Major omissions in BBC News report on Jerusalem terror attack

On the morning of October 9th a terror attack in which two people were killed and five others were wounded took place in Jerusalem.

“The attack began as the assailant drove by police headquarters on Haim Bar-Lev Street, a main artery also served by the city’s light rail, and opened fire at a group of people, hitting one woman, police said.

He sped off toward Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau Street and shot a woman who was in her car, critically wounding her.

He continued toward the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Police officers on motorcycles from the city’s Special Patrol Unit saw the shooting and gave chase, police said.

The assailant then opened fire at the officers, who shot and “neutralized him,” police said.

During the shootout, one officer was critically wounded, while a second was lightly to moderately injured, police said.”

Some four hours after the incident took place the names of the two people killed in the attack – Levana Malihi and First Sgt Yosef Kirma – were released.

The BBC News website’s first report on the incident appeared on the Middle East page some three hours after the attack took place and following the announcement of the deaths of two of the wounded.

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Some three hours after that – and around two hours after the names of those killed were released for publication – the article was amended.

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Notably, the updated report omitted much of the relevant information which was already available at the time of its publication.

1) Once again, the victims were not identified or personalised.

2) The second shooting of the woman in her car was omitted.

3) The report stated that “[t]he police said the attacker was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem” but readers were not informed that the terrorist – from Silwan – held an Israeli identification card or of his apparent links to a banned Islamist group as reported by Ha’aretz and others.

“The assailant behind Sunday’s Jerusalem shooting attack that left two dead was set to begin a four-month prison sentence for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported on Sunday.

According to Palestinian sources, the assailant – a 39-year-old resident of East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood whose identity remains under gag order – was linked to the Mourabitoun, an outlawed Islamist group active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its members demonstrate on Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, whenever Jews visit there.”

4) BBC audiences were not informed that Hamas claimed the terrorist as one of its members and – along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – praised the attack. Neither were they told of the celebrations seen on the streets of Gaza and elsewhere after the attack. Similarly, BBC audiences learned nothing of the Fatah Jerusalem branch’s call for a general strike after the incident or of the glorification of the terrorist on Fatah’s social media accounts.  The BBC’s report did however continue the policy of amplifying PLO messaging on the topic of terrorism against Israelis.

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

5) In line with BBC editorial policy, the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ do not appear anywhere in the BBC’s coverage of an attack in which a 60 year-old grandmother of six was gunned down in broad daylight at a city tram stop. Significantly, the morning after this report appeared the BBC did find it appropriate to use such terminology when reporting on an attack which did not take place – in Germany.

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The following day – October 10th further changes were made to the article. Over twenty-six hours after the incident had taken place the BBC noted the names of the victims and reported that Hamas had praised the attack and identified the terrorist as one of its members but the article’s additional omissions remained.

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It is of course highly unlikely that members of the BBC’s audience who had read the report the previous day would have revisited it twenty or more hours later on the off-chance that it might have been updated. 

The BBC’s coverage of this incident clearly fails to meet the remit of providing audiences with the full range of available information necessary for their understanding of both the specific story and its broader context. It does, however, provide yet another example of the double standards and lack of consistency at play in BBC reporting on terrorism.  

 

 

 

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

The BBC’s coverage of the terror attack in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on November 18th provides us with an opportunity to take a closer look at how the corporation framed this story across a variety of platforms.

Below is a sample of BBC coverage: obviously it does not include all of the content broadcast across the range of BBC platforms on the two days upon which the story was run.Pigua Har Nof 2

November 18th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers    

Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)  (both above are discussed here)

British-born man named as Jerusalem synagogue victim

Jerusalem synagogue: Three victims were US rabbis

As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack  live page

Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension   Jeremy Bowen

Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’ (all of the above are discussed here)

Filmed: (the reports also appeared on BBC television News programmes)

Synagogue victim ‘concerned about radicalisation’  An interview with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg

