Anachronism and inaccuracy in BBC News Jerusalem reporting

Two recent BBC News website articles – “Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks“, November 13th and “Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access“, November 14th – made use of the illustration below.

Temple Mount graphic

The term ‘Wailing Wall’ is of course a British invention, appearing in nineteenth century English travel literature and employed by the British after their conquest of Jerusalem in 1917. It is not used by Israelis or Jews: the much older place-name HaKotel HaMa’aravi – translated as the Western Wall – is the one used by the people for whom the site has cultural and religious significance. And yet, despite the fact that the BBC is conscientious about employing place-names such as Mumbai and Beijing rather than the old Anglicised terms Bombay or Peking, it continues to promote the anachronistic term ‘Wailing Wall’ even in its style guide.

“Western Wall – (in Jerusalem) avoid ‘Wailing Wall’ except after a first reference – eg: The man attacked tourists near the Western Wall (the so-called Wailing Wall).”

In both the above reports, BBC audiences were told that:

“Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound [Temple Mount].”

Orthodox Judaism is of course by no means homogenous and includes numerous different streams of thought, with some groups coming under the umbrella term Orthodox strongly opposed to visits by Jews to Temple Mount, let alone Jewish prayer at the site. Among those who have been involved in the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount are people ranging from members of the National-Religious movement (Dati Leumi) to Labour Party MP Hilik Bar. Thus the BBC’s presentation of the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue is as inaccurate and misleading to audiences as its portrayal in previous reports of the issue as a “Right-wing” campaign. 


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