BBC News glosses over repeated Palestinian violence at holy site

Visitors to the BBC News website on March 20th found a report titled “Two Palestinians killed in clashes in Nablus” which opened as follows:

“Two Palestinian men have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military said explosive devices were hurled from a car at troops guarding Jewish worshippers at Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Nablus.

The troops opened fire, killing two assailants, it added.”

The report later went on to inform readers that: [emphasis added]

“Joseph’s Tomb – which is revered by Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the son of the biblical patriarch Jacob – has been a source of friction in the past.

It is in an area under Palestinian civilian control, but Jewish pilgrims are permitted to visit several times a year under Israeli military protection.”

Also of significance to Christians, the site is in fact:

“…located inside Area A of the West Bank, under complete Palestinian Authority control. The IDF bars Israeli citizens from entering Area A without prior authorization.”

The BBC did not bother to explain to readers of this report the meaning of the phrase “a source of friction in the past”. The last time audiences saw any BBC reporting on such so-called “friction” was in October 2015 when Palestinian rioters set fire to the tomb. Since then repeated attacks on both the site itself and security forces guarding visiting worshippers have gone unreported. For example:

February 2016: “Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian protesters while Israelis prayed at Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus late Monday night, as Jewish worshipers entered a holy site for a monthly pilgrimage.”

April 2016: “Palestinian residents of Nablus threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers as they escorted hundreds of visitors to a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city overnight Wednesday-Thursday.”

June 2016: “Palestinian security forces managed to push back protesters who were advancing on the Joseph’s Tomb shrine late Saturday. According to Hebrew media reports, the protesters tried to set the site on fire. The demonstration began Saturday night after the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that a wounded Palestinian teen, said to have been hurt by IDF fire on Thursday after allegedly trying to throw a firebomb at Jews praying at the site, had taken a turn for the worse in hospital.”

August 2016: “…Palestinian residents of Nablus threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers and Border Police as they escorted 24 busloads of visitors to Joseph’s Tomb near the West Bank city.”

September 2016: “An IDF soldier was shot and moderately wounded while guarding a group of religious Jews visiting the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, early Thursday morning, the army said. […] Local residents also rolled burning tires and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops guarding the area.”

September 2016: “Palestinian rioters clashed with IDF troops in Nablus early Thursday as hundreds of Jewish worshipers visited a pilgrimage site in the West Bank city. Youths threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops guarding a group of religious Jews visiting the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, the army said.”

December 2016: “Rioters burned tires and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at security forces protecting the pilgrims…”

February 2017: “A soldier was lightly wounded when an improvised explosive device was thrown at him near the West Bank city of Nablus early Thursday morning, the army said. The soldier’s unit was on patrol in the Balata refugee camp as a group of Israeli Jews visited a pilgrimage site on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city.”

December 2017: “Also overnight, the army led a group of some 500 Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. During the visit, local residents clashed violently with the troops, throwing rocks and burning tires, the army said.”

January 2018: “Army sappers detonated a cellphone-operated explosive device that was apparently planted by Palestinians at the entrance to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in the city of Nablus early Tuesday morning, ahead of a visit by approximately 1,000 Jewish worshipers, the army said.”

April 2018: “A Palestinian hurled explosives at Israeli soldiers protecting a crowd of Jewish worshipers in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Wednesday-Thursday, causing no injuries or damage, the army said.”

September 2018: “Violent clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that entered Nablus late Wednesday night to secure the northern West Bank city ahead of the pilgrimage of some 1,500 Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site. […] Footage from the scene shows demonstrators hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli convoy entering the city.”

November 2018: “Clashes broke out in the northern West Bank city of Nablus overnight Tuesday after Israeli security forces entered the city to escort Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site, the army said. According to an Israel Defense Forces statement, Palestinians hurled firebombs at security forces and shot at their armored cars, before troops drove them back with tear gas and live fire. Inside the tomb, soldiers discovered two makeshift explosive devices, the army said. Both were defused by sappers.”

As has been noted here in the past freedom of access to and worship at holy sites was supposedly guaranteed under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO over two decades ago.  

Despite its public purpose obligation to provide audiences with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” the BBC chooses to euphemistically frame regular breaches of that agreement as “friction” attributed to the site itself rather than to the Palestinians actually throwing firebombs, explosives or rocks.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

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Selective BBC News reporting on terror arrests

On December 23rd the BBC News website published an article titled “Germany arrests two on terror charges” in which readers were informed that:terror-germany-23-12

“Two men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack on a shopping centre in Oberhausen near the Dutch border, police say. […]

It is not yet known how advanced the preparations for the attack were, or if others were involved, the statement said.”

