Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

As readers may recall, while early BBC News website coverage of the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states did clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s demands was for Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, it did not inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s reported demand that a number of Hamas officials leave that country.

Yolande Knell later produced two reports on the topic of Qatari funding of Hamas which made vague, brief references to that subject.

“Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.” BBC Radio 4, 15/6/17

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.” BBC News website, 20/6/17

As was noted here when the story broke:

Among those reportedly asked to leave [Qatar] was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.”

At the beginning of this month al Arouri made an appearance in Beirut.

“A senior Hamas terrorist believed by Israel to have planned the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank was spotted publicly in Lebanon’s capital Beirut for the first time since he was expelled from Qatar in June.

In photos published Wednesday, Saleh al-Arouri can be seen meeting with senior Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian — a former deputy foreign minister — and a number of other members of Hamas, among them senior spokesman Osama Hamdan and the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka. […]

After his expulsion from Qatar in June, al-Arouri moved to Lebanon, where he is being hosted by the Hezbollah terror group in its Dahieh stronghold in southern Beirut, Channel 2 reported last month.

Citing Palestinian sources, the report said that Arouri and two other senior Hamas figures have relocated to the Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, an area heavily protected with checkpoints on every access road.”

Meanwhile, on August 5th the BBC News website published a report about the Iranian president’s inauguration:

“Dozens of world dignitaries attended Mr Rouhani’s inauguration at Iran’s parliament, reflecting an easing in Iran’s isolation since the nuclear deal.

Guests included EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the chairman of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, signalling a growing closeness between Tehran and Pyongyang particularly over defence matters.”

The BBC did not however report that the inauguration’s guest list also included Hamas officials.

“A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in a bid to bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The visit included senior Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and head of the Hamas administration Saleh al-Arouri. They were formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is beginning his second term in office.”

That Hamas delegation apparently also met with IRGC representatives.

“Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.

A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.

This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.

The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.

During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials. […]

Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.”

At the end of that August 5th BBC report on Rouhani’s inauguration audiences were told that:

“Last month, the US state department accused Iran of undermining stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East.

It criticised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and accused it of prolonging the conflict in Yemen by providing support for Houthi rebels.”

Had BBC audiences seen any coverage of Salah al Arouri’s relocation from Qatar to the Hizballah ruled suburb of Beirut and of the Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran, they would of course be much better placed to understand what lies behind those US State Department statements. 

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The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report  

BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

The last few weeks have seen some interesting developments in the world of Palestinian politics, although those getting their news from the BBC will of course be unaware of that because – as often noted on these pages – the corporation largely avoids that subject.

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

In the second half of July listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard Yolande Knell make the following unexplained statement:

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt.” 

The day after that programme was broadcast, one of those mysterious “exiled figures” – Mohammad Dahlan – gave an interview to AP in which he claimed that his talks with Hamas and Egypt will, among other things, bring about the opening of the Rafah crossing. On the same day, BBC Arabic produced a report concerning that topic, but without any mention of Dahlan.

Four days later, on July 27th, an unusual event took place in Gaza.

“Rival Palestinian lawmakers came together for the first time in a decade on Thursday in Gaza’s parliament, the latest sign that an emerging Gaza power-sharing deal between the territory’s Hamas rulers and a former Gaza strongman is moving forward.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and Hamas rival, praised the new partnership, addressing the gathering by video conference from his exile in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza’s heroic people,” Dahlan told the lawmakers.

The gathering included dozens of legislators from Hamas, several Dahlan backers from the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independents.

Fatah legislators loyal to Abbas stayed away from the meeting, underscoring the deepening rift in the movement. Dahlan fell out with Abbas in 2010.

The legislature has been idled since Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces, then under Dahlan’s command, and took over Gaza in 2007.

Over the past decade, only Hamas lawmakers met in parliament to pass resolutions concerning Gaza.”

On August 1st local media reported that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was making his own overtures to Hamas which included a meeting with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah.

