women really are and how they are paid to harass visitors. Whilst Wishart’s Jewish interviewees actually represent a tiny fringe school of thought, no mainstream Israeli opinions on the topic of Temple Mount are heard and the issue of equal prayer rights for members of all religions on a site holy to Jews and Christians as well as Muslims obviously does not interest our ‘progressive’ film-maker.

Clearly adopting – and promoting – one very specific narrative, Wishart tells audiences:

“Today’s skirmish is part of growing hostility fueled by the competing claims of Jews and Muslims to this holy place. It has already escalated into serious violence. Last November a group of Temple Mount visitors were attacked by Palestinians. In response police entered the Al Aqsa Mosque. It may only have been by a few meters but for many Muslims it crossed a sacred line.”

The accompanying footage shows masked rioters using the mosque as a launch site for rocks and firecrackers. Wishart refrains from pondering whether that crosses any ‘sacred lines’.

Wishart’s half-hearted attempt to provide historic background is completely lacking in context.

“Back then [1948] Israel only held the western part of Jerusalem – after the so-called green line. Then in 1967 Israel occupied the eastern areas.”

Viewers are not told why Israel only held part of the previously united city in 1948 or what led to the war that resulted in its reunification in 1967 and no mention is made of 19 years of Jordanian occupation.

Wishart’s journey moves on to Shuafat.

“The Palestinians who live here remain angry at being under Israeli control. The train just adds to their grievances.”

 Interviewees’ hyperbole passes without challenge:

“This is a racist train to keep Jerusalem for the Jews only.”

“Every day the train passes they are butchering me. Every day they are killing me. This is what the train means to us.”

Concerning the latter interviewee viewers are told:

“…what used to be his land until it was taken to build this train station…”

It is called compulsory purchase, of course, and it happens all over the world. Wishart refrains from using that terminology however, telling audiences:

“He refused compensation because the taking of land fits into a broader picture. Since 1967 Israel has seized about six thousand acres of land in East Jerusalem. Walid has lost about ten acres.”

No source is provided for that information.

Whilst Wishart has plenty to say about Shuafat and clearly steers viewers towards a specific narrative, his account does not include any mention of Hamas’ activities in that neighbourhood.

“I can’t help feeling that the state of this place and the lawlessness – all enclosed by the barrier – make this part of Jerusalem a tinder box waiting to ignite.”

Interviewee: “It’s difficult to be a child born into an environment of occupation and racism. […] Nobody’s born a violent person but the segregation and disparities lead to war and violence.”

At around 17:02 Wishart says:

“Just as we’re leaving the camp [Shuafat] there’s an attack on the guards at the checkpoint.”

He later adds:

“It turns out that most of the noise comes from fireworks – the ammunition of the powerless.”

During that segment (at 17:38) viewers see a boy apparently describing the scene and his words are translated on screen as follows:Panorama light rail prog soldiers

“These are the kids that throw stones at the soldiers”

BBC Watch asked a professional translator to verify that translation and this was his response:

“…it is impossible to make out what the boy says. I listened to it over and over again, together with an expert on Palestinian dialects. There are two words that the boy says before “al-yahud”, it is impossible to make out what these words are. But “al-yahud” is clearly heard, and of course that does not translate as “soldiers””.

Once again, apparently, we have a case of ‘creative’ BBC translation which censors the Arabic word for Jews, thus depriving audiences of important insight into the context and background to a story.

An additional case of ‘lost in translation’ appears in a section of the film showing Jerusalem Day celebrations which Wishart describes as “a celebration of Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City” with no explanation of the subject of the reunification of the city after 19 years of Jordanian occupation during which Jews were prevented from visiting their holy sites. At 22:42 viewers see the chants of Palestinian protesters translated as:Panorama light rail prog defend Palestine

“With our souls, our blood, we defend Palestine”

The accurate translation does not include the word ‘defend’:

“With our souls and our blood, we will redeem you, oh Palestine”

From 22:55 an interviewee’s words pertaining to the Israelis celebrating Jerusalem Day are translated on screen as follows:

“This scene causes great anger for all the people of Palestine. They break into the Old City of Jerusalem and provoke people with their shameful dancing. This is unacceptable.”

Our translator pointed out that the term ‘Old City’ and the word ‘provoke’ do not appear:

“This scene leads to tremendous anger from all segments of the Palestinian people. They forcefully attack the city of Jerusalem with racist incitement and this scandalous dance. This is an unacceptable act.”

Towards the end of the film, at 24:32, and despite having previously told viewers that the government of Israel has made it perfectly clear that no changes will be made to the status quo on Temple Mount, Wishart returns to his dubious hypothesis:

“When I was here 31 years ago even my most fervently Zionist friends weren’t rushing to build a temple on this site. Now the idea is gathering support from within the mainstream. Even a member of the new cabinet supports the idea. I can’t help but think that if some Jews push much further this would surely be the last stand for the Palestinians.”

And at 25:01 he manages to introduce conspiracy into what is no more than an urban public transport system:

“I’m left wondering what is the purpose of the train. Does its ultimate destination hold a clue? It travels north, through the Palestinian neighbourhoods, and snakes round the refugee camp. What’s so controversial is that the ultimate destination is an Israeli settlement. A thousand acres taken by Israel to build a beautiful suburb. Like all settlements in occupied territory, most of the international community consider them to be illegal.”

That ‘settlement’ is the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev and a quick search even of Pisgat Ze’ev’s Wikipedia entry would have shown Wishart that much of the suburb is in fact built on land purchased by Jews before the Second World War. In line with the usual BBC practice, Wishart makes no effort to inform viewers of the existence of differing legal opinions concerning the legality of ‘settlements’ and he also makes no effort to clarify that under any realistic scenario, Pisgat Ze’ev would be likely to remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He even promotes his hypothesis further with the following ridiculous claims:

“The train makes permanent the expansion of Israel. This settlement is built like a fortress.”

