1) The BBC’s failure to clarify to its audiences that the Gaza Strip casualty figures it quoted were supplied by the same terrorist organisation that instigated the violence and was, as BBC journalists spoke, still attacking Israeli civilians.
2) The BBC’s failure to carry out basic fact-checking and independent verification before widely promoting the inaccurate claim that nine children had been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli fire during the first hours of the conflict. In fact, at least eight of the children and some of the adults who died on May 10th – including members of the al Masri family in Beit Hanoun – were killed by rockets launched by Palestinian terror organisations.
3) The exclusive use by BBC presenters of the politically motivated, PLO recommended terminology ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ rather than Haram al Sharif or Temple Mount as stated in the BBC News style guide.
4) The failure to provide audiences with an accurate and impartial account of the property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah.
5) Whitewashing or downplaying of the pre-planned violent rioting by Palestinians on Temple Mount on the morning of May 10th (and previous days) and promotion of the false claim that Israeli security forces attacked peaceful worshippers.
6) Insinuation of Israeli disrespect for Islam by means of false allegations of attacks on Muslim worshippers during “the holy month of Ramadan”.
At 1:51:20 presenter Mishal Husain told BBC domestic audiences that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Husain: “These are the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and during them one of Islam’s holiest places has been the scene of repeated violence as Israeli police used stun grenades inside the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Palestinians have been protesting policing tactics and planned evictions in East Jerusalem and now the situation has flared more widely. Hamas fired rockets into Israeli territory and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza are reported to have killed 20 people including children. That was yesterday and attacks have continued this morning both onto Israeli territory and onto Gaza.”
Husain then introduced her interviewee Mark Regev.
Husain: “There’ve been widespread calls for calm from the United States, from many other countries. What is the Israeli plan to de-escalate from this situation?”
Regev replied that Israel had tried to de-escalate tensions before Hamas launched rockets at Jerusalem. Husain – who is apparently of the opinion that at least one sovereign state should acquiesce to ultimatums and threats issued by terrorist organisations – retorted:
Husain: “But those rockets were fired after Hamas had set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli police from the al Aqsa compound.”
Failing to clarify to listeners that Israel is responsible for security on Temple Mount and increasingly adopting a tone that listeners could well find reminiscent of a school ma’am chastising a naughty child, she continued with more promotion of the theme of Israeli disrespect for Muslims.
Husain: “Now it would have been a highly provocative act at any time of year to not only enter the compound but to fire stun grenades inside the mosque on…in this period – the very final and most important days of Ramadan. Once you pursued that course of action over a period of days, you must be able to recognize how deeply provocative that was.”
Regev pointed out that the violence on Temple Mount was the result of a political decision by extremists seeking to exploit Ramadan and that Israel ensures freedom of worship for all. Referring to barriers put up to aid crowd control at one location in the city – Damascus Gate – which were later removed and falsely implying linkage between the timing of a court hearing and Ramadan, Husain then presumed to speak on behalf of “the Palestinians” just as the BBC’s Middle East editor had done earlier in the programme.
Husain: “Well…well…well hang on. The Palestinians would say that what happened this time is that they were prevented from gathering at the end of the fasting day and also there was this very controversial plan to evict Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem – they’re due to be taken over by…ah…Jewish settlers – which was being pursued in exactly this period.”
Regev pointed out that the Israeli authorities had taken steps to de-escalate tensions on May 10th.
Husain: “Well that’s 3 days after it began though, didn’t it? That’s after, that’s after you had 3 days of police going into the compound and into al Aqsa Mosque. Where was your respect for the sanctity of worship?”
Regev replied that Israel respects the right to worship but had to take action against the violence and rioting.
Husain: “By going into the mosque? By going…by going into the mosque?”
Regev noted the fact that the perpetrators of the violence had stocked rocks and fireworks inside the mosque.
Husain: “Can we go back to the question I asked you at the beginning which was what was Israel’s plan to de-escalate this? It doesn’t sound as if there is one.”
Regev again noted steps taken by Israel to reduce tensions, including blocking Jews from visiting Temple Mount and re-routing the Jerusalem Day parade.
Husain: “Again, that was after three days of this violence already taking place.”
In response to Regev’s mention of Hamas’ escalation of the situation in the form of the rockets fired at Jerusalem, Husain once again ‘explained’ that action by referring to the ultimatum issued by a terrorist organisation to a sovereign state.
Husain: “That…that was linked to a deadline for police to leave the compound. Let me ask you whether those forced evictions of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem – homes that were built for them when they lost their homes in Israel in 1948, built for them by the UN refugee agency – is that going to go ahead?”
Regev explained that that depends on the decision of the court and that the Israeli government is not a party to the dispute.
Husain: “But these houses were built for these refugees.”
After Regev had noted that Israel’s judiciary is independent, Husain closed that interview.
Later in the same programme (from 2:36:20) Husain once again focused audience attentions on the topic of alleged Israeli disrespect for Muslims and their holy places by means of an interview with another contributor which she introduced with promotion of false equivalence between a terrorist organisation which deliberately targets civilians and uses its own people as human shields and a sovereign state that goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties on both sides.
Husain: “All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions and take practical steps to calm things down said the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the Jerusalem violence of recent days turned into exchanges between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But perhaps it is already too late for that, with fears that this situation may lead to a third Palestinian uprising.”
Husain then brought in frequent BBC contributor Mustafa Barghouti, whose entirely predictable falsehoods and distortions she utterly failed to question or challenge, including the claim that the Israeli army – rather than the police – had been at the scene.
Husain: “Now you saw some of the violence in the al Aqsa compound in the last few days. When was that and what did you see happen?”