“Earlier this year, the PA cut its payments for Israeli-supplied electricity the Strip by 35%, and slashed salaries for government personnel in Gaza.

The feud between the two Palestinian factions — Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza — also brought about a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the enclave, a rights watchdog said in June, describing a worsening humanitarian situation.

A deal to truck in fuel from Egypt to keep a power plant running was brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman, seen as a top rival to Abbas. […]

The new framework reportedly being discussed between the two sides would enable the PA to restore electricity supplies and allow Gazan banks to trade in foreign currency again, according to the daily.

But in return, Hamas must publicly renege on its agreement with Dahlan, and dismantle its governing structures in Gaza, which, according to the PA, contravene previous agreements between the group and the PA.”

Days later, Abbas reportedly voiced his intention to keep up the financial pressure on Hamas.

“”While there is a severe electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas provides light for its underground tunnels and the homes of its officials around the clock,” Abbas told a group of prominent visitors from East Jerusalem at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank began earlier this year to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza. Such cuts have exacerbated blackouts. […]

Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.””

Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning yet another attempt at Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ apparently continue.

How this saga will play out and whether either Abbas or Dahlan will end up doing a deal with Hamas is still unclear. Nevertheless, what is obvious is that whatever the outcome – and its possible consequences – BBC audiences are already very badly placed to understand its background and context due to the corporation’s serial avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian affairs.

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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

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’s Knell paints a partial picture of Gaza woes

The lead item in the July 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 00:33 here) as follows:

Adie: “Today’s headlines from the West Bank once again tell of violence. Meanwhile in Gaza the UN has warned of increasingly unlivable conditions. The narrow strip of land has long been a place of tension: tension between Israel and the Palestinians and between the Palestinians themselves. For the past ten years the Islamist group Hamas has governed there and in the summer of 2014, over 50 days of fighting with Israeli forces caused widespread death and destruction. Yolande Knell was in Gaza during that conflict and this week she’s been back.”

 Yolande Knell begins her report on the beach before introducing an interviewee previously seen in one of her 2014 reports. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Knell: “Along the golden sand a few girls and boys squeal with delight as the waves lick their feet – much as on any other Mediterranean beach except that I’m in Gaza City where an energy crisis means that sewage treatment plants aren’t working properly. The sea is contaminated. It stinks. So as much as they’d love to plunge into the cool water to escape the sticky heat this summer, many families are avoiding it. ‘Gaza’s blessed with its long coast but I can’t take my children swimming’ says Naim al Khatib, a father of six whom I met 3 years ago during the last conflict between Hamas militants and Israel. Back then, Naim tried to keep up his kids’ spirits as they spent seven long weeks hiding in their apartment. Now, although everyone’s safe, he says every day remains a struggle. ‘The war’s over but the war-like situation is still going on’ he tells me. ‘The siege goes on, we’re still prisoners. The quality of life gets worse’.”

There is of course no “siege” on Gaza but Knell nevertheless chose to amplify that falsehood. She goes on, confusing Palestinian Legislative Council elections with “local elections”, giving a typically whitewashed portrayal of Hamas’ violent coup in 2007 and of course failing to mention that it is a terror organisation sworn to the destruction of Israel.

“It’s ten years since Hamas, having previously won local elections, ousted the Palestinian Authority – the PA – in Gaza and seized control of the small strip of land. In response Israel and Egypt ramped up restrictions on the flow of people and goods in and out to isolate the militant group and stop weapons reaching it. The blockade still cripples the economy. And now Gaza’s being squeezed even more as the PA – which controls only parts of the West Bank – piles pressure on Hamas to try to force it to hand back the territory.”

While the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip was exacerbated in April when the PA declared that it would only foot part of the bill for power supplied by Israel, the dispute between Hamas and the PA on that issue actually goes back much further, originating in the PA’s levying of tax on fuel for the Gaza power plant. That part of the story was omitted from Knell’s report.

