On the morning of July 26th – the day of the fast of Tisha B’Av – Israeli security forces had to deal with an incident at Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“Dozens of masked Palestinian protesters hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at police officers on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning, before being pushed back into the Al-Aqsa Mosque by security forces who were rushed to the area.
According to police, the protesters had stockpiled homemade explosives, firecrackers and wooden boards inside the mosque, with the intention of attacking thousands of Jewish worshipers gathered nearby for prayers at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av, a fast and day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples.”
The portrayal of that incident provided to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page creates a markedly different impression. The report’s headline – “Al-Aqsa mosque: Israeli police enter Jerusalem holy site” – erases any mention of what preceded the security forces’ brief entry into the mosque in typical BBC ‘last-first reporting’ style.
The opening paragraphs of the article even imply that the violence on the part of the Palestinians was a reaction to the police’s entry into the mosque.
“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians are said to have barricaded themselves inside the mosque and thrown stones at police, who moved in to stop them.”
As the Israeli police force noted, the sequence of events was in fact as follows:
“This morning they [the rioters] took up positions in the mosque courtyard and when they saw the police they began throwing stones and firing fireworks at them. […] Masked men and rioters ran away into the mosque and began throwing tens of stones and concrete blocks at the police officers, fired fireworks directly at them and sprayed them with an unidentified liquid.”
Only in the third paragraph are readers of the report given a euphemistic, second-hand description of the rioters’ intentions:
“Israeli media said the Palestinians had intended to disrupt visits by observant Jews to the Western Wall.”
No mention is made of the fact that the rioters had stockpiled rocks, planks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails inside the mosque in order to facilitate that ‘disruption’ or of the fact that the plan was timed to coincide with Tisha B’Av, which sees a high number of visitors to the holy sites.
BBC audiences are told that:
“The al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is in a part of East Jerusalem also revered by Jews.”
Audiences are not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and, in addition to having failed to clarify that the incident occurred on Tisha B’Av, the report makes no mention of the fact that the fast commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples on that site.
The article states:
“The police said a number of officers were injured. There were no immediate reports of any Palestinian casualties.
Six Palestinians were arrested, an AFP news agency photographer reported.”
As the BBC could have discovered directly from the Israeli police, three Palestinians were in fact arrested rather than six and four police officers were injured.
As we see, the BBC’s report focuses on the entry of policemen into the Al Aqsa Mosque. The issue of Palestinians intending to use violence to prevent Jews from exercising their religious rights is not apparently a topic about which the BBC considers its audiences need to know more.