Weekend long read

1) Back in April the BBC News website told audiences that the Israeli prime minister had ‘snubbed’ the German foreign minister over the latter’s insistence on meeting what the BBC described as “human rights activists”. At the Fathom Journal, Gadi Taub takes a closer look at that story.

“Gabriel, on the occasion of an official visit for Holocaust Memorial Day, announced that he would meet the representatives of two radical left-wing civil society organisations – Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. When Netanyahu said that if those meetings went ahead he would boycott the visit and refuse to meet Gabriel, many thought he was overreacting. Few, however, expected Gabriel to choose those two organisations over Israel’s prime minster (and acting foreign minister). And when he did, things began to appear in a new light. It no longer seemed that the German foreign minister made an honest mistake, not knowing how controversial these organisations were among Israelis. It appeared, instead, that he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was us, the Israeli public, who had made a mistake in our assumptions about German-Israeli relations.”

2) At the JCPA, Ambassador Alan Baker examines the issue of Palestinian refugees and UNRWA.  

“Unlike its sister organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), mandated since 1950 to coordinate the handling of all refugee communities worldwide, UNRWA was established in that same year to deal exclusively with Palestinian refugees, thereby excluding them from the protection of the UNHCR.

While the aims and operations of the UNHCR are based on international instruments – mainly the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – UNRWA was never provided with a specific statute or charter. It has operated since its inception under a general mandate, renewed every three years by the General Assembly.

The major distinction and main reason for the establishment of a separate agency to deal with Palestinian refugees, was to crystallize their sole aim – not rehabilitation and resettlement, as was the aim of UNHCR – but solely “return.” Inclusion of Palestinian refugees under the general UNHCR definition of “refugees” would have been interpreted as a waiver of their claim that “return” was the sole solution.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has a new report on a topic habitually absent from BBC coverage of the Middle East: Hamas’ indoctrination of children in summer camps.

“This year, as in previous years, summer camps were held throughout the Gaza Strip, attended by tens of thousands of Gazan children and adolescents. Most of the camps were organized by Hamas, some by other terrorist organizations and institutions. The camps provide a wide range of activities, from ordinary summer pastimes (sports, arts and crafts, computers, day trips, etc.) to military training and ideological indoctrination. Hamas attributes great importance to the summer camps, considering them an effective means for influencing the younger generation and training a cadre of operatives and supporters for its military wing and movement institutions.

An examination of some of the closing ceremonies of the 2017 summer camps shows they emphasized military topics coordinated to the age of the participants. The older the campers were, the more and varied military training they received. The adolescents, some of them who would join Hamas military wing in the near future, wore uniforms and learned how to dismantle and reassemble weapons. They also practiced simulating infiltrating Israel through tunnels, attacking IDF posts, taking control of tank positions, and capturing IDF soldiers and abducting them to the Gaza Strip. They trained with real weapons, mostly light arms and RPG launchers.”

4) At the FDD, Grant Rumley takes a look at Mahmoud Abbas’ handling of last month’s violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere following the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack on July 14th.

“The closest the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got to an actual third intifada, or uprising, happened late this past month when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas mobilized the shadowy militia elements of his party for widespread Friday protests. What the lone-wolf stabbing attacks that have plagued Israel for the past several years lacked—and what both the first and second intifadas had—was political leadership and support. In activating the Tanzim, a faction of his own party that Abbas has struggled to control, the Palestinian President was sanctioning his people’s unrest.”

Revisiting a BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem

On July 26th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ heard a report from Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman concerning the unrest in Jerusalem and elsewhere that followed the murder of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack twelve days earlier.

As was noted here at the time, in that report:

“Bateman then went to visit the family of a person killed while participating in violent rioting in a district of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Children played outside as I visited the home of Susanne Abu Ghannam. Her son Mohammed was among those who died on Friday, shot – she said – by Israeli forces.”

Although listeners heard the mother claim that “the occupation forces were surrounding the hospital in order to take his body”, Bateman did not inform them that there is no indication that was the case.”

On August 12th Israel’s Channel 10 aired footage filmed inside the grounds of that hospital – the Makassed Hospital – on the same day. The video shows (at 01:20) large amounts of paving stones and breeze blocks which were stockpiled in advance in the hospital’s car park as ammunition to be thrown at the security forces during the rioting. One rioter can be seen (at 01:40) throwing a breeze block at the police from the hospital’s roof. Channel 10’s reporter explains (at 02:22) that the police activity in the hospital was aimed at locating the rioters hiding in the hospital grounds.

The likelihood that BBC audiences will hear or see that aspect of the story is of course exceedingly slim.  

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, BBC News website reporting on the Israeli government’s intention to bar Al Jazeera from reporting and broadcasting in Israel failed to provide any examples of the incitement broadcast by the network that prompted that move – in sharp contrast to its coverage of a recent similar case in the UK.  

The story was also covered in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on August 6th with presenter James Menendez introducing the item (from 38:30 here) as follows:

Menendez: “The Israeli government says it wants to take the Qatar funded broadcaster Al Jazeera off the air. The move was announced by the country’s communications minister Ayoub Kara at a news conference in Jerusalem today.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of a small part of the minister’s statement.