“Some of Gaza’s electricity supply comes from Israel with the PA footing the bill. But recently the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas asked for this to be reduced as the PA was no longer willing to provide services for Hamas. Since last month mains electricity, already limited here, comes on for just 2 to 3 hours a day. Naim shows me how he relies on a generator and even solar panels mounted by a chirping canary’s cage on his balcony. Just maintaining a water filter and refrigerator – both essentials in Gaza – takes up a lot of his time and money. Adding to the strain, like thousands of other civil servants who had continued to collect salaries from the PA even if they weren’t actually working, he’s just had his income slashed.”

As readers may recall, the PA cut the salaries of its employees who have been paid to stay at home for a decade by 30% in April. After a quote from Khatib’s daughter, Knell goes on to mention a report previously promoted in BBC content.

“But a new UN report says Gaza is increasingly unlivable for its 2 million residents and that conditions are deteriorating further and faster than previously predicted. As the population continues to grow, there’s 40% unemployment and signs of decline in education and healthcare. At the Shifa hospital an ambulance screeches past and it transports me back once again to the bloody battles and terrible destruction of 2014.”

Notably, Knell’s recollections do not include the fact that the Hamas leadership used that hospital’s staff and patients as human shields – as she well knows.

“Back then, staff here worked around the clock to treat overwhelming numbers of casualties but when I see the familiar face of Dr Ayman al Sahbani, the head of emergencies, he looks as stressed as ever.  ‘Our state isn’t bad or very bad – it’s catastrophic’ he blurts out. ‘We lack essential drugs and supplies. The hospital is running on big generators and all the time I’m worried’. Dr al Sahbani explains that he depends on fuel donations and that there are no spare parts if generators break down. ‘If they stop we may lose patients in operation rooms, intensive care, kidney dialysis, the neo-natal unit’ he says breathlessly. On top of their usual work load, medics here are now also treating more sickness caused by poverty and bathing in the filthy sea. And it’s becoming more difficult to get Israeli permits to transfer seriously ill patients out of Gaza, partly because the PA is giving fewer guarantees it will cover their medical costs elsewhere. The doctor tells me how, days ago, he broke this news to the parents of a newborn with a congenital heart condition who went on to die. ‘How did I do this?’ he asks me. ‘I’m speaking to you not as a doctor but as a human being’.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch checked Knell’s allegation that the acquisition of permits is “partly” attributable to PA policies with the body that coordinates those permits for patients from the Gaza Strip. COGAT told us that:

“To our regret, an internal Palestinian dispute harms the residents of Gaza – instead of the regime in Gaza helping them – but Israel has no connection to the issue. We would highlight that in cases in which the Palestinian Authority sends requests, and particularly those classified as urgent, COGAT coordinates the immediate passage of patients at any time of the day in order to save lives. This activity is carried out on a daily basis at the Erez Crossing, through which residents of Gaza enter Israel for medical treatment.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, while Knell does not give the name of the baby who died of congenital heart disease, she apparently did not check whether or not “Israeli permits” actually have any connection to that case. The local media recently covered three such stories.

“Earlier in the week three children under the age of 1, all suffering from heart disease, died in Gaza hospitals.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday blamed the Palestinian Authority for the deaths, saying that Ramallah had refused to give medical referrals for the babies to be treated in the West Bank. The PA then blamed Israel.

Dr. Bassam al-Badri, who heads the Palestinian Authority department responsible for authorizing treatment for Gazans outside of the Strip, claimed Israel had refused to grant exit permits to guardians of the children.

But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry branch that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs, said no such request had been made.

“No request was received from the Palestinian Authority to coordinate medical treatment in Israel for the three infants,” COGAT wrote in a statement to The Times of Israel.”

Knell closes her report with opaque references to a story the BBC has so far failed to cover and listeners would hence not understand.