Israel: ‘No justification for this wanton violence’  Mark Regev

‘Chaotic scenes’ after Jerusalem synagogue attack  Yolande Knell

Jerusalem synagogue attack: ‘We heard a flurry of shots’  Eye witnesses

Israeli Police: ‘Terrorists killed in gun battle’  Micky Rosenfeld

 John Kerry on Jerusalem attack: ‘An act of pure terror’

Hamas spokesperson: ‘Every day Jerusalem is boiling’  Ghazi Hamad (discussed here)

Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Occupation responsible for attack’  (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks  backgrounder  (discussed here)

Television:

Interview with Naftali Bennett (discussed here)

Jerusalem synagogue attack ‘followed months of tension’  Jeremy Bowen

Radio:

BBC Radio 4 – ‘PM’ (discussed here and here)

BBC World Service radio – ‘Newshour’  (edition 1 discussed here, edition 2 discussed here)

November 19th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem attack: Synagogue reopens for worshippers  (discussed here)

Regional media trade blame for Jerusalem attack

Filmed: (also on appeared on BBC television news programmes)

Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Eyewitness describes shootout

Palestinian intifada ‘dangerously close,’ warns former US envoy

Radio:

BBC World Service radio –’Newshour’ (discussed here)Pigua Har Nof 1

One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.

Another remarkable fact is that in seven of the above reports and despite the existence of a pathologist’s report, the BBC nevertheless amplified or allowed the amplification of baseless Palestinian claims that a bus driver who committed suicide the day before the terror attack took place had been murdered by Israelis and presented that as a background factor for the attack.

On the day of the attack itself the BBC saw fit to broadcast interviews with Palestinian officials from several factions – Ghazi Hamad from Hamas, Mustafa Barghouti from the PNI and Hussam Zomlot from Fatah – all of whom were given free rein to promote falsehoods and propaganda, including claims of “attacks” on the Al Aqsa Mosque by Israelis.

The terror attack was presented across the board as being the result of “rising tensions” between Israelis and Palestinians and those tensions were attributed by the BBC to a variety of factors, with more than one usually proffered in each report and some factors emphasized multiple times in a particular item.

Two of the reports suggested that tensions could be explained by “discrimination” against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the issue of their right to Israeli citizenship was inaccurately represented. In three reports audiences were told that rising tensions were the result of “a cycle of violence” which, according to the BBC, began with the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June (not stated by the BBC as having been carried out by a Hamas cell) and the later murder of a Palestinian teenager from Shuafat.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

On five occasions tensions were attributed to the fact that no peace negotiations are currently underway and six reports cited the Palestinian death toll in the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas as a contributing factor but with no information provided to audiences with regard to Hamas’ instigation of that conflict or its strategies – such as the use of human shields – which contributed to the civilian death toll.

The campaign by some Israelis for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount was cited on ten occasions as causing “tensions” but the BBC elected not to explore the topic of why that should be the case. On five occasions Temple Mount was described by the BBC as a “disputed site” and viewers of BBC television news were even told by Jeremy Bowen that Palestinians are “enraged” by “fears about the future of Aqsa Mosque”, with no attempt to put those “fears” in their correct and factual context.

But the factor most frequently promoted as a cause of “tensions” which purportedly led to the terror attack was what the BBC termed “settlements” or “settler homes”, with that factor being cited on eleven occasions and the district of Silwan once again being specifically named in two reports.

Clearly most of the factors presented were framed as Israeli actions. The overall impression received by audiences therefore was that the “tensions” which lead to Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis are Palestinian reaction to Israeli action.