In late 2013 the BBC’s Director of Television claimed that it measures the success of its programmes by asking itself whether they are “fresh and new”. Perhaps the saddest thing about this edition of Panorama is that it is so predictable. From the standard, jaded, presentations of ‘settlements’, ‘the wall’ and ‘international law’, through the impartiality box-ticking inclusion of brief segments pertaining to terror attacks against Israelis – with no mention of the word terror – and to the failure to seriously address the political, religious and ideological roots of Palestinian terrorism whilst misrepresenting fringe opinions as “mainstream” Israeli thought, this politicized film treads a well-trodden route which is anything but “fresh and new”.

Fresh would have been to tell BBC audiences about the increasing numbers of Muslim Jerusalemites living in mixed neighbourhoods (including Pisgat Ze’ev) or to inform viewers of the extremist incitement which goes on inside Al Aqsa Mosque. New would have been to get the history of Jerusalem right and to go back before the standard BBC starting point of 1967 by including coverage of the topics of Jewish-owned lands before 1948 and the expulsion of Jews from the Old City and other neighbourhoods by Jordan.

Adam Wishart however chose to stick with the tried and trusted formula which guaranteed the airing of his film by the BBC and his bizarre shoe-horning of a light rail system into the story does nothing to disguise that fact.

Resources:

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How to Complain to the BBC

 

What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

On the evening of February 5th an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes“.

building Jlem 5 2 main

Readers have to wade down to the tenth paragraph (out of a total of thirteen) to discover that:

“A city council spokeswoman said the plans for the apartments were approved “years ago” and that new building in Arab areas of Jerusalem was also approved on Wednesday.”

The BBC, however, is only interested in building permits in neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it defines as “Jewish settlements”.

“Israeli officials have given final approval for 558 new apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”map Jlem HH PZ NY

That politically motivated and inaccurate choice of terminology deliberately misleads BBC audiences by creating the mistaken impression that such neighbourhoods are populated exclusively by Jews. That, of course, is not the case: thousands of Arab residents of Jerusalem – among them some who have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship – live in a variety of Jerusalem neighbourhoods, including those which the BBC elects to define as “Jewish settlements”.  

So why does the BBC – the organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues” – deliberately mislead its audiences in this manner? One clue to that puzzle may come from another statement included in this article:

“An estimated 200,000 settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, alongside 370,000 Palestinians.”

If the BBC were to inform audiences of the fact that Arabs – and not just Palestinians by the way, but also Israeli Arab residents of Jerusalem – live in certain areas added or returned to the city after 1967, then the labelling of residents of neighbourhoods such as Gilo, French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev as “settlers” would become very complicated. 

Like the Guardian – which advises its employees only to use the term “settler” for Israeli Jews –  the BBC has adopted the position that “settlers” can only be of one religion/ethnicity, with its style guide including the following curious advice to BBC journalists:

“It is normally best to talk about “Jewish settlers” rather than “Israeli settlers” – some settlers are not Israeli citizens.”

In other words, as far as the BBC is concerned, two families – one Arab and one Jewish – living next door to each other in the same apartment block in Gilo would be defined as “settlers” – or not – purely on the basis of their religion/ethnicity. 

Such categorization on the basis of religion/ethnicity is obviously both offensive and problematic. Hence, the BBC seems to have decided to circumvent the issue by pretending that all residents of the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which it – for political reasons – chooses to define as “settlements” are Jewish and by concealing the fact that this is not the case at all from BBC audiences.

That undoubtedly makes life a lot easier for BBC journalists, allowing them to present a ‘black and white’, ‘right and wrong’ picture in which Jewish Jerusalemites who buy or rent an apartment in Pisgat Ze’ev are “settlers” who are in breach of the BBC approved version of “international law”, but Arab Jerusalemites who do the same do not exist. Likewise Palestinians, as the BBC defines them, who take up residence in areas west of the 1949 Armistice lines are not deemed worthy of note by the BBC and are certainly not defined as “settlers”. Neve Yaakov

This policy also allows BBC journalists to promote statements from Palestinian officials, such as the one by Hanan Ashrawi included in this particular report, whereby the construction of homes in specific parts of the city is described as detrimental to the current talks between Israel and the PLO, but construction approved by the same planning committee in other neighbourhoods over the 1949 Armistice line is not. 

Whilst this approach may well simplify matters for BBC journalists – and lay the groundwork for future BBC claims of a breakdown of the peace process due to “settlements” – it actively prevents BBC audiences from reaching informed opinions on the subject. In 2011 the combined population of the three Jerusalem neighbourhoods in which the particular building tenders noted in this report are located (Har Homa, Neve Ya’akov and Pisgat Ze’ev) was some 37,000. No realistic appraisal of any potential agreement between Israel and the PLO would see these neighbourhoods become part of a Palestinian state, but BBC audiences remain ignorant of that fact.

Instead, whilst continuing to completely ignore issues such as PA sanctioned incitement and glorification of terrorism and the rise of terrorist incidents in Judea & Samaria since the latest round of talks began, the BBC keeps audience attention focused on the chimera of building and “settlements” as an “obstacle to peace” – in a manner and language remarkably similar to the tactics adopted by the Palestinian Authority.

BBC audiences need accurate and in-depth information about Jerusalem if they are to be able to participate in the debate regarding any future agreements between Israel and the PLO. Not only are they currently not getting that information from the BBC, but the information they are being given actively prevents them from forming a realistic, fact-based picture of the city, its residents and the issues under discussion.

Related Articles:

 Don’t Divide Jerusalem: The Curious Case of Beit Safafa  (Yaacov Lozowick)