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt. But mostly there’s just frustration and despair. And there are warnings too that troubles in Gaza will spill across its borders – and not just in terms of the sewage that’s already reaching southern Israeli beaches.”

The picture of Gaza painted by Yolande Knell in this report is of course devoid of some very important context. Nowhere in her grim portrayal does she make any mention of the fact that if it wished to do so, Hamas could solve not only the electricity crisis but numerous additional issues plaguing ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.

According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.”

However, the terror organisation’s prioritisation of tunnels, missiles and additional types of military build-up over the welfare of Gaza’s residents has no place in Yolande Knell’s story – just as was the case in her reporting from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict. 

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BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

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

Just over a year ago we documented changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount.

“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 onwards. […]

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? As noted above, 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 PLO’s tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem.”

Following that post, the BBC largely returned to using the terminology specified in its own style guide. However, the employment of that PLO recommended wording has been seen once again in some of the BBC’s reporting on the recent violence in Jerusalem – including in a backgrounder produced by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande 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]

On July 21st an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 49:58 here) that was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Marshall: “And to Jerusalem now where dozens of Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police amid tensions surrounding the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Our Mid-East correspondent Yolande Knell joins us now and, Yolande, why are the Palestinians protesting?”

Knell: “Well these clashes are continuing now after Friday prayers turned into protests. There have been tensions all week after Israeli officials put in place new metal detectors at the entrance to the al Aqsa mosque compound; this site which is sacred to Jews as well – known as Temple Mount. These detectors were installed after an attack that killed two Israeli policemen last week and Israel has been insisting that these new security measures are about safety only; they don’t alter the sensitive status quo, as it’s called, at this disputed site. But Palestinians see them very much as an attempt by Israel to extend its control there and of course…ehm…Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem is something…ehm…that is…err…really extremely…err…sensitive for Palestinians and any perceived changes at the al Aqsa mosque compound – at this holy site – can be a real flash-point for violence. We’ve seen that in the last few hours. There are now reports that a third Palestinian has been killed in these clashes between…err…protesters and Israeli security forces focused on Jerusalem but also around the West Bank. There have been clashes in Qalandiya checkpoint, in Ramallah, in Hebron and in Bethlehem where I was earlier, this after political factions called for a Day of Rage.”

Marshall: “And…erm…the metal detectors are not the only point of contention. I understand that there’s an age restriction at the moment on the number [sic] of Muslim worshippers who are allowed in.”

Knell: “Well that was something that was imposed for these Friday prayers. First of all, after this…eh….attack a week ago…ah…the Israeli authorities closed the whole compound for two days: this is something very unusual. Then, it has been opened through the week but Palestinians have been refusing to enter the compound, to go through these metal detectors and instead we’ve had hundreds of people praying on the street outside. So there have been clashes with police through the week. The restriction that was placed on today was that Muslim men under 50 were barred from entering the Old City of Jerusalem. There’s been this huge Israeli police presence all around the city and busloads of Muslim worshippers have been prevented from reaching it.”

As we see, in addition to promoting partisan PLO approved terminology to describe Temple Mount, Knell completely erased from her account of the installation of metal detectors the crucial fact that the three terrorists (whom she also deletes entirely from the story) who murdered the two Israeli policemen on July 14th did so using weapons which had been smuggled into al Aqsa mosque by an accomplice.

She also failed to explain to listeners what the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount entails and to clarify that Palestinian claims of  “changes” are baseless, while refraining from telling audiences about the copious incitement from the Waqf and official Palestinian sources that sparked the violence.

However, Knell was not the only Middle East correspondent to compromise BBC impartiality by prioritising PLO recommended language over the standard BBC terminology to describe Temple Mount in a report on July 21st – as will be seen in part two of this post.

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BBC reporting on Jerusalem violence low on background, high on messaging

On Friday July 21st pre-planned rioting took place in Jerusalem as well as at additional locations after yet another ‘Day of Rage’ had been called by Palestinian leaders. The BBC News website covered the day’s events in two reports – one written and one filmed.