Another interesting aspect of the BBC’s framing of this story relates to the issue of Palestinian incitement. That factor was mentioned directly in two reports (John Kerry’s statement to the press and the interview with Mark Regev), but not by BBC correspondents. In two additional reports the BBC quoted the Israeli prime minister on the issue of Palestinian incitement. Incitement coming directly from the president of the Palestinian Authority was downplayed and dismissed by Jeremy Bowen and Tim Franks. In the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ listeners heard Yolande Knell paraphrase a supposed Palestinian claim that “Israel is also inciting the violence”.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, BBC audiences have not been informed at all about incitement and glorification of terrorism on the part of PA and Fatah officials (see recent examples here, here and here) and official Palestinian Authority media and institutions (see recent examples here, here, here, here and here). The sole reference to the issue of incitement to appear on the BBC News website in recent months has been an article by BBC Trending titled “The Palestinians calling for the ‘car uprising’” which appeared on November 13th and related to a social media campaign rather than to incitement from official PA sources.

So, whilst BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the “rising tensions” which supposedly led to the terror attack in Har Nof can be attributed to a variety of factors which are mostly – according to the BBC’s portrayal – attributable to Israeli actions, they remained completely ignorant on the issue of the crucial factor of the atmosphere being engineered by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

That glaring and continuing omission in BBC coverage can only be attributed to a politically motivated narrative being allowed to trump the corporation’s public purpose remit. 

 

 

 

Kevin Connolly’s cameo of a ‘popular’, ‘forgiving’ terrorist on BBC Radio 4

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly continued his role as the corporation’s ‘chief Jerusalem explainer’ (see some previous instalments here, here, here, here and here) on November 28th with a report broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – available for a limited period of time from 02:39:22 here.Today 28 11 14

Presenter John Humphrys introduced the item as follows:

“If you’re a Muslim you will know it as al Haram al Sharif. If you’re Jewish you’ll call it Temple Mount. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, this holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem is the focus of rising tensions between the two communities: tensions that some see as indicative perhaps of a kind of third Infitad…Intifada uprising. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly with this report.”

Kevin Connolly: “One by one, second by second, the mosques of East Jerusalem raise a call to prayer that hangs over the white stone skyline of this anxious, divided city. Somewhere in that plangent chorus is the call from the Al Aqsa Mosque which stands on ground sacred in Judaism and Islam alike, where Muslims have a monopoly of worship. Palestinians see a campaign by religious Jews for the right of worship to be extended to them in the context of a history of dispossession and defeat.”

Connolly fails to inform listeners that the Israeli authorities have stated on numerous occasions – including in interviews given to the BBC – that Israel has no intention of making any changes to that status quo. Audiences then hear interviewee Amir Heshin say:

“Today it’s a nuclear bomb. You just have to push the button and the whole Middle East will blow up.”

Connolly: “Amir Heshin is a former advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem. He says frustration has fuelled Palestinian fear and anger.”

Heshin: “On one side you have all these measures which are against and on the other side of the scale you have nothing. We are in the middle of the Intifada: Intifada which is based upon disappointment. They are sick of the Israeli attitude and they would like to change it.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to place Heshin’s words in their appropriate context had Connolly informed them that, in addition to indeed having been an advisor to former mayors of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, Heshin is also linked to an NGO called the Jerusalem Conflict Academic Centre which promotes a specific political approach to the issue of Jerusalem, including its division and the declaration of Temple Mount as an area of no sovereignty. Connolly continues:

“Not everyone is calling this a third Intifada but there are plenty of depressing straws in the wind. [sound of a detonation] That was the Israeli army blowing up the house of one of the Palestinians who’ve run over and killed hitch-hikers, tram passengers and pedestrians in recent months. It’s a form of punishment the state has revived in Jerusalem in recent weeks. But punishment is easier than prevention. [sound of a radio broadcast in Hebrew] Take this crime. At a railway station a young Palestinian stabs an equally young Israeli soldier.”

The incident Connolly describes occurred on November 10th and the terrorist did not just ‘stab’ his random victim Almog Shiloni – who, notably, remains unnamed in Connolly’s account – but killed him. Connolly continues:

“Suddenly the weapons are cars or knives – not guns or bombs – and the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations. Israel’s intelligence services are struggling.”