Barghouti: “Well the worst thing happened yesterday but it also happened on several days during Ramadan time. What happened is that the Israeli army – I mean while people were praying or trying to pray – the Israeli army went into the mosque on several occasions and then started beating people who were praying and shooting them with the rubber coated metallic bullets and stun grenades which yesterday left no less than 330 injured people. Four of them lose their eyes and four of them are in very critical condition. Before that similar thing happened two days before and also there were lots of injuries. But let me also say that the attacks by the Israeli army on Palestinian civilians did not take place only in al Aqsa Mosque. They also took place in Sheikh Jarrah where Israel is trying to evict 500 people from their homes for the second time and also in Bab al Amud [Damascus Gate] where young people were attacked just because they were trying, as they do every year, to sit in the square where they usually meet and just enjoy their time. So what we have…”
Husain: “On al Aqsa, what happened before the events that you’ve described – what you saw the Israeli police do – because when we spoke to a senior Israeli official about an hour ago, ahm…I mean he had a very different portrayal of what happened and he described groups of organized extremists and that essentially they were taking over and exploiting those who were just praying normally and peacefully as they would.”
Barghouti: “Well he usually calls all Palestinians either as extremists or terrorists and unfortunately I have to say that the Israeli officials are lying constantly. What does that mean? They were praying. You can’t have an extreme prayer. I mean people were just praying and the army would invade the space. By which law the Israeli army gives itself the right to enter a praying place, a mosque, and then attack people there? Throwing tear gas bombs inside the mosque where many people could have suffocated to death and just attacking people. There was no reason for the Israeli presence there and there was no reason for these several attacks. But the reality is that people were adamant about preventing illegal Israeli settlers from entering the mosque in this holy day and the army wanted just to punish the Palestinians.”
Husain made no effort to inform listeners that Barghouti’s account does not reflect reality and that in fact the police were responding to pre-planned violent rioting. Neither did she question his use of the term “illegal Israeli settlers” or clarify that Jews visiting Temple Mount have no interest in “entering the mosque”.
Notably, throughout the programme listeners heard Husain mention rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip “onto Israeli territory” but no reference to the Israeli communities, homes and civilians that are their actual target.
Husain: “Now that it has broadened out so between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, do you also call for those two groups to stop firing rockets from Gaza onto Israeli territory?”
Barghouti: “I think it would be fair to say we should ask the Israeli army to stop bombarding Gaza so that rockets will not be used to attack Israel. You cant…you can’t only blame one side in this matter.”
Husain: “Yes but I know that you’ll call on the Israelis to be calm and show restraint. I’m asking whether you would…you would demand the same from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Barghouti: “I would demand immediate ceasefire with the both sides stop bombarding and let me remind you that so far not a single Israeli was killed and I don’t want anybody to be killed but 24 Palestinians have been killed including, as you said, a handicapped person and no less than nine Palestinian children. Most of the Israeli attacks are happening against civilian population.”
That blatant lie also failed to produce any challenge from Husain, as did a subsequent one.
Barghouti: “We could stop that and ceasefire could be re-established immediately if Israel is ready to agree with that. But one last point which I have to say here is that really one cannot equate between the occupier and the occupied. The main core problem here, which keeps leading to violence, is the fact that Israel is occupying us since 54 years and does not want to stop this military occupation and it has actually transformed into a system of persecution and oppression and apartheid which are considered war crimes by international law.”
Husain then asked about a “Palestinian political dimension” to the violence, noting the cancelled election and possible fears on the part of Mahmoud Abbas that he may have lost to Hamas. Barghouti claimed that “democratic groups” like his own party would also have secured “a lot of seats” before promoting the falsehood that Israel was actually to blame for the cancellation of the scheduled elections.
Barghouti: “Israel decided to prevent us, our right to have democratic elections in Jerusalem and of course Israel by doing so is obstructing our democratic process.”
Failing to challenge that inaccurate claim too, Husain closed the interview.
In the hours after Hamas’ May 10th rocket attacks on Israel’s capital city and other locations and Israel’s subsequent response, the BBC’s main domestic news and current affairs radio station repeatedly and unquestioningly amplified Hamas propaganda (see here and here) in the form of casualty figures from the Gaza Strip with the emphasis on nine children supposedly killed by Israel. Not only did Radio 4 fail to adequately clarify the source of the information it promoted to British audiences, it refrained from telling them that it had not independently verified those claims.
In addition, in a matter of hours Radio 4’s domestic audiences heard two long interviews with Palestinian representatives who spread deliberate falsehoods and disinformation that went unchallenged by the station’s presenters who – perhaps not unrelatedly – exclusively adopted PLO recommended terminology to describe the site at the heart of the story.
Both these programmes steered audiences towards the mistaken impression that Israeli police had attacked peaceful Muslim worshippers on Temple Mount over a period of days.
Both programmes added fuel to that fire by repeatedly focusing listener attentions on the topic of supposed gross Israeli disrespect for Muslims and an Islamic holy site during the “holy month of Ramadan”.
The BBC’s public purposes state that “[t]he BBC should […] help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom” and the corporation knows full well that events in that particular part of the Middle East often translate into tensions on British streets.
Did BBC Radio 4 producers and presenters really believe that they were contributing to “social cohesion” in their own country by irresponsibly broadcasting unverified – and inaccurate – reports about dead Palestinian children? By enabling the amplification of deliberate falsehoods about Israeli ‘war crimes’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’? By promoting the inflammatory lie that Israel had without reason attacked ‘peaceful worshippers’ at a Muslim holy site during Ramadan?
The BBC’s funding public is owed a lot of answers from BBC Radio 4.