Voice-over: “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera which has actually caused us to lose the best of our sons and has been the source of incitement.”

Menendez: “So what exactly did he mean and why now? Questions for our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Those two questions are obviously crucial to audience understanding of the story but did Tom Bateman actually provide any answers?

Bateman: “The communications minister in this press conference today said that it was about a long-running dispute that they have with the network, accusing it of inciting violence – he said – siding with extremist organisations. And this has been a refrain we’ve heard from the Israeli government repeatedly; not least from the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who last month launched an outspoken attack on the network. He said that it was inciting violence, particularly around the recent security crisis over the holy site of Haram al Sharif – Temple Mount – in the old city of Jerusalem. Now this was a particularly violent episode that lasted a couple of weeks and the prime minister had effectively suggested that the network’s reporting of that event – the events surrounding it – was leading people to violent attacks or at least suggesting that they carry them out.”

Failing to provide any examples of such incitement or to clarify the term “extremist organisations”, Bateman then swiftly moved on to the technicalities.

Bateman: “I mean the specific measures being suggested this afternoon are that the Israeli government will seek to force cable and satellite providers to block the signal in Israel and also to revoke the press accreditation – the press cards – for Al Jazeera reporters in Israel, which will effectively make it impossible for them to work here. The network itself has been covering this extensively today and recently its bureau chief in Jerusalem said that in effect Israel and its prime minister was siding with Arab autocratic states who similarly had sought to ban the network.”

Menendez: “Yeah, that was gonna be my next question. Is this Israel just doing it for its own reasons or is it acting – perhaps not in conjunction – but at least siding with those countries who’ve been demanding that Qatar shut Al Jazeera down? And I’m thinking of course of, you know, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Bateman: “Well certainly that would be the view of the network itself who’s, you know, have said that amid this furious diplomatic rift between a number of Sunni Arab states – including Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and Qatar, which of course funds Al Jazeera, that they believe Israel is simply siding with them because it’s politically convenient to do so. I mean its editor also pointed out what he called was the irony of Al Jazeera being one of the very few media networks in the Middle East that is prepared to air, you know, Israeli voices – Israeli government voices – and yet they believe that a self-proclaimed functioning democracy has sided with dictatorships, as he put it.”

Listeners then heard the following garbled portrayal of the core story which obviously did nothing to inform listeners about the kind of incitement broadcast by Al Jazeera and also confused bias and one-sided reporting with the very serious issue of incitement.  

Bateman: “I think the Israeli government view will be simply that it’s had enough and in their view they, well, believe, you know, particularly the Arabic facing service they believe has, you know, been biased against Israel. They will say it’s failed to give, you know, sufficient credence to the Israeli argument – the Israeli side of arguments – in these situations and therefore that that is, you know, that incitement is so serious that it merits closure.”

Bateman went on, returning to the technical topics with which he is clearly more comfortable:

Bateman: “Having said all of that, this will have to go through the Israeli parliament and that may be easier said than done because I, you know, particularly with the desire to block transmissions, that it likely to require parliamentary approval so there’s no time scale on this. It is simply at the moment a desire of intent.”

Menendez: “And just to be clear, is it both the Arabic and English networks?”

Bateman could at this point have clarified the significant differences between Al Jazeera’s English language and Arabic language content but declined to do so.

Bateman: “Well certainly they both operate from…they have correspondents of both language services in Israel – in Jerusalem – and so I think the assumption must be that it will be…will be both. I don’t think, you know, the Israeli government sees a distinction.”

As with the BBC News website’s written article, this report failed to adequately explain the story to audiences because it refrained from providing them with any examples of the kind of incitement that is at its core. That editorial policy turns the story into no more than a list of competing claims which audiences then have to judge for themselves without the benefit of factual information. Clearly that approach does not meet the BBC’s remit of providing “accurate and impartial news […] so that audiences can engage fully with issues” and it stands in sharp contrast to its own reporting of the recent similar story concerning the closure of a UK radio station on the grounds of incitement. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two 

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

When Britain’s media regulatory authority OFCOM suspended and later revoked the licence of a local radio station in the UK last month, the BBC News website provided audiences with an accurate and comprehensive explanation of the reasoning behind that decision in two articles titled “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM suspended over ‘terror talks’” and “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM loses licence“.

“A community radio station has had its licence revoked for broadcasting more than 25 hours of lectures by an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Sheffield-based Iman FM’s licence had already been suspended by Ofcom for playing the lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. […]

“We have strict rules prohibiting harmful content in programmes likely to incite crime,” the Ofcom spokesperson added. […]

It followed “extremely serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code, after it aired material likely to incite or encourage the commission of crime or to lead to disorder”, said Ofcom. […]

In 2011 the United Nations Security Council described Awlaki as a “leader, recruiter and trainer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

His sermons are thought to have inspired terrorist attacks including the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 in which 12 people died and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 US soldiers were killed.”