Not for the first time we see the BBC erasing from audience view the fact that among the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in recent weeks have been several members of known terrorist organisations, some of which have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Listeners then hear Connolly say:

“That young Palestinian was Nur Abu Hashem, a jobbing painter and decorator who often came from his home at Nablus in the occupied West Bank to work without papers in Israel.”

The terrorist is actually called Nur al-Din Abu Hashaya and his entry into Israel was illegal: a fact which Connolly’s euphemistic presentation does not make adequately clear. Neither does Connolly bother to inform listeners that Nablus (Schem) has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for almost two decades – since December 12th 1995 – under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Listeners then hear a recording of the terrorist’s mother speaking in Arabic, with Connolly saying:

“Nur Abu Hashem’s mother, Salsan [phonetic] waits with resignation for the inevitable demolition of her home. But worse for her than that are the nagging questions about how her popular son – a forgiving boy, she says – could have done what he’s accused of.”

So, whilst the victim of a vicious terror attack remains unnamed and impersonalised, Connolly did find it editorially justifiable to present a humanizing cameo of the murderer and his family, at the same time erasing Hashaya’s Hamas affiliations from audience view.

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Connolly goes on:

“History focuses in Jerusalem like rays of sunlight concentrated through glass. This is the City of David archaeological site which lies between the Al Aqsa compound and the Arab suburb of Silwan; occupied by Israel in the war of 1967 and reserved in the eyes of the world for a future Palestinian state.”

Yet again we see BBC presentation of Silwan – Kfar Shiloach – without any mention of its Jewish history. Like the rest of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after Jordan – despite an explicit warning from the Israeli prime minister – decided to attack Israel in the Six Day War, the status of Silwan is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of existing agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Kevin Connolly, however, clearly has no time for such negotiations: he is already promoting the notion of a worldwide consensus opinion on the issue and in doing so, obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Connolly then goes on to promote a theme which has been popular with BBC correspondents in recent weeks: the notion that the legal purchase of existing property in certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem turns people of a specific religion/ethnicity into “settlers” – and that despite the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ being “residential areas built by the Israeli government”.

“Daniel Luria works for an organization that helps Jews to find property in the area. He calls them residents – not settlers – and says proximity to Temple Mount – as Jews call the Al Aqsa compound – is a selling point.”

After a brief contribution from Daniel Luria, Connolly closes:

“The recent upsurge in violence here has been sporadic, unpredictable. But this jaunty cartoon video circulating on Arabic social media sites warns Israelis, in Hebrew, to expect more. No-one knows what today or tomorrow might bring but non-one thinks this is over.”

So what did listeners to Radio 4 learn about the factors causing the latest surge in violence and terror in Israel from this item by Kevin Connolly? The campaign for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount and the purchase of houses in Silwan by Jews are subjects which we have also seen previously promoted by the BBC in that context. Connolly’s narrative also includes portrayal of “frustration” and “disappointment” felt by Palestinians but the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and the role of terrorist organisations in turning those feelings into violent acts of terror were once again concealed from BBC audiences.  

BBC amplifies defamatory hearsay on shooting of Glick attacker on multiple platforms

The BBC has given quite a lot of column space and airtime to the topic of the closure of Temple Mount to visitors in order to reduce the likelihood of violence in Jerusalem after the attempted murder of Rabbi Yehuda Glick on October 29th and we will be addressing aspects of that coverage in due course. However, one particularly egregious inaccuracy deliberately promoted on a variety of BBC platforms deserves separate discussion.

On October 30th a filmed report for BBC television news by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville was published on the BBC News website under the title “Abbas: Mosque closure a ‘declaration of war’“. Sommerville opens his report as follows:Temple Mount Sommerville filmed

“Tear gas on the streets of East Jerusalem. These young men – few, but angry – rioted after the killing this morning of their neighbour. The trouble in Abu Tor continued as the body of Mua’taz Hijaz [sic] was taken away. He was killed by police on the roof of his home. They blame him for the attempted killing of a Right-wing Jewish activist. His cousin Maram was in the building when he was killed.”

