The November 7th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ (available for a limited period of time here) began with some unqualified promotion of messaging from Hamas and PA television by BBC World News’ Driss Mekkaoui, including descriptions of items appearing on those channels “condemning what has been happening at the Al Aqsa Mosque” and “calling the Muslim community to unite so that they can defend Jerusalem”. In addition to those context-free statements, the BBC also saw fit to amplify propaganda from a sermon by a PA preacher who described the perpetrators of Friday’s bombing attacks against Fatah targets in Gaza as “mercenaries, criminals and agents of Israel”. No effort was made by the BBC to inform audiences of the redundancy of that allegation or the prior one alleging a need for Muslims to “defend Jerusalem”.
Later on in the programme (from 29:25) listeners heard briefly from Israeli author Tseruya Shalev and Palestinian journalist Daoud Kattub commenting on what presenter Karin Giannone described as “weeks of rising tensions between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem”. Next Yolande Knell presented an item which was apparently supposed to provide audiences with the background information that would help them understand events. A slightly abridged version of that item was also promoted separately by the BBC on Twitter under the title “What’s fuelling rising tensions in Jerusalem?“.
As is inevitably the case in BBC coverage of Jerusalem, all pre-1967 history is erased in Knell’s backgrounder with audiences remaining uninformed as to the city’s history before that date and the fact that Jerusalem was only ever divided during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation. Knell opens:
“Jerusalem is always an issue at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: a core issue. Israel sees a united Jerusalem as its rightful capital. It captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, occupied it and annexed it in a move that is not recognized internationally. And the Palestinians want their independent Palestinian state to be set up in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as their capital.”
So, even in its opening sentences this backgrounder fails to give audiences either a proper account of history or an impartial view of any legal opinions on the topic which deviate from the approved BBC narrative. Knell goes on:
“Now, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are considered to be residents of Israel – not citizens of Israel – and they do feel very isolated, very disenfranchised….”
That statement from Knell is of course inaccurate. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship and thousands have done so. Those who acquire citizenship are obviously in no way “disenfranchised” and those who chose not to exercise their right to apply for citizenship (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare.
Clearly Yolande Knell either doesn’t know her stuff or is deliberately misleading BBC audiences on this topic. She continues:
“And we’ve seen really confrontations between angry young Palestinians mainly throwing stones and armed Israeli police becoming almost a daily occurrence in the last few months…”
That whitewashed description of recent Palestinian violence in Jerusalem of course erases from audience view three serious terror attacks in the city in the last two and a half weeks alone, the additional terror attack using a bulldozer in August as well as a total of 171 firebombs in July, August and September according to the ISA monthly reports. According to Knell:
“…and I think you can track it particularly back to July when we had this brutal murder of 16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was abducted and burnt alive by Jewish extremists. This was a revenge attack of course for the killing of three young Israelis in the West Bank by Palestinian members of Hamas. Ahm…there are also many other issues that you’ve got going on here. Ahm…the Palestinian residents complaining of discrimination and saying that there is increased tension because of the growing number of Jewish settlers that move into East Jerusalem. These settlements on occupied land are seen as illegal under international law; Israel disputes that.”
Once again we see a BBC journalist parroting the PA party line according to which properties purchased by Jews in certain areas of the city are inaccurately defined as “settlements”. Yolande Knell of course makes no attempt to explain to her listeners why a narrative supporting the exclusion of people from a certain faith or ethnicity from specific geographical areas and their branding as “illegal” should merit promotion by a Western media organisation. She goes on:
“And now, on top of all this, this religious dispute going to the heart of the Old City. Ahm…you’ve got these clashes because there have been increased Jewish demands recently for a lifting on a ban of religious practices at the most sensitive holy site. It’s the Al Aqsa Mosque compound for Muslims – the third most sacred place in Islam – this mosque and then this is a site also revered by Jews because it contains…this is where the two Jewish temples were that stood in biblical times and at the moment Jews can’t pray there…ahm…but they can visit.”
Note Knell’s avoidance of the use of the title Temple Mount (coincidentally or not coming just a day after the recently issued bizarre PLO directive to journalists on the topic) and her failure to inform listeners that the place is not merely “revered” by Jews but Judaism’s holiest site. She continues:
“And visits by Jews have led to Palestinian protesters trying to stop them from entering the mosque. They say that these visitors are protected by the Israeli police and it’s just added to all of the tensions that we’ve been seeing here.”
Of course Jewish visitors to Temple Mount do not go there with the intention of “entering the mosque” at all and none have done so – and certainly not with police protection. Yolande Knell is not only providing BBC audiences with inaccurate information, she is whitewashing Palestinian violence on Temple Mount by promoting a false pretext for that violence.
The item continues with Knell later giving a context-free description of temporary restrictions on entry to Temple Mount imposed because of violent rioting there, mostly by young men:
“There are still restrictions being imposed there by Israeli police. Only women and men over 35 can pray there.”
Once again, this backgrounder makes no mention of the continuing incitement by both the PA and Hamas which frequently includes promotion of the notion of a fabricated ‘threat’ to the Al Aqsa Mosque to encourage violent – and paid – rioting.
Yolande Knell has been covering the Middle East for over four years. She knows very well that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship and that Jews do not visit Temple Mount in order to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque. Had she adhered more closely to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality rather than busying herself with amplification of the Palestinian Authority’s propaganda, millions of listeners to the BBC World Service might have gained some insight into why tensions have escalated in Jerusalem in recent weeks. Despite the BBC’s public purpose remit, they were instead fed a bunch of inflammatory falsehoods and whitewashing which can only further cloud audience understanding of the issue.