BBC reporting on the terror attack at the synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem in November 2014 included numerous references to a statement issued by the PA’s president Mahmoud Abbas condemning the attack.
Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers BBC News website, 18/11/14
“Earlier, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying: “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.””
Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’ BBC News website, 18/11/14
“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also issued a condemnation of “the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and [of] the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it”.”
Newshour BBC World Service radio, 18/11/14
Razia Iqbal: “The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack and also called for an end to what he called Israeli provocations.”
Newshour BBC World Service radio 18/11/14
Tim Franks: “The President of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen – Mahmoud Abbas – has condemned the killing and yet the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu equates the actions of Hamas and Mr Abbas. He says that they are both responsible for incitement. That’s not true, is it?”
Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack BBC television news, 19/11/14
Quentin Sommerville: “Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violence.”
Abbas: “We strongly condemn this kind of incidents. We categorically reject attacks against civilians. At the same time I would like to say that while we denounce these acts, we also condemn attacks against Al Aqsa Compound and other holy places.”
However, no BBC coverage whatsoever was given to the conflicting messaging in the form of glorification of the terrorist attack which came at the same time from Abbas’ own Fatah party, from Fatah MPs and from Abbas’ advisor.
The BBC has also refrained from reporting the fact that both Abbas’ party Fatah and the PA’s official news agency have more recently glorified the two terrorists who carried out the attack as ‘martyrs’ with Fatah claiming that it took place “at an occupation synagogue in occupied Jerusalem”.
The way in which journalists choose to frame a story obviously influences the way in which it is perceived and understood by their audiences and the BBC’s selective representation of the president of the Palestinian Authority disconnects him from the organization he heads, including his own political party. Mahmoud Abbas does not of course operate in a vacuum: now long since unable to claim that his hold on power derives from any elected mandate, his position and title depend upon support from those around him. The fact that the Palestinian people are consistently exposed to incitement and glorification of terrorism from official sources such as Fatah and the PA which are headed by Mahmoud Abbas is very relevant context in a story to which the BBC devotes a considerable amount of column space and air time. That context, however, is studiously withheld from BBC audiences by means of journalistic framing.
Were officials from a British political party to engage in repeated incitement and glorification of violent acts against a specific group of people, the BBC would be highly unlikely to adopt a policy of refraining from reporting on the topic and it certainly would not give that party’s leader a free pass by negating his or her responsibility for the actions of party officials. When it comes to the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, however, the BBC has glaringly different standards which actively prevent its audiences from being able to reach informed opinions on one of the BBC’s most promoted stories.