That standard of clear and informative reporting was not however in evidence on August 6th when the BBC News website published a report now titled “Al Jazeera: Israel seeks to shut offices and take network off air“. [emphasis added]

Version 1

“Israel is seeking to close Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s offices in the country and revoke its journalists’ media credentials.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara alleged that the channel supported terrorism, and said both its Arabic and English-language channels would be taken off air.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the broadcaster of “incitement”. […]

Mr Netanyahu had accused the pan-Arab TV channel of fuelling a recent crisis around a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The Israeli prime minister vowed in late July to “expel Al Jazeera” for its reporting of the issue, which he said had incited violence. […]

Israel has however frequently accused it [Al Jazeera] of being biased in reporting the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

The BBC’s report refrained from providing its audiences with any examples of the kind of Al Jazeera material that has prompted such ‘allegations’ and ‘accusations’ past and present.

Readers were not informed, for example, that two days after the terror attack that sparked the recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere, Al Jazeera aired an interview with the deputy head of the banned northern Islamic Movement in which – as documented by MEMRI – he was given an unchallenged platform to promote pernicious incitement.

“Kamal Khatib: 22 years ago, we said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger. At the time, we said that throughout the excavations, the occupation used chemical substances that have a long-term effect. These substances could eat away at the rocks and pillars, but its effect would not show immediately, and afterwards they would be able to claim that the cracks in Al-Aqsa [walls]… It has happened. There are fissures and sinkholes in some places. [Their plan was that] they would be able to claim that it was the working of nature. It seems… Actually, I shouldn’t say “seems”…

Interviewer: Sorry to interrupt you, Sheikh, but did [Israel] do it now, when the mosque was closed? Did it execute this secret scheme?

Kamal Khatib: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I fear – I am almost convinced – that the goal of Israel in closing the mosque was not just to search for weapons, as the [Israelis] claimed. They know that there are no weapons inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Neither were readers told, for example, that in 2008 Al Jazeera threw a birthday party for the convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar (for which it later apologised) or that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al Qaradawi has a regular Al Jazeera slot from which he has been inciting against Jews – and others – for years.

While failing to provide readers with any such examples, the BBC’s article does however report various Al Jazeera statements on the story, even amplifying the unquestioned claim that the network is “independent” despite the fact that it does not report on the autocratic regime that is the source of its funding.

“Al Jazeera has condemned the decision. […]

An Al Jazeera official in the Qatari capital Doha told AFP that the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East, and considers what it has done is dangerous”. […]

The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was “professional and objective”.

The network’s editor in Jerusalem has accused Mr Netanyahu of collusion with his autocratic Arab neighbours in an attack on free and independent media.”

Obviously in order to understand this story properly, BBC audiences needed to be provided with information concerning the kind of material broadcast by Al Jazeera that has sparked the objections – just as they were in the case of the Sheffield radio station. The BBC News website failed to provide that essential background information but did other BBC platforms do any better? That question will be answered in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

 

 

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part two

In part one of this post we looked at what the BBC News website reported – and what not – throughout the first week of the events that took place in Jerusalem and elsewhere between July 14th and July 28th in order to assess the ‘historical record’ that remains available to members of the public trying to find information on those events.

While the first week of events received little BBC coverage with only four reports (3 written and one filmed) published between July 14th and July 21st inclusive, the second week saw the publication of ten reports (9 written and one filmed).

Saturday, July 22nd:

Events covered by BBC: Violent rioting continues – two Palestinians killed (one apparently self-inflicted).

BBC report: “Jerusalem: Metal detectors at holy site ‘could be removed’

Events not reported by the BBC: Fatah incitement continues. Turkish president issues statement condemning Israel. Anti-Jewish demonstration at synagogue in Istanbul.

Sunday, July 23rd:

Events covered by the BBC: Israeli police install security cameras at entrances to Temple Mount. Arab League issues statementIncident at Israeli embassy in Amman.

BBC reports: “Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site“, Israeli ‘kills attacker’ at Jordan embassy

Events not reported by the BBC: Waqf issues statement rejecting any and all security measures. Violence continues in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Violent demonstrations at synagogues in Istanbul. Missile fired from Gaza Strip.

Monday, July 24th:

Events covered by the BBC: Israeli staff at Amman embassy return to Israel.

BBC reports: Israel and Jordan in diplomatic standoff after embassy deaths“, Israeli embassy staff home after Amman standoff “, Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’” (discussed here)

Events not reported by the BBC: Missile fired from Gaza strip (discussed here). Stabbing in Petah Tikva.  PA minister promotes incitement on PA TV.

Tuesday, July 25th:

Events covered by the BBC: Metal detectors removed. Waqf issues statement continuing boycott. Abbas maintains freeze on ties with Israel.

BBC reports: Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site“, Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas

Events not reported by the BBC: Jordanian parliamentarians protest their government’s handling of embassy incident. Turkish president makes inflammatory statements. Fatah continues incitement. Violence continues.

Wednesday, July 26th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Abbas mobilises Fatah Tanzim ahead of Friday demonstrations, PA and Fatah continue incitement. Hamas calls for ‘Day of Rage’ on Friday. PLO declares continuation of boycott. Waqf presents list of demands to Israeli police.