(The two men were subsequently released)

An additional article – headlined “Melbourne Christmas Day ‘terror attack’ foiled, say Australia police” – also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day.

“Australian police have foiled a major terror attack in Melbourne on Christmas Day, officials say. […]terror-aus-23-12

The plot involved the use of explosives and other weapons, police say.

The alleged targets included high-profile locations around Melbourne, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and the main train station.

Six men and a woman were detained in Friday’s raid on suspicion of “preparing or planning a terrorist attack”, police say.

The woman and two men were later released.”

The arrest of a terror cell in an additional location had been announced the day before those two articles appeared.

“Israeli security agents busted a 20-member Hamas cell that was plotting suicide bombings and shootings against Israeli citizens in major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet disclosed on Thursday. […]

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons.”

That story, however, was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC mum on arrests of two Hamas terror cells

Weekend long read

1) Last month the BBC News website published a rare article about an incident related to internal affairs within the Palestinian Authority and its dominant party Fatah but no follow-up reporting on that topic has since appeared. MEMRI has produced a report on the background to that incident and its subsequent repercussions.Weekend Read

“Halawa’s killing marked the culmination of a series of violent clashes during the last few months between PA security forces and local armed forces, some of which belong to Fatah.These clashes stemmed from the refusal of influential families in the city to accept the PA’s authority. Some of these families, including the Halawa family, belong to factions within Fatah that do not support Fatah Chairman and PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

Ahmad Halawa’s killing enraged many of the city’s residents, who regarded it as a grave and unjustified attack on a member of a prominent local family. The news of his death sparked further clashes that included gunfights between locals who support the Halawa family, some of them Fatah members, and PA security forces;  numerous arrests, and a general strike announced by the Nablus chamber of commerce. The killing also sent shockwaves through the Fatah movement in Nablus: the movement harshly condemned the activity of the PA security forces and declared a period of mourning in the city; moreover, many Fatah members quit the movement as a gesture of solidarity with the Halawa family and in protest of the PA security forces’ activity.”

2) Last week the UNSC extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Lebanon for an additional year. David Daoud of the FDD takes a look at “UNIFIL’s Unfulfilled Mandate“.

“…the Council commends the “positive role” UNIFIL has played in creating a “new strategic environment in south Lebanon” in the decade since the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006. The resolution comes shortly after the force’s new commander commended it turning south Lebanon into an “an oasis of peace.” The truth is rather different: Israel and Hezbollah have had their own reasons for deferring war, ones that have little to do with UNIFIL.”

3) BICOM has been looking ahead at likely scenarios for the Palestinian Authority.

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is 81 years old, has publicly stated his intention not to compete again in elections and has appointed no successor. Given the state of the Palestinian system as well as increasing frustration with the PA and the moribund peace process with Israel, a chaotic battle for succession – one that is already underway – is the most likely scenario for the post-Abbas era.”

Links to that two-part study can be found here.

4) Over at the Tower, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein brings a fascinating and touching account of her visit to Iran and its Jewish community.

“Life behind the mechitza offers some much-wanted and rarely-found protection from the eyes and ears of the regime. It is there the women and I speak beyond a whisper, and before the Lecha Dodi prayer, I feel a hand on my arm, grasping desperately for my attention.

“Pray for us, will you, please?”

Her words are sad and real and stark, and they break the wall put up by her masters. I nod but fail to answer; I see a glimpse of her life but fail to fully understand; and I know there is nothing I can do but say a prayer and tell her story.”

Read the whole article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) With the British government having this week announced that it will not fund ‘World Vision International’ until its investigation into alleged diversion of funds to Hamas is complete, readers may find a background article on the organisation by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile useful. “Five Things You Need to Know About World Vision” is available here.Weekend Read

2) An interesting post about the Israeli perspective of the civil war in Syria is found at the IDF blog.

“In 2011, the population of the Syrian Golan numbered 1.2 million. The Syrian side of the border was fully functional with its farms, UN bases, towns and forests. […]

As of 2016, the population of the Syrian Golan is a mere 750,000 – 63% of its pre-war residents. 50,000 Syrians from the Golan alone have been killed, and the rest have fled inland or to other countries. Those who remain live in dire circumstances. Because of the fighting, they have little access to medical care, public works, food, and other basic necessities.”

