BBC report skirts issues facing Palestinian Christians

Barbara Plett Usher avoids telling audiences why her interviewee 'worries about the future of Christians'.

On December 17th a filmed report by Barbara Plett Usher titled “Saint Barbara: A celebration for Arab Christians” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast of St Barbara.

It may not be as familiar as some other religious holidays, but it’s a big day for Arab Christians, and especially for those in the Palestinian village of Aboud in the West Bank.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher went to find out more.”

Referring to a resident of the village who expressed concerns about emigration and low birth rates, Plett Usher told viewers that:

“She worries about the future of Christians here.”

Nevertheless, BBC audiences heard nothing substantial about the issues facing Palestinian Christians.

The same was the case in an audio version of the report which was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 17th (from 37:45 here).

“But she worries about the future of Christians here.”

In both reports Plett Usher did however tell a certain story about the shrine she visited.

Filmed: “It’s interesting to me that Barbara is the patron saint of gunpowder or people who handle explosives because this cave was blown up by the Israeli Army during the second intifada. They said they thought it was a place where militants were hiding out and they didn’t realise how significant it was religiously.”

Audio: “The Israelis blew up the shrine by mistake during the second Palestinian intifada because they thought militants were using it as a hide-out. Interesting that Barbara is the patron saint of those who handle explosives.”

By “militants” Plett Usher of course means terrorists apparently hiding in a church. Whether or not that account is accurate or complete is unclear: it is highly unlikely that a structure would be attacked on the basis of a “thought”. Although a similar story appears on the English language ‘Wikipedia’ page for Aboud, it is sourced from a report prepared by the anti-Israel NGO ‘ARIJ’ and BBC Watch was unable to find confirmation from any reliable source, including news reports from the time.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that Barbara Plett Usher chose to highlight that vague and context-free story from over seventeen years ago in what was billed as a report about a Christian feast day while ignoring the fact that a church in the same village was vandalised just months ago

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