The filmed report by Yolande Knell is titled “Clashes in Bethlehem over holy site” and its synopsis links to the written report, telling viewers that “[i]t follows tension over the place known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as the Temple Mount”.

In the first part of that report Knell describes the Israeli security forces’ response to what she terms “protests”.

Knell: “Now those unusual prayers are turned into protests very quickly. Already there’s been skunk water fired – a very stinky liquid – by the soldiers. They’re using stun grenades and tear gas as well.”

After the caption “How did we get here?” appears on screen, the report then goes on to show footage apparently filmed some time earlier, with Knell telling BBC audiences that:

Knell: “Palestinian worshippers across the West Bank aren’t praying inside their mosques today but they’ve come outside. Here in Bethlehem they’re on the streets, under the hot sun with their prayer mats. And this is a very symbolically important location because just along there, that’s the road to Jerusalem and it’s now blocked by Israel’s separation wall. You can see the Israeli military watchtower that’s just over there.”

Knell refrains from informing viewers that the anti-terrorist fence (which of course has nothing at all to do with the story she is supposedly reporting) had to be constructed because of Palestinian terrorism. Her claim that the road to Jerusalem is “blocked” is misleading: the checkpoint there is open 24 hours a day. She then goes on to uncritically parrot Palestinian messaging.

Knell: “And the Friday sermon has been about the need to protect the al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock that lies in the same compound. There’s a model of it here. Palestinians see themselves very much as the guardians of these places – the third holiest site in Islam – and emotions are really running very high.”

Knell does not bother to clarify to viewers that there is in fact no need “to protect” the Muslim holy sites on Temple Mount at all before giving an unchallenged platform to an unidentified interviewee who is allowed on camera while wearing a t-shirt with a politicised image that erases Israel.

Man: “The Palestinians now took a decision to fight for their capital [sic], for their dignity. All the people who are coming here came to raise their voice. Jerusalem is a red line. We will not allow the occupation to pass this red line.”

Footage seen later in the video suggests that the unnamed man is one of the leaders/organisers of the unrest but seeing as the BBC did not bother to identify him, audiences are of course unable to make their own judgements concerning his “particular viewpoint” – not least the claim that Jerusalem, which is of course subject to final status negotiations, is the Palestinians’ “capital”.  

That video was also included in the BBC’s written report on the same events – currently titled “East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar“. The earlier versions of that report correctly informed readers that a ‘Day of Rage’ had been called in advance but that information was removed from subsequent versions.

The article explains the background to its subject matter as follows:

“Hundreds were injured in the violence, after days of friction over a Jerusalem holy site boiled over. […]

Tensions have soared since two Israeli policemen were killed a week ago.

Three Israeli Arab gunmen shot the officers near the holy site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The gunmen were shot dead after being pursued on to the site.”

And later on in the report readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“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 says the measure is necessary for security after the weapons used to kill the policemen were smuggled into the hilltop compound. […]

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.”

However, the BBC did not bother to inform its audiences what the status quo entails or that, despite what “Palestinian and Islamic leaders” may say, the installation of security measures after terrorists had weapons delivered to them inside al Aqsa mosque does not violate the existing arrangements which include the following:

“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.

The Israeli Police would be responsible for security within the holy compound, the interior area and its outskirts, the wall and the gates.”

This is of course not the first time that the BBC has referred to ‘the status quo’ on Temple Mount without properly explaining to audiences what that term actually means.

Additional recent BBC reports also amplified Palestinian messaging without clarification or qualification. An article that appeared on the BBC News website on July 22nd under the headline “Jerusalem: Metal detectors at holy site ‘could be removed’” failed to inform readers that installation of the metal detectors came after firearms were smuggled into al Aqsa mosque.

“Israel installed the detectors after two Israeli policemen were killed near there earlier this month.”