3) Following on from this week’s rare BBC coverage of an internal Palestinian story, Khaled Abu Toameh provides some related background and context.

“Palestinians refer to Nablus as the “Mountain of Fire” — a reference to the countless armed attacks carried out against Israelis by residents of the city since 1967. Current events in Nablus, however, have shown how easily fire burns the arsonist. The Palestinian Authority is now paying the price for harboring, funding and inciting gang members and militiamen who until recently were hailed by many Palestinians as “heroes” and “resistance fighters.” Unsurprisingly, most of these “outlaws” and “criminals” (as the PA describes them) are affiliated in one way or another with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

Nablus, the so-called Mountain of Fire, is now threatening to turn into a volcano that is set to erupt in the face of Abbas and his PA government.”

Read the whole article at the Gatestone Institute.

4) Matthew Levitt has written a very interesting essay titled “Hezbollah’s Pivot Toward the Gulf”.

“Hezbollah’s status in the wider Sunni Arab world has dropped precipitously since its height a decade ago after the 2006 Lebanon War. In the wake of that conflict, Hezbollah rode a wave of popular support across the region. A decade later, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group and the Gulf States have cracked down on Hezbollah supporters and financiers within their borders. The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have issued statements condemning Hezbollah as well, leading to a war of words between the group and Gulf officials. In January 2016, the Saudi government released a report on Iranian-sponsored terrorism that focused heavily on Hezbollah, spanning the group’s militant activities from the 1980s to the present.

But increasingly tense relations—and the larger regional context of a proxy war between Iran, Hezbollah’s patron and sponsor, and the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia—may now be moving this schism from words to actions, threatening more overt violence between Hezbollah and its Shi`a allies and the Gulf States and their Sunni partners.”

Read the whole essay here.

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.” (BBC Editorial Guidelines, Impartiality, section 4.4.14 – emphasis added)

Like the BBC Editorial Guidelines as a whole, that section applies to all BBC content. However, on May 17th the ‘In Pictures’ page of the BBC News website published an item headlined “Hard Work” (which also appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page) which failed to conform to that clause.

In Pictures Hard Work

That link leads to a photo essay titled “Traditional industries in the West Bank” in which audiences are told:

“In the West Bank, several traditional Palestinian industries are still utilising historical techniques fine-tuned through generations – but once flourishing industries, such as shoemaking in Hebron or olive oil soap production in Nablus, are barely surviving, with a fraction of their former workforces.

Photographer Rich Wiles has been documenting these industries, some of which may not survive much longer in the current political and economic climate.”

Rich Wiles, however, is not only a photographer: he is also a professional political activist who uses his camera as a tool for the advancement of his chosen political cause – as is apparent from an interview he gave to a local UK newspaper in 2014.

“It might not be an easy place to live, but Rich Wiles feels at home in Palestine.

The Hull-born photographer has spent the past decade in this unsettled part of the world, getting married and starting a family along the way.

Now his latest exhibition – chronicling life in parts of this frequently war-torn region – is on show in London.

“It is never an easy place to live, but it is a beautiful place to live at the same time,” said Rich, who lives in Ramallah with his wife, Cyrine, and their baby daughter, Nadia-Sue. […]

In 2001, at the age of 27, he decided to study for an HND at Hull School of Art and Design.

After becoming involved in the anti-war movement in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he was invited by friends from the movement to join them on a trip to Palestine.

He went on to work with Creative Partnerships in Hull, where he organised photographic projects with children here and in the West Bank.

In 2005, moved by what he had witnessed, he decided to move to the Aida Camp for Palestinian refugees, which is located just outside of Bethlehem.

Since his arrival in Palestine, Rich has helped to establish the Lajee Centre Arts & Media Unit in the camp.

He now works at BADIL, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem.”

In addition to his involvement with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil’, Wiles can regularly be found promoting his campaigning photography at outlets such as Al Jazeera, the Hamas-linked MEMO (which, interestingly, describes him as “MEMO photographer Rich Wiles”) and other Hamas-linked outfits such as the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’.

“In the past Wiles has referred to his photography as a tool of activism. “A photograph is never going to give Palestinians their rights,” he says, “though art is part of a culture of change.”

