BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

As was the case on the previous Jewish holidays of Tisha B’Av and Rosh HaShana, on the eve of Succot (September 27th) Palestinian agitators once again initiated violent riots on Temple Mount and the Israeli security forces were obliged to intervene in order to keep the peace.

““Masked youths threw stones and shot firecrackers at police and Border Police securing the site,” police said in a statement.

Police were on alert Sunday morning amid reports that extremists had barricaded themselves in the compound overnight, in anticipation of possible clashes.”

The rioting took place despite the fact that the site had been closed to Jewish visitors.

“On Sunday, the Mount was open solely to Muslim worshipers, with Jewish visitors kept away in an attempt to maintain the calm. Some religious Jews traditionally ascend to the site, considered the holiest in Judaism, during the week-long Sukkot festival that began Sunday evening. […]

But dozens of masked Palestinians hurled rocks and firecrackers at Israeli police at the site on Sunday morning, as Muslims closed out the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday and Jews prepared for Sukkot. There were no reports of injuries, and officers used riot dispersal means to break up the riot.”

However, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 27th learned from an article titled “Violent clashes at East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque” that the violence just ‘broke out’ all by itself.AAM 27 9

“Clashes have broken out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

Once again audiences were presented with an inadequate portrayal of the significance of the site in the Jewish religion.

“Al-Aqsa is one of Islam’s holiest sites and is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”

The article presented readers with a number of statements apparently intended to tick the box of providing context to the story – but which failed to inform audiences of its real background.

“The site is a source of religious and political tension between Israelis and Palestinians and a frequent flashpoint for violence. […]

Tensions have been running high in Jerusalem since Israel Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon earlier this month banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the compound.”

Yet again the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the organised nature of the violent incidents on Temple Mount, of the incitement which underwrites that violence or of the funding of agitators at the site by Islamist elements. In fact, even though the BBC has recycled that above latter paragraph several times over the past few weeks, no effort has been made to inform audiences who those “two Muslim groups” are, where their financial support comes from or why they were banned.

Readers of this article were also invited to step into the rioters’ shoes.

“Dozens of Palestinians entered the compound overnight, fearing that large numbers of Jews would visit because of the [Succot] festival, according to the AP news agency.”

Only later on in the article were readers informed that in fact there was no basis for those ‘fears’ because visits by Jews had been halted. No effort was made to clarify to readers that attempts to prevent non-Muslims from visiting Temple Mount contradict the “Protection of Holy Places Law” and go against the agreed status quo at the site.

The article also amplified rumours concerning Temple Mount but failed to inform readers that those claims have no basis in reality and that the Israeli government has repeatedly voiced its commitment to the current conventions governing the site.

“Muslims who use the mosque have reportedly been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews and fear rules governing the compound will be changed. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray in the compound, to avoid any perception of change to the status quo which has existed there since 1967, and to avoid an inflammation of tension with Muslims.”

This of course is far from the first time that the BBC has amplified baseless rumour concerning Temple Mount whilst failing to inform its audiences worldwide of the facts behind the story and the politically motivated sources of such incitement.

The following day also saw riots on Temple Mount and a new BBC News website article on the subject. That report will be discussed in a future post. 

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