Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

Last year the BBC devoted considerable coverage to the topic of the recurrent rioting at Temple Mount which was instigated even before the surge in Palestinian terrorism from around October 1st 2015.

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

Al Aqsa Mosque, September 2015

BBC News twists Tisha B’Av Temple Mount incident with ‘last-first’ reporting

More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting

BBC article on Temple Mount riot notes ban on groups it previously failed to report exist

A worldwide platform for incitement from BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad

BBC’s Knell promotes Al Aqsa Mosque inaccuracy already corrected by NYT and Newsweek

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part two

From the beginning of October onwards, BBC audiences were repeatedly told that ‘tensions’ at the site were the cause of Palestinian violence – for example:

“…the police are on alert, especially in Jerusalem’s Old City. It’s home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews [sic]. Tensions over the shrine have fuelled the latest unrest and unleashed a new danger for Israelis: stabbing attacks.”

And:

“The anger’s fueled by a row over access to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City which is built in a place that’s both sacred to Muslims and Jews. Despite official Israeli denials, many Palestinians believe there’s a plan to change long-standing rules and give Jews the right to pray openly at the site they call Temple Mount.”

In late October the BBC reported on an agreement reached between Israel and Jordan designed to reduce those ‘tensions’.

“Israel and Jordan have agreed on moves aimed at reducing tensions surrounding a prominent holy site in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry says. […]

The steps he announced include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex.”

However, as was noted here shortly afterwards, BBC News did not produce any follow-up reporting on that story when Palestinian factions – including the Palestinian Authority – expressed opposition to that arrangement.

Although the agreement to install security cameras was reached nearly half a year ago, it has yet to be implemented.

“Negotiations over the cameras stumbled due to disagreements over three practical issues: Where the footage will be beamed to — whether it be Jordan, Israel or an open-access website; how much control Israel will have over the broadcast, with Jordan and the Palestinians refusing to allow the Israelis the capability to interrupt transmissions; and where the cameras will be located. Israel wants them inside the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock in order to prove that both are used to house weapons and stones that Palestinians use against Israeli security forces. Jordan and the Palestinians are opposed to this.

Last month Jordanian government spokesperson Mohammed Momani said that Amman will install cameras on the Temple Mount “within days.”

Senior officials had been concerned that a failure to install the cameras ahead of Passover, which will commence at the end of April, could spark clashes at what is traditionally a time of heightened tensions and an increased number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.”KAT tweet cameras TM

Even if the cameras are installed within the coming fortnight, it would appear that their contribution to the reduction of tensions may be decidedly limited.

“Palestinians placed notices on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem warning of plans to smash security cameras installed at the site holy to both Muslims and Jews, which has been at the epicenter of tensions in recent months.

Jordan, which is behind the camera initiative, subsequently stated that they will not be used to monitor the activities of the Muslim worshipers at the two mosques on the Mount, Channel 10 reported Saturday. […]

A “control center” will be set up to monitor round-the-clock video surveillance of the compound, Jordan’s Islamic Affairs Minister Hayel Daoud said recently.

The footage will be broadcast online to “document all Israeli violations and aggressions,” he said in a statement, also adding that no cameras would be installed inside the mosques.”

Given that the BBC devoted so much past reporting to the topic of ‘tensions’ on Temple Mount, one might have thought that Palestinian efforts to hobble measures intended to reduce those tensions – and Jordan’s acquiescence to the threats – would have received some coverage. To date, however, that has not been the case.

BBC Complaints justifies inaccuracies in Radio 4 item about Western Wall

On February 7th the BBC Radio 4 religious affairs programme ‘Sunday’ included an item about the plans for a new mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall. As was noted here at the time:Sunday 7 2 R4

“Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item by telling listeners that:

“The Israeli government’s decision to approve a new area by Jerusalem’s Western Wall where men and women can pray together will mean some big physical changes at Judaism’s holiest site.”

The Western Wall is of course not “Judaism’s holiest site” – Temple Mount holds that title – and it is difficult to understand why that inaccuracy is repeatedly found in BBC content, especially in a programme which purports to focus on “religious issues”.

Later on, while discussing the story with journalist Judy Maltz, Stourton materially misled listeners by inaccurately claiming that the Waqf has authority over the Western Wall.

“There is also of course opposition from outside – isn’t there – from the Palestinians and from the Muslim authorities responsible for the area.” [emphasis added]”

In response to a complaint submitted by BBC Watch, BBC Complaints had this to say:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’, as broadcast on 7 February.