Thursday, July 27th:

Events covered by the BBC: Remaining security measures removed. Waqf lifts boycott, Muslim visitors return to Temple Mount. Violence continues.

BBC reports: Israel removes Jerusalem flashpoint security apparatus “,Palestinians return to holy site after Israel security reversal“,Jerusalem holy site: Cheers as scaffolding removed“, Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths” (discussed here)

Events not reported by the BBC: Funerals for terrorists held in Umm al Fahm. Arab League accuses Israel of ‘desecration’ of holy site. Palestinians barricade themselves inside al Aqsa mosque.

Friday, July 28th:

Events covered by BBC: Men under 50 temporarily barred from entering Temple Mount after threats of violence.  Violent rioting on Gaza border and elsewhere. Attempted stabbing in Gush Etzion.

BBC reports: “Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes” 

Events not reported by BBC: Anti-Israel protests in Jordan and Iran.

As we see, BBC audiences were not provided with coverage of this story as it began with no reporting on developments that followed the July 14th terror attack seen until the appearance of Yolande Knell’s ‘backgrounder’ on July 20th.

In the coverage that was provided we see a complete absence of reporting on Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement and no mention at all of the Northern Islamic Movement. The level of violence was often played down with rioting described as “protests” and with one exception, additional terror attacks were not reported. Apart from brief belated mentions of one demonstration in Jordan, anti-Israel demonstrations and inflammatory statements by politicians in other countries were completely ignored. Significantly, BBC audiences saw no reporting at all on the violence against the Jewish community in Istanbul.

As noted here previously (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC’s coverage mostly failed to provide audiences with the essential facts behind the key issue of the ‘status quo’ at Temple Mount and frequently employed partial terminology that endorses the Palestinian narrative. 

Related Articles:

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

Did the BBC adequately explain the Temple Mount ‘status quo’?

A part of the Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story that BBC audiences were not told

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part one

 

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part one

Coverage of the events in Jerusalem – and related events elsewhere – during the second half of July naturally appeared on a variety of BBC platforms (see ‘related articles’ below) but the information that will continue to be accessible to the general public as what the corporation calls ‘historical records’ is that published on the BBC News website.

So how will that story be perceived by anyone trying to understand it in the future? Comparing the timeline of actual events with the information provided in the relevant BBC reports allows us to answer that question.

Friday, July 14th:

07:00 – Three terrorists from Umm al Fahm attack and kill two Israeli policemen stationed at Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Temple Mount closed to civilians as police conduct investigation.

BBC report: “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site” (discussed here)

Events covered by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Hamas. Mufti and al Aqsa preacher briefly detained by police. Waqf demands re-opening of site and calls for mass prayer in the streets. PA president Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack.

Events not reported by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and outlawed northern Islamic Movement’s Raed Salah. Fatah issues statement condemning closure of site and calls for ‘rage’. Jordan demands immediate re-opening of site. PA president Mahmoud Abbas calls for reversal of site closure. Arab League and OIC condemn the closure – but not the terror attack. Firebomb attack in Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 15th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount remains closed. Jordanian government spokesman demands that Israel open the site, despite ongoing police investigation. Demonstrations in Amman. Fatah incitement continues. Shooting attack in Ateret.

Sunday, July 16th:

Events covered by the BBC: 12:00 – Temple Mount re-opened to Muslim (only) visitors (briefly mentioned in a BBC report on another topic).

Events not reported by the BBC: Metal detectors installed at some of entry gates to Temple Mount: two gates in operation, around 600 worshippers visit. Waqf refuses to enter the site, instructs others to so the same and instigates protest. Jordanian parliament prays for perpetrators of Friday’s terror attack. Northern Islamic Movement incitement continues. Rioting continues.

Monday, July 17th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount re-opened for non-Muslim visitors, three gates opened to Muslim visitors. Waqf issues statement condemning metal detectors and instructing Muslims to pray outside the site. Rioting and demonstrations continue; PLO’s Mustafa Barghouti participates.  Fatah calls for a ‘Day of Rage’ on July 19th.

Tuesday, July 18th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Violent demonstrations continue. Vehicular attack near Hebron.

Wednesday, July 19th:

Events not reported by BBC: Temple Mount briefly closed to non-Muslim visitors. PA prime minister calls on international community to force Israel to remove metal detectors. Waqf instructs Jerusalem mosques to close on Friday and send congregations to the streets. Fatah declared ‘Day of Rage’ – violent demonstrations continue.

Thursday, July 20th:

BBC publishes its first report since July 14th: “Jerusalem holy site security row explained“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Police release video of preparations for terror attack including smuggling of weapons into al Aqsa mosque by accomplice. Although later reports told audiences that “Israel says” that weapons were smuggled into the site (but did not specifically mention the mosque), the video itself did not appear in any BBC content.

Attempted stabbing in Gush Etzion. Violent demonstrations continue. Hamas calls for mass protests on Friday.

Friday, July 21st:

Events reported by the BBC: Access to Temple Mount continues to be open. Rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Three Palestinian rioters killed.