It then unquestioningly amplified baseless Palestinian claims:

“The measures angered the Palestinians, who accuse Israel of trying to take control over a sacred place.”

Another article – published on July 23rd under the title “Jerusalem: Israel installs security cameras near holy site” – also amplified baseless claims while failing to provide readers with the information that would enable them to judge the validity of such allegations.

“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.”

The BBC is obliged to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. The unchallenged amplification of one side’s baseless allegations and the repeated failure to properly explain the issues behind such highly inflammatory subject matter obviously do not meet that obligation.

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BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

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

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC backgrounder on Palestinian ‘metal detector’ outrage fails to tell all

On June 20th the BBC finally broke its silence on the topic of the faux outrage at the security measures installed after the July 14th terror attack in Jerusalem when the BBC News website published a filmed backgrounder that was billed on its Middle East page as “Holy site metal detector row explained”.

The link leads to a video titled “Jerusalem holy site security row explained” and its synopsis reads:

“There is anger over security at the Jerusalem holy site where two Israeli police officers were killed.”

The video includes both text and commentary from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell – but does it really explain the issue comprehensively, accurately and impartially? The backgrounder opens:

Text: “What started the latest tensions over Jerusalem’s holy site? Protesters are furious with Israel for tightening security at one of Islam’s holiest places.”

The fact that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism is not mentioned.

Knell: “For Palestinians, anything seen as a threat to al Aqsa mosque is a rallying cry and a symbol of Israel’s occupation.”

While Yolande Knell amplifies the baseless propaganda concerning “a threat to al Aqsa mosque”, she does not bother to inform viewers that in fact, no such threat exists.

Text: “Israeli soldiers are responding with tear gas. Unusually, Israel closed the site after two of its police officers were shot dead by armed men inside the mosque grounds.”

The backgrounder does not clarify that the incident (that took place at Lions Gate rather than “inside the mosque grounds”) in which the two Israeli police officers were murdered was a terror attack. Critically, viewers are not told that the terrorists used weapons that they received from an accomplice inside al Aqsa mosque. Without that crucial information, BBC audiences obviously cannot understand why the metal detectors were subsequently installed.

Knell then reverts to politicised terminology seen previously in BBC reporting:

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. Israel says it’s a safety issue. Palestinians say until those are removed, they’re going to pray outside.” [emphasis added]

Knell does not clarify that some worshippers are not heeding the call to pray outside and have been using the mosque as usual despite the metal detectors. Neither does she tell BBC audiences that the call to boycott the mosque was actually put out by the Jordanian Waqf. Viewers are not told that non-Muslim visitors to the site (entering via the Mughrabi Gate) already pass through metal detectors, as do all visitors to the Western Wall.

Text: “Why does the site matter? This is a holy site for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Jews call it Temple Mount – the site of two biblical temples. They can visit – but cannot pray. Could the violence escalate? Yes. Washington supports Israel’s response but there’s been criticism from the wider Islamic world.”

BBC audiences are not given the context that is the long history of Palestinian and Arab incitement using the al Aqsa mosque as a pretext for violence. Neither are they informed that previous internationally brokered attempts to improve security at the site and prevent the exploitation of al Aqsa mosque for violent ends were scuppered by the Palestinians.

This story is of course about far more than the installation of a few metal detectors of the type seen at places – including Muslim holy sites – all over the world. Rather, the latest contrived “row” is just one more attempt by Palestinian leaders to negate the presence of Jews at their holiest site, using a pretext that those who fabricate the crisis know only too well is bound to trigger violence.

BBC audiences, however, are by no stretch of the imagination being told the whole story.  

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

BBC’s Knell promotes unsupported allegations in Yemenite children story

On June 21st an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website as well as on its Middle East page under the title “Missing babies: Israel’s Yemenite children affair“. The article is introduced as follows:

“In the years after the creation of the Israeli state hundreds of babies went missing. Their parents, mostly Jewish immigrants from Yemen, were told their children had died, but suspicions linger that they were secretly given away to childless families – and newly released documents have revealed some disturbing evidence.”