The report then cuts to footage of Maram Hijazi saying:

“They took him and they take…took him upstairs and then they shot him. They killed him. No, we don’t know if there anything…any attack between them…by guns.”

No effort is made by Sommerville to present viewers with an official Israeli reply to those allegations.

Also on October 30th the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ included an item on the same topic (available from 00:40 here). In that report presenter James Menendez introduces an interviewee as follows:

“Jawad Siam is a resident of Silwan neighbourhood where Mua’taz Hijazi – the Palestinian suspect – was killed.”

Siam: “Very early in the morning today we heard shooting – a lot of shooting. And then some people started calling, telling someone is killed by the Israeli forces. We move to the house where we saw the body laying down and the soldiers started to close the street of the village of Silwan. The guy was attacked by many Israeli forces and was killed. For us and for people here it was very clear that Mua’taz Hijai who was killed could have been arrested. He could be arrested.”

What Menendez – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – does not bother to tell the millions of people listening to his programme is that Jawad Siam (who has been interviewed by the BBC before) is a political activist.Temple Mount Newshour

Next listeners hear an audio report from Quentin Sommerville who, in response to a request from Menendez for more information about Mua’taz Hijazi, says:

“Spoke to some of his family members earlier this morning. He’d been in prison for a number of years. His family say that he was…that it was around 5:30 this morning that Israeli security forces entered the home, that they grabbed him, they took him to the roof – or he went to the roof – and it was there….and we’ve seen the spot where he was shot dead. There were a number of bullet holes. The blood on the ground had just been cleared up. Neighbours we spoke to say that he was unarmed. They said they didn’t see him possessing a weapon at the time. However, the Israeli security forces say that there was a gunfight and that he was killed in that gun-battle.”

On October 31st an article appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israel promises to reopen Jerusalem holy site amid tension”. The report underwent numerous changes throughout the day and now appears with the headline “Jerusalem holy site is reopened amid tension“. A passage appearing in versions one and two of the report read as follows:

“Israeli police later killed a Palestinian suspected of shooting him [Yehuda Glick]. Moataz Hejazi, 32, was shot after reportedly opening fire when police surrounded his home.

However, his cousin alleges that he was shot by police after being detained in the house.”

In versions three to six inclusive the wording was changed to read:Temple Mount written

“Mr Hejazi’s cousin alleges that he was shot by police after being detained within his house. Israeli police say Mr Hejazi was killed after he began shooting at police who then opened fire in response.”

So let’s recap on what BBC audiences have been told in these reports. They have been led to believe that Hijazi may not have been armed and that – rather than arresting him – the Israeli security forces took him up to the roof of the house and there shot and killed him. Whilst some – but not all – of the reports present the Israeli police force’s statement on the incident, the BBC affords much more airtime to the promotion of what is ultimately an allegation that a possibly unarmed man was summarily executed. That very serious accusation is enthusiastically amplified by the BBC to millions on multiple platforms despite the fact that it has not independently verified the accounts provided by interested parties including family members, anonymous neighbours and a known anti-Israel political activist who stood trial a few years ago for assaulting a man he suspected of selling property to Jews.

BBC Watch contacted the spokesman for the Israeli police force with regard to the claims made in these BBC reports and was informed that Hijazi was indeed armed and that when the police force surrounded the building with the intent of making an arrest, he opened fire at them. Counter terrorism police responded by shooting the suspect.

It is the officially defined task of the BBC to enable audiences to reach an “understanding of international issues”. In order to do that, it is obviously necessary for the BBC to filter out the rumours, myths, conspiracy theories and gossip surrounding any story and to present audiences with only the verified facts.

If instead the BBC elects indulge its own political predilections and to jettison its obligations to accuracy and impartiality by uncritically amplifying any and every hearsay and propaganda of the genre which members of its funding public could easily find for themselves on a plethora of websites of one type or another without paying £145.50 a year for the pleasure, then – quite frankly – it renders itself irrelevant.