Mahmoud Abbas announces end to ‘all contacts’ with Israel. Three Israelis murdered and one wounded in terror attack in Halamish. Hamas praises attack.

BBC reports: East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar” (discussed here), Bethlehem: Israeli forces and Palestinians clash“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here), Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank attack” (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Abbas announces $25 million budget to support ‘steadfastness’. Fatah incitement continues. Anti-Israel demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia (demonstrations in Jordan briefly mentioned in later July 24 reports)

Part two of this post will examine the second week of BBC coverage of events.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

Did the BBC adequately explain the Temple Mount ‘status quo’?

For anyone trying to understand the events ostensibly related to new security measures at entrances to Temple Mount in the latter half of July, familiarity with the history and terms of the ‘status quo’ operating at that site is obviously of prime importance. Without that information, it is impossible to make sense of Palestinian and Israeli claims or to reach informed conclusions about the story.

The history of that ‘status quo’ of course began in June 1967 when Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem ended after it lost the war it had launched together with Egypt and Syria.

“Within hours of Israel’s victory in Six-Day War and the unification of Jerusalem, the Minister of Defense at the time, Moshe Dayan, arrived on the Temple Mount and began to formulate the arrangements that would eventually be labeled “the status quo on the Temple Mount.” Dayan ordered the Israeli flag that had been raised at the site to be lowered and Israeli forces on the Temple Mount to be withdrawn to a position in the northern sector of the compound. […]

The new order that Dayan formulated on the Temple Mount was crystallized on the basis of Dayan’s belief that this was the correct formula of action to prevent the national-territorial conflict from spilling over into a religious one, since a religious war would be much more dangerous.

The historical status quo on the Temple Mount included the following key components:

  1. The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to administer the site and would be responsible for the religious and civil arrangements concerning the Temple Mount.
  2. Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they could visit there. (This right – freedom of access to the Mount – was even anchored in the framework of Israel’s Protection of the Holy Places Law, 1967).
  3. The Israeli Police would be responsible for security within the holy compound, the interior area and its outskirts, the wall and the gates.
  4. Israeli sovereignty and law would apply to the Temple Mount, as in the other parts of Jerusalem where Israeli law applied after the Six-Day War. This ruling was upheld by the Israel Supreme Court more than once.
  5. Later on, it was decided that the only gate by which Jews would be allowed to enter the Temple Mount would be the Mughrabi Gate (Moors’ Gate), located in the middle of the Western Wall, while Muslims would enter the Mount through all the other gates. Tourists would be permitted to enter via three gates: the Mughrabi Gate, the Chain Gate and the Cotton Merchants’ Gate. In practice, today tourists are able to enter the Mount only via the Mughrabi Gate.
  6. Over the years, it was prohibited to wave flags of any kind on the Temple Mount.”

While some of those components have changed over time (for example, visiting hours for non-Muslims have been reduced and Muslim prayer areas have been expanded), the basic division of responsibility between Israel and the Waqf remains unchanged – as summed up concisely by the Times of Israel (which also has some good background on the history of the Waqf here):

“The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. Under an arrangement in place since Israel emerged victorious in the Six Day War in 1967, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under this status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.”

So how well was that crucial background communicated to BBC News website audiences during the last two weeks of July? In all, eighteen reports (16 written and two filmed) relating to stories connected to the tensions surrounding security measures installed after the terror attack on July 14th were published on the website in the fifteen days between that date and July 28th.

Only just over half (55.5%) of those reports included any sort of mention of the issue of the ‘status quo’.

Four reports cited the ‘status quo’ – or “arrangements” – without bothering to explain it.

East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar 21/7/17:

“In the wake of the killing of the police last Friday, Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the holy site. The move, however, drew an angry reaction from Palestinian and Islamic leaders who say it is a violation of the status quo. […]

Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain the status quo – a delicate set of arrangements in place at the site for the past 50 years. Any changes there are often regarded by Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a sought-after state, as a violation of these arrangements.”

Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site 23/7/17:

“But Palestinians strongly object to the installation of metal detectors. They see it as a move by Israel to assert more control over the sacred site and as a violation of longstanding access arrangements. […]

Meanwhile, the Muslim authorities overseeing the Al-Aqsa mosque say they reject any change to the status quo.

Israel insists the measure does not alter the delicate set of arrangements governing the site for the past 50 years.”

Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’  24/7/17:

“But Palestinians strongly object to the installation of metal detectors. They see it as a move by Israel to assert more control over the sacred site and as a violation of longstanding access arrangements.”

Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes  28/7/17:

“Palestinians said Israel’s new security measures upset the delicate status quo, which Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain since occupying the area in the 1967 Middle East war.”

Three reports mentioned Jordan’s role in the arrangement.

Israeli ‘kills attacker’ at Jordan embassy 23/7/17 :

“Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, is the custodian of the site, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount.”