It opens with the 50 year-old story of a woman who “had given birth to premature twins”.

“But when Leah’s husband visited soon afterwards, only one of the twins was there. The other, Hanna, had died, he was informed.

Leah was shocked not to be shown a body or a grave – a common feature of such stories…” [emphasis added]

A similar approach to the burial of babies who died during or shortly after childbirth was of course the norm in Britain right up to the 1960s and even later – but readers of this article are not given that context.

The historical background to the story provided by Knell is limited to a few lines.

“Leah had experienced many calamities long before the loss of her baby. As a child, she and her family had joined thousands of Jews fleeing violence in Yemen. They were robbed as they trekked from one end of the country to the other and Leah was reduced to begging for food. Then they were rescued in an airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet. […]

They had arrived, malnourished and penniless, during the first Arab-Israeli war.”

Although the fact that the new immigrants from Yemen arrived in Israel in poor health after long journeys on foot to the overcrowded transit camps in Aden where disease was rife and mortality rates high is very relevant to the story she is telling, Knell does not expand further.

Despite the fact that three separate commissions of inquiry have determined that the overwhelming majority of the children died, Knell nevertheless amplifies unsupported allegations.

“Many Yemenite Jews spent periods in transit camps before being settled in homes, and stories of babies going missing began to arise immediately.

Some reports talk of children disappearing after visits to the camps by wealthy American Jews.

In other cases children appeared to be recovering in hospitals from relatively minor ailments when the parents were suddenly told they had died.

On kibbutzes [sic], where some of the Yemenites settled, it was typical for youngsters to be separated from their parents and looked after together, and here too it’s said that some children vanished.

Estimates of the number of missing children range from hundreds to thousands.

In many cases the parents believe their children were really kidnapped and given or sold to families of European Jews – occasionally Holocaust survivors who had lost their children – or Americans.”

Only in the twenty-seventh paragraph of her article does Knell tell readers that:

“Three government inquiries have looked into the Yemenite Children Affair, as it is known, since the 1960s, and all have concluded that most children died of diseases and were buried without their parents being informed or involved.”

However, that is immediately followed by a paragraph again promoting entirely unproven speculations:

“But many of the families involved suspect a cover-up and continue to believe that there was an organised operation to snatch children, involving health workers and government officials.”

Later on in the article, Knell half concedes that allegations of “an organised operation” are unproven:

“Whether there was an organised conspiracy to snatch Yemenite babies and give them away for adoption remains unproven though, according to historian Tom Segev, who has written books on Israel’s early years and served as an expert witness for one government inquiry.

He points out that hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrived in Israel at a time of war, and in the years immediately afterwards, when the country was still reeling.

“All these people came in very, very difficult conditions and it’s a story of chaos,” Segev says.”

Nevertheless (while conveniently ignoring the fact that her own country was not exactly free of prejudice and discrimination in the 1950s) Knell uses this story to promote a clear take-away point to readers:

“One of the disturbing aspects of the Yemenite Children Affair is the way the darker-skinned immigrants appear to have been treated as second-class citizens. The founders of Israel were mostly Ashkenazi Jews, of European descent, some of whom expressed fears that Mizrahi (literally “Eastern”) Jews brought with them a backwards “Oriental” culture that might damage the new state.”

Perhaps it was the urge to promote that notion that prevented Knell from informing BBC audiences that not only “darker skinned” children were said to have disappeared at that chaotic time but also children of immigrants from the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The Yemenite children affair as it is known in Hebrew is for obvious reasons a sensitive subject in Israel and one that has been under examination and discussion for decades.