“History shows us that all liberation struggles have involved elements of armed struggle, they’ve involved elements of popular struggle, demonstrations, they’ve involved art, they’ve involved culture and they’ve involved literature. All these things combined make an effective resistance movement.”” (MEMO, 20/8/14)

Little wonder then that the portrayal of  “traditional industries” in Palestinian Authority controlled areas presented to BBC audiences only briefly touches upon the issue of competition with mass production (a difficulty faced by artisan manufacturers worldwide), but does point audience attentions in one particular direction.

“Several olive-oil soap factories were destroyed by an earthquake that hit Nablus in 1927. More recently, during the second Intifada, which began in 2001, Israeli military attacks on Nablus caused further destruction to the historical buildings. And, today, only three factories remain in production.”

The second intifada of course began in September 2000 – not in 2001 – and this portrayal conveniently erases the very relevant fact that it was initiated by the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli military activity in towns such as Nablus (Schem) came after – and as a result of – over eighteen months of Palestinian terror attacks which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians.

“Historically, Palestinian tanneries got hides from neighbouring Arab states. More recently, supplies suffered from Israel’s economic embargo against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, which together with a ban on chemicals for security reasons has brought Zarai tanneries in Hebron to the brink of closure, its managers say.”

The terrorism which brought about restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip (inaccurately described here as an “economic embargo”) and the terrorism of the second intifada which brought about the (later rescinded) ban on the import of sulfuric acid “due to its potential dual use as an ingredient in explosives-making” are predictably erased from audience view.

In the world of propagandists such as Rich Wiles, Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as passive, lacking in agency and free of any responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.

Whilst that approach may be good enough for outlets with a casual relationship with facts and truth such as Al Jazeera and MEMO, the editorial guidelines quoted above were put in place precisely in order to ensure that BBC audiences get accurate and impartial news rather than politically motivated propaganda.

That means that Rich Wiles’ “particular viewpoint” should have been clarified to readers of this article – and no: the link to his personal website right at the bottom of the page does not suffice.

 

What Jon Donnison did not report about the Hamas rally in Nablus

On December 13th 2012 a rally was held in Schem (Nablus) in the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories by the Hamas movement to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The following day another similar rally was held in Hebron. 

The BBC’s Jon Donnison reported from the rally in Schem and his article, together with a short video, appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website and apparently also on BBC television news.

The events of Friday December 14th were also reported on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Technically, there may appear to be little to criticise either in Donnison’s report from Schem or the one from Hebron.

Donnison correctly points out that the rally suggests that “ties are improving” between the Fatah-dominated PA and Hamas, although he is more than a little coy about Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“A rift developed between the PA’s Fatah party and Hamas after the Islamist movement won legislative elections in 2006 and came to power in Gaza a year later.”

His actual description of the event is brief:

“In Thursday’s rally, thousands of Hamas supporters took to the streets in Nablus, in the north of the territory, carrying banners reading “Hamas, you are the gun and we are the ammunition”, AFP news agency reports.

Fatah leader Amin Makboul praised Hamas for its “steadfastness” in the latest clashes with Israel.

“[The] victory in Gaza was a big victory for all Palestinian people,” he said at the Nablus rally.”

Similarly, the report from Hebron also stresses the reconciliation aspect of the rally held there.

“Hamas and the rival Fatah faction, which dominates the PA, have made conciliatory gestures towards each other since the end of last month’s Israeli offensive on Gaza, which Israel said it launched to stop rocket-fire.

“Hamas steadfastness and victory in Gaza was a big victory for all Palestinian people,” Amin Makboul, a Fatah leader, said in a speech at Thursday’s rally in Nablus.

A rift developed between the two groups after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and came to power in Gaza a year later. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have so far failed.”

But do these BBC reports – muted, but technically correct in as far as they go – tell the whole story behind those two very significant rallies? Do they really contribute towards increasing the understanding of BBC audiences with regard to the current wave of Hamas popularity in Palestinian society or the implications of any Hamas/Fatah ‘reconciliation’ for the region as a whole and the ‘peace process’ in particular? Do these BBC reports do anything to inform audiences worldwide why Israelis might view a Hamas renaissance in areas other than the Gaza Strip with something less than enthusiasm?

Another reporter was in Schem and Hebron on those particular days too. His name is Ohad Hemo and he works for Israel’s Channel 2 television station. Unlike the BBC’s correspondents in the region, he speaks fluent Arabic and this is his report of December 14th 2012.

In order to activate English subtitles, click on the white rectangle icon on the right hand side of the tool bar at the bottom.