Israel and Jordan in diplomatic standoff after embassy deaths 24/7/17:

“The incident comes at a time of heightened tension in the region over a Jerusalem holy site, where Jordan has an historical role as custodian. […]

Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, funds the upkeep of the site, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount, and runs the Waqf, the religious trust which administers the compound.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths 27/7/17:

“There were also protests against the security set-up in Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1949 [sic] to 1967, funds the compound’s upkeep and runs the Waqf, the religious trust which administers it.”

Only three (16.6%) of the total of eighteen reports actually made an effort to clarify the division of responsibility at the site.

Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site 14/7/17:

“The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there.”

Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site 25/7/17 and Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas 25/7/17:

“For Palestinians, their [metal detectors] installation symbolised what they saw as an attempt by Israel to assert further control over the site of their holy shrine in occupied East Jerusalem – the mosque that also acts as a powerful symbol of their national aspiration. […]

The site is hugely politically sensitive and has been subject to a delicate set of arrangements – commonly referred to as the “status quo” – governing access, security and administration, for the past 50 years.

Under the arrangement, Israel is responsible for security and a Jordanian-funded religious trust, or Waqf, looks after the day-to-day running of the site.

Palestinians said the placing of the metal detectors upset the status quo, which Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain. Israel said Palestinians were using the issue as a pretext to spread hostility against the Jewish state.”

In other words, visitors to the BBC News website would have to have been lucky enough to stumble across one of three reports published on two separate days over a fifteen day period in order to get some inkling of what this story is really all about.

A part of the Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story that BBC audiences were not told

In the early morning hours of July 27th the funerals of the three terrorists who committed the attack at Lions’ Gate nearly two weeks earlier took place in their home town of Umm al Fahm in northern Israel.

“Thousands of people attended the funerals overnight Wednesday of the three Arab-Israeli terrorists who carried out a terror attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem two weeks ago, killing two Israeli Druze police officers with weapons they had smuggled onto the holy site.

Some 3,000 people were at the funerals in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, according to Hebrew media.

The burial processions included cheers and celebratory chants, as attendees vowed to become “martyrs for Al-Aqsa,” in reference to the mosque that sits on the Temple Mount along with the Dome of the Rock sanctuary.

Some flew the Palestinian flag. “Millions of martyrs are marching to Al-Aqsa,” the crowd chanted, in footage shown on Channel 2.

An unnamed member of the Jabarin family praised the attackers, telling Channel 2 they were “shahids” (martyrs), and saying “they received the respect they deserved with a mass funeral the area has not seen before.””

The organisers of the funerals claimed higher attendance:

“During the funeral procession, the three terrorists, buried alongside one another, were hailed as “shahids” (martyrs) while firecrackers were shot in the air, Palestinian flags were waved and the masses chanted: “By fire and with blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa,” and “You are the shahids of Al-Aqsa.”

The procession was led by the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, and other senior members of the outlawed organization. One participant said the funeral was one of the largest ever to take place in Umm al-Fahm, “as befitting the shahids honor.”

Funeral organizers claimed that over 10,000 people took part in the procession, while the Israel Police said it comprised less than 3,000 people.”

Writing at Ha’aretz a few days later, Moshe Arens noted that:

“Unfortunately, engraved in the memory of many will remain not only the criminal act by three Israeli Arabs from Umm al-Fahm, but even more disturbing, the mass celebrations there that accompanied their funerals. The gunmen evidently had the support of many in Umm al-Fahm, and others seem prepared to follow in their footsteps. Those who wanted to believe that it was the act of a few crazed individuals are sorely disappointed. The assailants killed two policemen and damaged the fabric of relationships between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens that will take a long time to repair.”

Those getting their news from the BBC, however, have no idea that those funerals took place and are completely unaware of the scenes that so disturbed the Israeli public in general and foremost the families of the two murdered policemen.

On July 27th the BBC News website published four reports on its Middle East page:

Israel removes Jerusalem flashpoint security apparatus 27/7/17

Jerusalem holy site: Cheers as scaffolding removed 27/7/17

Palestinians return to holy site after Israel security reversal 27/7/17

Jordan’s King Abdullah calls for Israel trial over embassy deaths 27/7/17

None of them includes so much as a word about the scenes that had taken place in Umm al Fahm earlier that same day.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

As noted in earlier posts (see here, here and here), listeners to BBC World Service radio recently saw the return of a practice that was documented on these pages just over a year ago. The reappearance of that practice has not however been limited to that particular BBC platform: it has also been seen in reporting on the BBC News website.

The background to the story is as follows:

The BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Temple Mount – both words capped. Note that the area in Jerusalem that translates from Hebrew as the Temple Mount should also be described, though not necessarily in the first four pars, as known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (ie lower case ‘al’, followed by a hyphen – and never ‘the al-Haram al-Sharif’, which is tautological). The Arabic translates as the Noble Sanctuary.” [emphasis in the original]

That guideline was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

Since the July 14th terror attack at Lions Gate, visitors to the BBC News website have seen the term “al Aqsa mosque compound” used in a third of the reports relating to Temple Mount that were published between July 14th and July 28th.