However, any journalist wishing to present an objective account of that story would take care to provide an accurate portrayal of the conditions in which a new country that was still at war at the time took in hundreds of thousands of impoverished refugee immigrants from dozens of different countries and cultures despite a grave lack of facilities and resources and the absence of a common language and efficient communication. An objective journalist would of course also take into consideration that in Israel – as in other countries – societal norms on topics such as the death of a child have changed during the decades that have since passed.

Yolande Knell, however, prefers to tell a story that amplifies assertions of “a cover-up”, that promotes evidence free claims of an “organised operation to snatch children” and – unsurprisingly – touts allegations of Israeli racism.

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BBC’s Knell promotes more Hamas messaging on Qatar crisis

On June 20th an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza“.

The article is very similar to the audio report by Knell that was broadcast five days earlier on BBC Radio 4 and is notable for many of the same omissions.

Here too no mention is made whatsoever of issue of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries, meaning that readers are unable to put statements – such as the following – into their correct context.

“In recent years, Qatar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new homes, a hospital and main roads in the Gaza Strip. It has pledged about $1bn (£780m) more.

It is not yet clear how its projects will be affected by the ongoing row with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries. They are trying to economically isolate Qatar, accusing it of fostering terrorism – a charge the emirate strongly denies.” [emphasis added]

Like the audio report, this one too gives a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials but fails to mention that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. 

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.”

Knell tells readers that:

“One of Saudi Arabia’s demands has been for Qatar to stop backing Hamas, which runs Gaza.”

However, as was also the case in her audio report, Knell does not clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority.

As in her radio report, BBC audiences find unchallenged amplification of the terror organisation’s messaging in this latest report from Knell.

“Hamas leaders insist that Qatari help to Gaza has been primarily charitable.

“The houses that were built are not for Hamas, the streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas,” one senior figure, Mahmoud Zahar, tells the BBC.

“The humanitarian institutions – hospitals and schools, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All attempts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.””

And:

“”Qatar is being punished for speaking freely and supporting the Arab Spring,” remarks Hamas parliamentarian, Yahya Musa, at a small rally in Sheikh Hamad City.

“It’s being punished for supporting us and the resistance. We stand with our brothers to reject US plans against Qatar and the conspiracy against the resistance.””

Readers also find the following bizarre depiction of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip:

“Last week, Israel agreed to a PA plan to cut power supplies to two million people in Gaza that will reduce their daily average of four hours of electricity by 45 minutes.

Hamas accuses its political rivals of plotting with the Trump administration and Israel to unseat it in Gaza.”

Anyone unfamiliar with the story would not understand from Knell’s portrayal that the ongoing electricity crisis is actually the result of a long-standing internal Palestinian disagreement that was recently exacerbated when the Palestinian Authority announced its refusal to continue footing the entire bill for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel. Hamas too refuses to pay for that electricity, preferring instead to spend millions of dollars on its military infrastructure. Yolande Knell, however, shoehorned Israel and the US into her warped portrayal of the story – even though she knows the true background to the crisis full well.

The BBC of course has a long record of under-reporting the relevant story of Hamas’ known misappropriation of construction materials for the purpose of terrorism and in this article readers find only the following poorly composed and unnecessarily qualified statement:

Israel says Hamas has also used foreign funding to bolster its military infrastructure, which its blockade aims to keep from strengthening.” [emphasis added]

Knell also erases from audience view the root cause of both the border restrictions and past conflicts: Hamas terrorism.

“Nevertheless, Qatar’s initiatives have buoyed Hamas through difficult times – the tight border restrictions imposed by both Israel and Egypt, and three bloody conflicts with Israel.”

The very least that the BBC’s funding public would expect to find in a report concerning accusations of “fostering terrorism” by Qatar is an accurate and factual overview of the terror activities of one of its prime protégés. Both of Knell’s recent reports from the Gaza Strip fail to provide that information but do uncritically promote messaging that could just as easily be found in a Hamas press release.

According to its public purposes the BBC is supposed to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to enhance their understanding of a particular story. In this case, that purpose is clearly not being met. 

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