I appreciate that you feel the programme’s reference to the Western Wall was inaccurate.

We’ve reviewed the programme for you and the Western Wall was referenced within a discussion about prayer. The description of the Western Wall as ‘Judaism’s holiest site’ was within this context- that it is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Our presenter Edward Stourton also referred to “the Muslim authorities responsible for the area” which, I’m sure you can appreciate, is different from saying that Waqf have jurisdiction over the Western Wall.”

Apparently Radio 4 listeners were expected to use their psychic powers in order to determine what Stourton really meant – as opposed to what he actually said.

Obviously the topic of Jerusalem’s holy sites is a highly sensitive issue and one which demands particular attention to accuracy in any related reporting or presentation. Thanks to Radio 4 there are now unknown numbers of people in the UK who have wrongly been led to believe that “Muslim authorities” are “responsible” for the Western Wall area and that will surely affect their ability to understand any future developments in this story. 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ misleads on Western Wall and the Waqf

When the Israeli government approved plans for a new mixed gender prayer area at the Western Wall and the end of January the BBC produced two accurate reports on that story.

A written article which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Liberal Jews to get prayer site at Jerusalem’s Western Wall” correctly informed readers that:

“The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Holy Temples once stood, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism. Every year, millions of Jews from all over the world visit the wall to pray.”

In a filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the website under the headline “New prayer space approved at Jerusalem’s Western Wall“, Jonathan Josephs accurately described the Western Wall as “the holiest site at which they [Jews] can pray”.Sunday 7 2 R4

However, when the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ covered the same story on February 7th (from 00:53 here), a decline in the standard of reporting was evident. Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item by telling listeners that:

“The Israeli government’s decision to approve a new area by Jerusalem’s Western Wall where men and women can pray together will mean some big physical changes at Judaism’s holiest site.”

The Western Wall is of course not “Judaism’s holiest site” – Temple Mount holds that title – and it is difficult to understand why that inaccuracy is repeatedly found in BBC content, especially in a programme which purports to focus on “religious issues”.

Later on, while discussing the story with journalist Judy Maltz, Stourton materially misled listeners by inaccurately claiming that the Waqf has authority over the Western Wall.

“There is also of course opposition from outside – isn’t there – from the Palestinians and from the Muslim authorities responsible for the area.” [emphasis added]

As the Times of Israel explains:

“While the Jordanian-run Waqf governs the top of the Temple Mount […] Israel maintains control over access to the site as well as areas below the Mount, as part of a status quo agreement in place since 1967. Israel does not allow Jews to pray atop the mount.”

 Stourton’s statement is not merely inaccurate: its significance also lies in the fact that for some time now Palestinian officials have been promoting the politically motivated falsehood that the Western Wall is a Muslim site as a Ha’aretz report from 2010 shows.

“The United States on Tuesday condemned claims by a senior Palestinian official that the Western Wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holds no significance for Jews.

Al-Mutawakil Taha, the Palestinian Authority’ deputy minister of information, had said Wednesday that the wall, regarded as Judaism’s holiest site, was part of an Islamic waqf, or religious endowment, and that only “Islamic tolerance” allowed Jews to pray there. […]

“We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative,” a U.S. State Department spokesman said.

“We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of de-legitimization of Israel including denying historic Jewish connections to the land.””

Last year the Palestinian Authority unsuccessfully attempted to have UNESCO declare the Western Wall part of al Aqsa Mosque. Whilst the BBC did not report that story at the time, it would appear that at least one of its journalists has chosen to adopt and promote the Waqf’s highly incendiary narrative regardless of the BBC’s commitment to accuracy and impartiality.

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What does the BBC Academy teach the corporation’s journalists about Judaism?

A Jerusalem story the BBC will not be covering

Late last year, when a surge in terror attacks against Israelis took place – particularly in Jerusalem – the BBC provided its audiences with backgrounders and numerous articles and reports which purported to explain the ‘context’ to those attacks.Knell backgrounder filmed

However, one essential aspect of the story was consistently concealed from BBC audiences: that of Palestinian Authority incitement. As was noted here at the time:

“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.”

The speaker in the video below (filmed on May 29th 2015) teaches two religious classes a week at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and is apparently paid by the Palestinian Authority funded Waqf (religious authority) to do so.

BBC audiences have of course neither seen, read nor heard any coverage of this story to date.