1) “Jerusalem holy site security row explained” 20/7/17, Yolande Knell (discussed here):

Knell: “Now the gate to the al Aqsa mosque compound is open once again but to reach it you have to pass through one of those metal detectors.” [emphasis added]

In written reports, BBC audiences saw both the use of terminology that more or less complies with the BBC Academy’s style guide as well as language that complies with the PLO’s instructions to foreign journalists.

2) “Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site” 23/7/17:

“Tensions over the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have surged in recent days, with further deaths.

The site in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

3) “Jerusalem holy site tensions ‘must ease by Friday’ ” 24/7/17:

“Nikolay Mladenov urged a rapid solution to the current crisis over the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The site in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

4) “Israel removes flashpoint metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site” 25/7/17:

“It followed the killing on 14 July of two Israeli policemen by Israeli-Arab gunmen, who police say had hidden their weapons on the hilltop site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. […]

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

5) “Palestinian-Israeli contact to stay frozen, says Abbas” 25/7/17:

“Both sides are under pressure from the international community to resolve the row over the holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. […]

The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and holiest site in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.” [emphasis added]

6) “Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt clashes”  28/7/17:

“Palestinians returned to the hilltop site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as the Temple Mount on Thursday after Islamic authorities lifted a two-week boycott called in protest at new Israeli security measures there. […]

Jews revere it as the location of two Biblical Temples and the holiest place in Judaism. It is also the al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven, according to Islamic tradition.” [emphasis added]

The above-mentioned instructions in the BBC Academy’s style guide remain unchanged. However, as we see, journalists on the ground have returned to the practice of promoting the politically partisan, PLO recommended, term “al Aqsa mosque compound” – thereby compromising the BBC’s reputation as an impartial media organisation.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

 

 

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

The lead story in the July 27th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ related to the removal of security measures at the entrance to Temple Mount. In all, almost 28% of the programme’s total air time was devoted to that particular story.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the first part of the item (from 00:53 here) as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “We begin though with the resolution of a story that has been bubbling away since mid-July in the city of Jerusalem and which was showing signs of escalating more widely in the region. The location? A potent cauldron that is a sensitive and holy site to both Jews and Muslims known as Temple Mount to the Jews and as Haram al Sharif to the Muslims. And the issue? Israel’s decision to install new security measures at the entrance of al Aqsa after two Israeli policemen were killed by three assailants.”

Those new security measures were of course installed at the entrance to the site as a whole rather than at the entrance to the mosque named al Aqsa. In other words, we see here that Iqbal – like some of her colleagues – has adopted terminology recommended by the PLO in an ‘advisory’ document put out to members of the foreign media in 2014.  She continued, failing to inform listeners that the attack on the two policemen was a terror attack and of the relevant fact that the perpetrators used guns smuggled into al Aaqsa mosque by an accomplice.

Iqbal: “The authorities say the men initiated the attack from inside the compound. The installation of metal detectors prompted protests and they were replaced with cameras which also did not satisfy Muslims who boycotted the area. Instead of praying in the mosque, they did so on the streets. It was a tense situation. Israeli police have now removed all new security measures and the situation has returned to what it was before July the fourteenth. Muslim officials say they’re satisfied and that they’ll urge worshippers to begin praying at the site again.”

The programme’s worldwide listeners then heard Iqbal again refer to Temple Mount as “al Aqsa mosque” as she described scenes that actually took place outside Lions Gate, along with comments from two people who made identical remarks in a video put out by Reuters – both of whom were not “outside al Aqsa mosque” but on streets elsewhere in the city.

Iqbal: “Palestinians gathered outside al Aqsa mosque to celebrate. The fate of the site is an emotional issue and many Palestinians like Umm Dir [phonetic] hope it’s a first step towards Israel giving up control.”

Voiceover: “Thanks to God it’s a victory. And with God’s help we hope that a time will come in which we will see all of Jerusalem and Palestine free.”

Iqbal: “Salim Amr [phonetic] from East Jerusalem expressed his gratitude, quoting from the Koran.”

Voiceover: “This is a blessing from God. If you stand for God, God will help you in victory. The closer you are to God, God will help us.”

Iqbal next introduced comment from a member of the Waqf but without clarifying to listeners that he and his organisation were central to the initiation and perpetuation of the boycott of the site supposedly over security measures, using the canard that they ‘violated’ the status quo. Neither did Iqbal inform audiences that Salhab has a rich history of denial of Jewish history and rights on Temple Mount and promotion of incitement using baseless rumours about ‘threats’ to the site.

Iqbal: “Abdul Azim Salhab is the head of the Waqf council: a Jordanian-backed body that oversees the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem.”

Voiceover: “The destructive Israeli occupation tried to break the will of this nation – the Palestinian nation – and especially the people of Jerusalem who all stood proudly together. And we want them to keep standing to defend the holy al Aqsa mosque, outside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque and now – God willing – inside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque.”

Iqbal then spoke to an Israeli minister.

Iqbal: “So; some Palestinians seeing this as a victory. I’ve been speaking to Yuval Steinitz who is a member of Israel’s security cabinet and the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources. Is this decision a climb-down by the Israeli government?”

In his responses to Iqbal’s questions, Steinitz raised an issue which has been glaringly absent from the BBC’s coverage of this story as a whole.

