BBC second Intifada backgrounders: ‘Sharon started it’

We have previously noted on these pages that – despite the BBC ECU having upheld a complaint on the subject in 2010 – BBC backgrounders on the subject of the second Intifada (along with several additional articles which also continue to be available on the internet) still advance the narrative according to which Mohammed al Dura died from Israeli gunfire at Netzarim junction in September 2000.

Another narrative advanced in the two backgrounders which use al Dura’s image (as well as in other articles still available online) is that of the visit of Ariel Sharon to Temple Mount on September 28th 2000 as the cause of the second Intifada. 

The backgrounder titled “Al-Aqsa Intifada timeline” (dating from September 2004, but still available) opens by informing readers that:

“The second Palestinian intifada or uprising broke out at the end of September 2000 and is named after the Jerusalem mosque complex where the violence began. […]

Ariel Sharon, then the leader of Israel’s opposition, paid a visit to the site in East Jerusalem known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa mosque – and frustration boiled over into violence.”

second Intifada 2

That ‘timeline’ has just three entries for the year 2000, the first of which states:

28 September: Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount – against the background of the failure of the peace process – provides one of the sparks that ignites a cycle of violence.”

The page for “Second intifada” (year 2000) in the backgrounder titled “A History of Conflict” informs readers that:

“In the uncertainty of the ensuing impasse, Ariel Sharon, the veteran right-winger who succeeded Binyamin Netanyahu as Likud leader, toured the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on 28 September. Sharon’s critics saw it as a highly provocative move. Palestinian demonstrations followed, quickly developing into what became known as the al-Aqsa intifada, or uprising.”

second intifada 1

Notably, neither article mentions that violence actually began the previous day when terrorists detonated roadside bombs near Netzarim, killing Sgt David Biri. Equally remarkable is the fact that the entry for the year 2000 in the “Al Aqsa Intifada Timeline” neglects to mention the killing of Border Police Supt. Yosef (Yossi) Tabeja  by his Palestinian counterpart whilst on a joint patrol on September 29th 2000, the Palestinian besiegement  of Joseph’s Tomb in Schem on October 1st 2000 – in which Border Police Cpl. Madhat Yusuf was killed – or the October 12th 2000 lynching of First Sgt. Vadim Norzhich and First Cpl. Yosef Avrahami at Ramallah’s police station. 

Whilst the catalyst for the intifada is attributed in that timeline to Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount and the sole casualty mentioned is Mohammed al Dura, the fact that 52 Israelis were killed by Palestinians (including members of Fatah-linked terror organisations and PA security personnel) between September 27th and December 31st 2000 is apparently deemed unnecessary information for BBC audiences.

But do the known facts support the BBC’s promotion of the Palestinian narrative according to which Sharon’s thirty-four minute visit to Temple Mount during normal opening hours – which had been pre-coordinated with the Palestinian security forces – was the spark which inevitably ignited the second Intifada? 

As is well known, that intifada had in fact been planned in advance. In an interview with Al Hayat from September 2001 Marwan Barghouti said:

“I knew that the end of September was the last period (of time) before the explosion, but when Sharon reached the al-Aqsa Mosque, this was the most appropriate moment for the outbreak of the intifada….The night prior to Sharon’s visit, I participated in a panel on a local television station and I seized the opportunity to call on the public to go to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the morning, for it was not possible that Sharon would reach al-Haram al-Sharif just so, and walk away peacefully. I finished and went to al-Aqsa in the morning….We tried to create clashes without success because of the differences of opinion that emerged with others in the al-Aqsa compound at the time….After Sharon left, I remained for two hours in the presence of other people, we discussed the manner of response and how it was possible to react in all the cities (bilad) and not just in Jerusalem. We contacted all (the Palestinian) factions.”

In January 2001 Barghouti told the New Yorker:

“The explosion would have happened anyway. It was necessary in order to protect Palestinian rights. But Sharon provided a good excuse. He is a hated man.”
(New Yorker, Jan. 29, 2001)

In November 2011 Arafat’s widow spoke on PA television of the preplanned nature of the second Intifada.


Imad Faluji -PA Minister of Communications at the time of the Intifada – described the second intifada’s advance planning in December 2000 both on film and as reported by the pro-Fatah newspaper ‘Al Ayyam’. 


“Imad Faluji, PA Minister of Communications stressed that the PA began the preparations and to get ready for the outbreak of the current Intifada since the return from the negotiations at Camp David at the request of President Yasser Arafat, who expected it [to be] the stage complementing the Palestinian resolve in the negotiations, and not just as a protest to [Israeli Parliament Member Ariel] Sharon’s visit to the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem (i.e., the Temple Mount)… Faluji said that the PA made the factions and political forces responsible for directing the Intifada. … He emphasized that the Intifada would continue and that it will inevitably bring about a new reality which will be nothing other than an ‘independent state.’ Faluji did not rule out the possibility that the PA would turn into a (violent) resistance enterprise because of the continued Israeli arrogance and stubbornness.” [Al-Ayyam, Dec. 6, 2000]

Many more examples of Palestinian statements regarding the second Intifada’s advance planning and the PA’s organization of it and participation in it are available here

But beyond the obvious inaccuracy of the BBC’s presentation of Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount as the cause of the second Intifada, there lies a deeper question. Why does the BBC apparently automatically assume that even if Palestinians did consider that visit provocative, they could not choose to refrain from rioting and violence? Some might say that such an obvious display of bigotry of low expectations compromises the BBC’s impartiality. 

It really is high time for the BBC News website to have a spring cleaning session and remove the many inaccurate, partial and misleading items which visitors searching for factual information will still come across. 

Related articles:

Another lethal narrative on the BBC website

The BBC’s Macfarlane and the Vulture Club

Myths and lethal narratives on the BBC website

Not fit for purpose: BBC backgrounder on second Intifada

The Guardian again promotes myth that Ariel Sharon started 2nd Intifada

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