Steinitz: “When we realised that this [security measures] is being used – or actually abused – in order to incite against Israel, against the Jews, not just in the Palestinian Authority but also in the wider Arab and Muslim world, we have to re-evaluate and we will consider other, maybe more sophisticated, less apparent but not less effective counter-measures in order to enhance security for all visitors in the region – Muslims, Jews and Christians.” […]

Steinitz: “…and if our enemies; Hamas, the Islamic movement and even the Palestinian Authority unfortunately – even the Palestinian Authority – are using this terrible terrorist incident and our necessary counter measures in order to incite against Israel, against Jews in general, you know, very strong – even antisemitic – kind of incitement, we have to diffuse this card; to consider other measures in order to enhance security.”

While BBC audiences did see brief whitewashed mentions of “protests” in Jordan in reports concerning the attack on a security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, they have not been informed of scenes in the Jordanian parliament, of repeated incidents of intimidation of Jews in Istanbul, of repeated inflammatory statements made by Turkey’s president or of anti-Israel protests as far away as Kuala Lumpur.

Neither have BBC audiences been provided with a comprehensive picture of the incitement fomented by Mahmoud Abbas, by the Palestinian Authority and by its dominant party Fatah as well as Hamas and the Waqf.

However, when Razia Iqbal had the opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the scale, nature and significance of that incitement in her subsequent conversation with Fatah’s Nasser al Qudwa, she not only allowed him to promote unchallenged falsehoods but bailed out in the face of his disingenuous denials of Palestinian incitement.

Iqbal: “So does the Palestinian Authority feel vindicated by this decision? Let’s speak to Nasser Qudwa who is the media and culture commissioner of the ruling Fatah party central committee and a former Palestinian representative at the United Nations. Ah…what’s your reaction to this decision by Israel to withdraw all of this new security apparatus – the metal detectors and the cameras?”

Qudwa: “Well I think what happened represent a real achievement for the Palestinian people, especially our people in Jerusalem who fought the Israeli attempt to create new facts, to curtail and hamper the free access of worshippers to al Aqsa – the holy al Aqsa.”

That of course is a lie: apart from a two-day closure while police conducted their investigation into the July 14th terror attack and a brief ban on entry to men under 50 after violence was threatened on July 21st, worshippers were free to access the site and – despite the efforts of the Waqf – many did just that. Qudwa went on to promote additional unchallenged falsehoods.

Qudwa: “And by the way, these measures have nothing to do with security. This is a huge lie. This is part of strategies or a strategy that is aimed at turning the situation at al Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and the proof is very clear including official statements by some governmental…governmental officials who claim crazy things such as Israeli sovereignty and Israeli ownership of…of the holy place in addition of course to Israeli actions, Israeli measures…”

Iqbal: “It is perfectly – I’m sorry to interrupt you, sir – but it’s perfectly legitimate for the Israelis to want to see some security isn’t it? I mean there were police officers who were killed just by this site.”

Qudwa: “Yes that’s true. However, these were killed by three that came from Israel. No Palestinian faction group had anything to do with this. The attack…eh…eh…attack was carried [out] outside…outside the Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and it has never been the case that there was security danger or security threats within the compound, within Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque.”

That lie also went unchallenged by Iqbal despite the fact that the BBC has covered violent rioting on Temple Mount in the past and al Aqsa mosque has been used to stockpile rocks used in such pre-planned disturbances. Of course, had Iqbal bothered to clarify earlier that the July 14 attack was carried out using guns brought into the al Aqsa mosque, listeners would have been better placed to judge Qudwa’s falsehoods for themselves.

Iqbal: “OK, so…”

Qudwa: “After that – let me just finish this – I might add that there was a telephone conversation between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu during which the president condemned the attack and requested the prime minister not to take any measures that might change the situation and he promised – the prime minister promised – to do precisely that.  And unfortunately he didn’t keep his word and we saw those measures that, again, have nothing to do with security but they are part of a strategy – of a scheme – Israeli scheme that’s very clear for everyone.”

Iqbal: “OK, so the minister that I’ve just spoken to, Yuval Steinitz, he accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence against Israel. Is he right?”

Qudwa: “Listen, this is insulting; insulting for every Palestinian. Any human being under pressure, under…under discrimination, subject to oppressive and oppressive policies and measures by foreign occupation that’s being transformed into colonialism has to react. They don’t need incitement. They don’t need any nodding from anybody. This is like accusing Palestinians of being sub-humans. This is outrageous. This is outrageous.”

Iqbal: “OK.”

Qudwa: “No reason is needed for any Palestinian to reject Israeli policies and Israeli positions, especially with regard to al Aqsa and East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem.”

Iqbal: “We’ll leave it there.”

And so, in addition to not being pressed for an honest answer on the topic of Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement, Qudwa was allowed by Iqbal to promote unchallenged mendacious propaganda about a “foreign occupation” and “colonialism” which not only did absolutely nothing to meet the BBC’s obligation to help listener understanding of this story or the broader issues at hand, but actively hindered that purpose.